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In this text, critic Carlos Raygada remarks on the Antonino Espinosa Saldaña exhibition at the Asociación Entre Nous in Lima. He praises the “enduring aesthetic result” of what he deems “a perfect fit between theme and procedure.” He warns, however, that “the planned thematic exploration part and parcel of the artist’s boundless curiosity gets lost in rocky terrain” where deliberate extravagance replaces the aforementioned values. In other words, pictorial qualities are cast aside for “heteroclite reflections”—material for snobbish commentaries. Raygada deems that “jarring and immediate dynamism” valid only in a perfect anatomical drawing or in an ingenious scribble. The critic praises the bold use of color in the watercolors and in the visual renderings of musical impressions. Some of the works give rise to “a contradiction of an aesthetic order” insofar as they attempt to venture philosophical, and deeply metaphysical, ideas alongside elements of a clashing objective or visual nature.


In the early thirties, Los Duendes, a group of amateur painters, emerged in Lima. Insofar as the artists in Los Duendes pursued a symbolism rooted in literature that made use of art deco elements, their proposal constituted an alternative to the reigning pictorial Indianism. At the center of the group was poet José María Eguren (1874–1942). The first and only group exhibition of these “independent Peruvians” took place in June 1931. Antonino Espinosa Saldaña (1888–1969), the only member of the group that had a solid career as an artist, did not take part in that show. Perhaps that is why his work led to a brief exchange of opinions on the elusive place of art of this sort in the local art scene. In December 1933, a show of Espinosa Saldaña’s ceramics and temperas was held in Lima, including a fairly abstract painting based on Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. With titles like El tiempo (Time) and La inteligencia (Intelligence), his densely allegorical works were considered “decorative”—a contradiction pointed out by critic Carlos Raygada who questioned the pertinence of the timid experimentalism in some of Espinosa Saldaña’s studies of “movement.” At the same time, the still-unidentified F. H. Dursself praised the dynamism of those same works, seeing in them the seed of a new avant-garde. In his response to Raygada, Espinosa Saldaña underscored the differences between “expressionist” stylization and decorativeness, defending a concise style capable of expressing transcendent contents.

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru