Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

In this article Aitor Castillo talks about Pop Art in connection with the exhibition of works by Luis Zevallos Hetzel at the gallery of the Fundación para las Artes (Lima, 1969). Without directly mentioning it, Castillo refers to the controversy that arose over Motociclista No 3, the artist’s work that was awarded the Grand Prize at the painting competition organized by the Festivales de Ancón. The controversy began when Caretas magazine published the advertisement for a brand of motorcycle on which the prize winning work was based. The ensuing furor was further fueled by reports of other “acts of plagiarism” attributed to the painter Ugo Camandona, who had received an Honorable Mention at the same event. Castillo describes the workings of international Pop Art, especially in the United States, as a “primary language that has been deliberately stripped of every trace of fantasy, inventiveness, or interpretative background.” But, in “Latin countries (Brazil and Argentina in South America) they covered the nakedness or creativity of ‘Pop made in U.S.A.’ with garments of inventive” content. He incorrectly thinks that in Peru—as of barely a few months earlier—that kind of art would have spawned “a cult supported by certain young artists who work in that style.” Zevallos, “a prominent member of that youthful guild,” applies Pop strategies to manipulate photographs of automobiles and give them “a magnified life of their own.” After mentioning an analogy concerning certain Cubist procedures, the author settles on the term “Prop Art” to describe Zevallos’ work because “it does a better job of expressing the propulsion that seems to be the driving force in his paintings.”   


Luis Zevallos Hetzel was one of the pioneers of Pop Art in Peru, and was a member of Arte Nuevo, one of the avant-garde groups at that time. But controversial reactions and other factors subsequently led him to stop experimenting with innovative styles.


The jury’s decision concerning the First Prize (for painting) at the Festivales de Ancón in 1969 was extremely controversial, and marked both the peak and the turning point for the Peruvian cosmopolitan avant-garde in the local art scene in the 1960s. At that time Ancón was the most fashionable resort on the outskirts of Lima. During the summer it hosted musical and theatrical events, as well as lectures and a painting competition which (on that occasion) attracted a great deal of attention. When the results were announced, Caretas magazine published a letter accusing the winning painting—Motociclista No 3, by Luis Zevallos Hetzel—of plagiarism because it was a “faithful copy” of an advertisement published in the United States for a brand of motorcycles. An honorable mention at the contest went to a (playfully erotic Pop) painting by Ugo Camandona, an Italian painter and ceramicist who lived in Peru, who was also accused of supposed plagiarism. Both accusations sparked a heated debate about the value of “originality” in modern art, and about Pop Art’s role and function in consumer society. The apparent anachronism underlying the controversy clearly revealed the very limited penetration of avant-garde ideologies that had been achieved in a cultural milieu that was still reluctant to embrace the radical transformations that art was already experiencing in the rest of the world. All this was taking place in an environment that was increasingly having to adjust to the socialist and nationalist policies of the Gobierno Revolucionario de las Fuerzas Armadas (1968–1975), the military regime led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado.


[On the subject of the Grupo Arte Nuevo, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: “De cómo el Gral. Velasco reventó el ‘¡Pop! Art,’” by Luis Freire (doc. no. 1139323); “Espíritu renovador: exposición del Grupo “Arte Nuevo,’” by Juan Acha (doc. no. 1142771); “Exagerado sentido realista: Exposición de Luis Arias Vera” (anonymous) (doc. no. 1142510); “La nueva imagen del IAC” (doc. no. 1142594) and “La pintura se fue a la feria: Happening vs ‘bienal’” (doc. no. 1142737), both written by Mário Belaúnde Guinassi [alias, Juan Gris]; “Resentido social,” by Felipe Buendía (doc. no. 1142644) and “Mala noche de Buendía,” by Buendía (doc. no. 1142628); (untitled) [“Nos encontramos en un mundo determinado (...)”], written by the group (doc. no. 1142628); “Grupo Arte Nuevo” (anonymous) (doc. no. 1142834); “Op-Pop-Sex” (anonymous) (doc. no. 1142804); “Treinta minutos de charla con la señora Gloria Benvenuto de Gómez Sánchez, nuevo valor de la Pintura Nacional” (anonymous) (doc. no. 1142413)].

Daniel Contreras Medina / Gustavo Buntinx
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Courtesy of Indiana Castillo Durante, Lima, Peru