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.
This article was written from Europe by the Peruvian writer and politician César Falcón. In his opinion, “Incan art” constitutes a legacy lacking in ideological direction and, in his judgment, transcendence. He attributes it with a dearth of “spiritual consistency,” and impossible to be reclaimed by apologists who seek to launch “a Latin American school,” or a nativist essentialism. Falcón believes that the adoption of Incan themes and motifs amounts to a type of local color. He appeals instead to what he calls “the inexorability of pain” which should nourish all art, a sentiment that is neither “zoological” nor “superficial” in the Andean indigenous population. In his opinion, true American art should be the same as that of Europe, as long as this generates a new modality.
During the twentieth century, pre-Columbian art became one of the central referents for artists and intellectuals interested in creating an “American” art. In Peru, the first attempts to assimilate this legacy into the contemporary arts were fostered by Teófilo Castillo, a painter and art critic who was active during the first decades of the century. In the 1920s, this trend achieved its greatest reach when it became interwoven into the prevailing nationalist movements; nevertheless, interest in pre-Hispanic art focused on verisimilitude in historic reconstructions of the past, or creating ornamental works out of an outmoded idea of “Peruvian identity.” Within that context, the positions of César Falcón and Ramiro Pérez Reinoso (1897–1994) stand out; Falcón and Pérez Reinoso were leftist intellectuals connected to the Peruvian Communist Party and the APRA, respectively. In accord with the Marxist propaganda he promoted in republican Spain, Falcón rejected pre-Columbian art as the product of absolutist and conservative societies. In contrast, Pérez Reinoso recognized the “revolutionary” potential of that indigenous legacy, juxtaposing it with the reactionary taste of right-wing elements. Furthermore, by connecting the pre-Columbian aesthetic with avant-garde art, he sought to create a national art that would transcend the thematic works of indigenous art.