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.
Argentinean architect Ángel Guido—invitee to the I Congreso Internacional de Peruanistas—summarizes the genesis of modern painting in general terms: “Until Impressionism, toward reality. Afterward, toward ‘unreality.’ From there, the obstinate de-humanization of art.” In his opinion, Cubism carved up “anthropomorphic forms because European man also had his soul carved up.” Shortly before World War II, the call to “re-humanization,” the rappel à l’ordre [return to order], initiates the drama of nascent European painting. The failure of the humanist ideal after two world wars led Europe to return either to “–isms” or pure art during those moments “at which humanity is at risk.” In comparison, the Americas “have not undergone the tragic European adventure;” perhaps because of this they will, one day, be able to re-encounter European painting, which is undoubtedly “disoriented and unstable,” although only through great sacrifice and responsibility. He raises the example of Mexican muralism, correlate of a revolution that “gave message to content”; although he believes that an excessive ideological bias weakened the movement. He also states that Peru is in a similar position to operate at the heart of this type of painting that carries a message because of its “profession without additives, craftsmanship without gimmicks.”
This is the speech made against abstract and avant-garde art by Argentinean architect Ángel Guido to Peruvian painters at the I Congreso Internacional de Peruanistas (Lima, 1951). At the beginning of 1951, Peruvian painter Fernando de Szyszlo (b. 1925) returned to Lima after having lived for nearly two years in Paris, a decisive experience in his evolution toward abstract expressionism, then identified with German artist Hans Hartung (1904–89). In May of that same year, Szyszlo exhibited his most recent work at the Sociedad de Arquitectos in the Peruvian capital, under the auspices of the Agrupación Espacio, a group working to spur the renewal of the country’s arts and architecture. In general, the show was positively received by the press, except for some reservations expressed by the influential Peruvian critic Carlos Raygada (1898–1953) [see in the ICAA digital archive by Raygada “De arte: exposición Szyszlo” (doc. no. 1150738)]. The belligerent tone of Szyszlo’s reply was overshadowed by his (now famous) declaration to La Prensa newspaper: “there are no painters in Peru” (doc. no. 1137793). Through his open rejection of the contemporary art of his country, he played a central role in the first Peruvian debate focused on non-figurative art by provoking an angry response both from intellectuals and artists. His phrasing alluded to the absence of local models for any artist who then aspired to join any of the art world’s latest trends. Nevertheless, the controversy brought to light those terms that would define the local modern arts, and showed the differences of opinion among progressive intellectuals. The defense of “terrestrial abstraction” as the only legitimate path for Peruvian art placed critic Samuel Pérez Barreto (1921–2003) in open opposition to his old Espacio companions, a group that rejected any tendentious identification that sought to reduce the national essence to the “Andean.” [For additional information, see also the following articles in the archive: (unattributed) “Pintores peruanos hay, lo que aún no hay es pintura peruana: dice Juan Ríos y agrega que la pintura abstracta es pobre e inhumana” (doc. no. 1137808); (unattributed) “Cristina Gálvez opina que sí hay pintores en el Perú: citó a cuatro. ‘Hay que ser muy intelectual para ser abstracto’ dijo y añadió luego ‘Szyszlo no es intelectual’” (doc. no. 1150897); by Sérvulo Gutiérrez “Qué arte abstracto ni que nada, el arte es esencialmente uno...: lo que debe hacer el pintor es ‘pintar’” (doc. no. 1150851); (unattributed) “Gran problema del arte peruano es la falta de críticos: ‘Xanno.’ Alejandro Romualdo Valle agregó que los que escriben sobre arte son improvisados o huachafos” (doc. no. 1150928); by Federico Costa y Laurent “La ‘polémica de los pintores’” (doc. no. 1150866); (unattributed) “‘Julia Codesido y Sabogal son buenos pintores’: Aquilles Ralli cree, además, que muchos sólo buscan la fama por medio de la publicidad” (doc. no. 1150882); and by Juan Ríos “El debate sobre pintura: carta del Sr. Juan Ríos R.” (doc. no. 1150912) and “Balance de una polémica: cuatro preguntas fundamentales” (doc. no. 1137882)].