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In this text, Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer—resident of New York since 1964 who was a correspondent from there for the Montevideo-based weekly Marcha—discusses the rising importance of “Latin American” art in New York art galleries and in the academic world. Camnitzer develops a thesis on the “the epigonal” nature of work by Latin American artists, as well as the difficulties in forging productive dialogue between those artists and their local audiences. The article closes with remarks on the show of another Uruguayan artist, José Gamarra, on exhibition at a New York gallery.
According to Luis Camnitzer (b. 1937), the question of whether or not a specific “Latin American art,” or “Latino art” produced in the United States exists grew increasingly important in New York in 1966. A number of art institutions, some of them commercial and others academic, exhibited work of artists from the region; the New School in New York organized a symposium on the question of whether or not a specifically Latin American art exists (participants included Stanton Catlin of Yale University). In Camnitzer’s view, the most interesting thing about the debate is recognition of the fact that “the Latin American” is a construct of agents in the New York artistic field. In response, he proposes a vision of art grounded in social and environmental underdevelopment that heeds endogenous cultural transformations, since art must “give shape to those changes, it [must] be them, rather than narrate them.” Camnitzer speaks of the exhibition of work by José Gamarra (b. 1934)—who lived in Paris at the time—in biting terms; he places him in the category of South American artists that attempt “to take a demagogical path up the [New York] sound board.” This is evident in the fact that Gamarra is exhibiting sculpture that has nothing to do with his earlier production; his turn to Pop Art makes reference to artists such as Andy Warhol, or even the nonsense of Dada artist Tristan Tzara. The show was held in a new gallery whose novelty lies in the fact that its proprietor, Lilly Daché, is “the owner of an American hat empire.” [For further reading, see the following texts also by Luis Camnitzer in the ICAA digital archive: “El acceso a las corrientes mayoritarias del arte” (doc. no. 805271); “Antonio Caro guerrillero visual = visual guerrilla” (doc. no. 860606); “Art in Editions: New Approaches” (doc. no. 777430); “La colección latinoamericana del museo Guggenheim” (doc. no. 1089886); “La educación artística en Latinoamérica trasciende el problema de la identidad cultural” (doc. no. 805061); “Introduction” (doc. no. 841250); Liliana Porter: la poesía de la comunicación” (doc. no. 1180926); and “Manifiesto del New York Graphic Workshop” (doc. no. 791656)].