The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this article, the essayist and art critic Mercedes Gallagher de Parks discusses the pottery produced in the Amazon region of Peru, noting the wide variety of pieces and their surprising aesthetic. Very little is known about this pottery other than what the painter and writer Arturo Jiménez Borja reported in his article about the ethnographic material shown at the Exposición Amazónica (Lima, 1943). Gallagher, however, thinks it should be emancipated from its ethnographic niche, and emphasizes its creative autonomy. She mentions that prior to the Exposición Amazónica, pottery from the Amazon jungle had only ever been exhibited at the Peña de Pancho Fierro and at the San Agustín convent. Gallagher compares the pottery from the Amazon to that from Nazca, which is similar with regard to production methods, linear design, and colors. The two styles differ mainly in terms of the multicolored elements used by Amazonian potters. She pays particular attention to the highly decorative pieces of the Chama and Conibo ethnic groups whose ivory-colored backgrounds are set off by imaginative red and black designs.
The author of this article, Mercedes Gallagher, wrote reviews about Peruvian art and music, which she contributed to publications such as Mundial, Variedades, Social, Mercurio Peruano, and La Prensa. She also published important essays in which she analyzed different aspects of art, such as "Shadows on the Road" (1935); "La realidad y el arte. Estudio de estética moderna" (1937); "La escultura popular y costumbrista en piedra de Huamanga" (1942); and "La mentira Azul" (a compilation of her essays from 1948). Her critical opposition to indigenism is clear in several of her articles, this one in particular: “Sobre el problema indigenista en nuestra cultura” (Mercurio Peruano, Lima, October 1939). Gallagher acknowledged the need for and legitimacy of the movement to recognize the indigenous population, but criticized its use of the idea as the basis for a group ideology and a way to promote racial division in the country. She posited that Peru consists of three components, which must all complement each other: Aryan-Western civilization, Spanish cultural tradition, and the indigenous spiritual awareness. In Gallagher’s opinion, José Sabogal was one of the most authentic Indigenists, although she nonetheless objects to certain ideological aspects of his work. She was very interested in Andean art, which she approached by analyzing the essential and aesthetic values of individual works, instead of looking at them from the more usual ethnographic perspective. Two representative texts that take this approach are: “La escultura popular y costumbrista en piedra de Huamanga” (1942), and this article about Amazonian pottery. They both address the conflicted artistic relationship between “cultured art” and “popular or traditional art,” therefore foreshadowing the debate that flared up decades later over the decision to award the Premio Nacional de Cultura (for the 1973–74 period) to the altarpiece artist from the Andean region Joaquín López Antay (1897–1981).