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 [document] is on the thesis of art in America a developed by Joaquín Torres García during 1938 and 1939, when he wrote his Metafísica de la Prehistoria Indoamericana. The book aimed to associate pre-Hispanic tradition with what he called the great tradition of universal man, seeking to introduce this as informing his Constructivist doctrine. In the development of this text, Torres García was concerned in distinguishing what he called “proper art of America,” from what was commonly understood by its characteristics as “local color,” which constituted unstructured characteristics as well as structural traits. He proposed to “create a void” by eliminating all that was borrowed in matters of art, quoting the American poet Walt Whitman who emphasized the need to place all hope and effort into the emergence of a new world culture.
Joaquín Torres García discards simplistic theories on imitative art as well as matters regarding technique and trade. Stating that these were the real problems of art and placing the dilemma in the notion of “America,” which truly included the entire continent is an issue that was far more complex. In this text, he proposed the possibility that to achieve a symbiotic union between abstract rule, as an expression of a great tradition, and the particularities of nature, contain the symbolic ingredients that constitute “local living” within “the universal.” In his opinion, American art must break from Europe; however, he does not propose a rupture with the traditions of European art, but instead to understand, assimilate, and take from that tradition the elements that when combined with those of local and regional order, contribute to constructing a “metaphysics of American art.” At times, his discourse would become radicalized with the belief that “European artists can tell us nothing of what we should discover within ourselves.” To speak of “structure” implies an introspective attitude outside of the possibility of plagiarism, it implies the referencing of thought of one’s own language, and of one’s own rhythms; in other words, toward the discovery of a universe that is sufficient in and of itself. And this is also what Torres García extends to the artistic disciplines, music, and poetry even because according to this theory, “art and construction are the same thing.” [For additional reading, please refer to the ICAA digital archive for the following texts written by Joaquín Torres García: “Con respecto a una futura creación literaria” (doc. no. 730292), “Lección 132. El hombre americano y el arte de América” (doc. no. 832022), “Mi opinión sobre la exposición de artistas norteamericanos: contribución” (doc. no. 833512), “Nuestro problema de arte en América: lección VI del ciclo de conferencias dictado en la Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de Montevideo” (doc. no. 731106), “Introducción [en] Universalismo Constructivo” (doc. no. 1242032), “Sentido de lo moderno [en Universalismo Constructivo]” (doc. no. 1242015), “Bases y fundamentos del arte constructivo” (doc. no. 1242058), and “Manifiesto 2, Constructivo 100%” (doc. no. 1250878)].