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    Neira Alva, Eduardo, 1924-
    Presencia / Eduardo Neira Alva
    Espacio (Lima, Perú). -- No. 2 (Jul.,1949)
    Journal article – Essays
    Neira Alva, Eduardo. "Presencia." Espacio (Lima, Perú), no. 2 (July 1949)

In this text, Eduardo Neira Alva asserts that the “clear generational consciousness” in Latin America is evidenced by the existence of a number of journals that, like Espacio, express the thinking of groups “engaged in the great task of building the world of tomorrow.” For Neira Alva, all of those groups are moved by the same spirit, one reflected in a number of common features: social responsibility, clear collective consciousness, and “the same search for a Vital Art that, beyond any aestheticist position, delves into the roots of the very life of our peoples.” The vigor of that position implies “an integrationist ideal that pursues collaboration of all expressions of the spirit […] in the name of Man.” At stake is not “international art,” but rather “a universal spirit that takes on the shape of each place and specific means of expression,” beyond ornamental superficiality, in order to be true to the essence of peoples, in other words, the “essence of forms rather than characteristic forms.” Neira Alva transcribes passages from other journals published on the continent—Espacio (Mexico City), Anteprojeto (Rio de Janeiro), and Pilotis (São Paulo)—in order to illustrate the existence of that generational consciousness coupled with a pragmatic and humanist commitment.


This editorial in the second issue of the journal Espacio—publication of the Peruvian modernist group of the same name—was written by Eduardo Neira Alva (1924–2005), an architect from Lima.


In May 1947, a group of Peruvian intellectuals—mostly architects—formed Espacio, a group geared to advocating and defending modern art and architecture in Peru. The group was the voice of a young generation that initially rallied around an ideal of progress that bound the art avant-garde to a humanist vision. Members of the group included architect Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94), writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65), painter Fernando de Szyszlo (b. 1925), and intellectual Samuel Pérez Barreto (1921–2003)—figures who, despite occasional clashes, played an important role in the Lima art scene. The Espacio group began by publishing a statement of principles, one of the foundational documents of Peruvian modernism. Indeed, that text provided local modernism with a clear shared agenda. In its manifesto, the group explicitly rejected the revival of neo-colonial architecture underway at the time, a laden ornamental style that looked to the viceroyalty as it appealed to the continuity of a “national” architectural tradition. Soon after the manifesto was written, Espacio was able to reach a wider audience thanks to a periodic column in El Comercio—a Lima-based newspaper that belonged to the Miró Quesada Garland family—and to its own journal, Espacio (1949–51). In this editorial in the first issue of the publication [see in the ICAA digital archive “Posición” (doc. no. 1143745)], the group further clarified a vision of artistic innovation that embodied commitment both to man and to freedom, a vision only vaguely bound to the Peruvian context. The group’s statements were apolitical; they did not attack the repression enacted by the dictatorship of General Manuel A. Odría in power in Peru from 1948 to 1956.


[For further reading, see the following texts on the Espacio group: “Expresión de principios de la Agrupación Espacio” (doc. no. 1126309), and (unsigned) “Dice Fernando Syszlo que no hay pintores en el Perú ni América: el joven pintor peruano declara sentir su pintura y la de los demás pero no puede explicarla” (doc. no. 1137793). The following texts were written by the Agrupación Espacio itself: “Polémica” (doc. no. 1137823), “Prescindir o no prescindir” (doc. no. 1138933), and “Polémica: ¿hay pintores en el Perú?” (doc. no. 1139402). See as well the following texts by Samuel Pérez Barreto: “El Perú y la cultura: Sentido y expresión de las formas” (doc. no. 1138491), “Polémica: ‘polémica Espacio’” (doc. no. 1137916), and “Pintura: la guerra de los pintores: plumas por pinceles” (doc. no. 1137839)]. 

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru