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The author explains that not many Latin American artists exhibit their work in Buenos Aires (other than those from the countries of the Río de la Plata region: Uruguay and Argentina), since European artists tend to be more enthusiastically received by Argentinean gallery-goers and critics. According to the critic Manuel Seoane, the “Peruvian paintings” shown by Sabogal at the Sociedad de Amigos del Arte (1928), with their “strapping Indians” and “wild landscapes,” transform the gallery with an exhibition that “claws the retina and communicates a race’s message.” The author’s perspective ignores racial determinism, but he nonetheless argues that “the heterogeneous nature of Peruvian society has contributed to an instability of artistic ideals.” In his opinion, Sabogal’s work is an expression of that situation in artistic and social terms; that is, he treats the indigenous question in Latin America as the core issue in the intellectual discussion about integration. The artist’s courage underpins the radical approach he has taken in a racist environment that is riddled with colonial prejudice, so that “by defying European academicism he ushers his mestizos into the capital city and implies that they are there to stay.” His work suggests that times are changing, and drips with political connotations; his paintings portray powerful figures through the lens of satire: a mountain chieftain who owns indigenous slaves, or a caricature of a bourgeois Lima couple shown looking over a balcony at “the indefinable crowd of people from Lima that is typical of the city of kings and viceroys.”
The Peruvian journalist and politician Manuel Seoane writes about José Sabogal, the founder of Peruvian indigenist painting, on the occasion of the latter’s exhibition at the Sociedad Amigos del Arte in Buenos Aires in 1928.
Sabogal returned to Cuzco from time to time in search of inspiration. In 1925 he spent several months there, making sketches for a set of works that he did not exhibit in public until 1928, when he showed thirteen woodcut prints in Montevideo, and seventy-six works (oil paintings and prints) in Buenos Aires. People in Lima waited anxiously to hear how these exhibitions had been received in the two Río de la Plata cities, both very prestigious cultural centers in Latin America, and Peruvian newspapers reprinted articles that appeared in the Buenos Aires press. That interest is expressed in this article and other earlier reviews that helped to establish Sabogal’s reputation as a painter of Peru’s natural landscape.
In addition to his paintings, Sabogal also produced a significant number of woodcut prints, a technique that was perfectly suited to the expressive demands of his work. The importance he attached to this technique was apparent during his trip to Mexico in 1923, when he encouraged Mexican artists to produce woodcut prints as they once had. His own woodcut prints were highly acclaimed at his exhibitions in Montevideo (1928), in Lima (1929), and in the United States—in Florida (1931 and 1934) and New York (1933). His prints were also used as illustrations in important publications, including the front covers of Amauta (Lima, 1926–30), the magazine directed by José Carlos Mariátegui.