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    Las ideas doctrinarias y la pintura / por J. Nahuaca
    El Comercio (Lima, Perú). -- Jul. 20, 1958
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Acha, Juan. "Las ideas doctrinarias y la pintura." El Comercio (Lima, Perú), July  20, 1958.

Juan Acha argues that national identities are based on the sense of belonging to a tradition, one which transcends and regulates the adoption of foreign models. Therefore, “nationality” rests on a balance between the continuity of what is considered your own and the continual variability of cosmopolitan models. In his opinion, the idea of a “societal art” represents an example of ideological importation; its principal error is to understand life as a circumstance and not as belonging to the inner being of one’s humanity. He argues that this dogmatism always impedes the articulation of Peruvian painting. He affirms that art cannot unleash a revolution, just as the latter could not generate “better” art because the aesthetic experience is fundamentally an individual one. The only possible way to democratize painting would be to increase the comprehension skills of the greater public because, generally speaking, the principal connections between the community and art exist outside of the art scene. Later in his text, Acha argues that art’s aesthetic connections always operate within the sphere of the intellectual elite.


Article by Juan Acha on the relationship between art and nationalism.

Juan Acha (1916–95), a Peruvian critic who lived in Mexico, was one of the principal actors in Peru’s avant-garde scene during the mid-1960s. In his writings, essays, and newspaper articles, Pop Art and Op-Art found a defender and a promoter of the young artists who pursued these trends that were defined by the developmental ideology of the time.

Acha was one of the central figures in the Peruvian and Latin American arts during the second half of the twentieth century. He studied chemical engineering in Munich, and worked in that field upon his return to Lima in 1942. Sixteen years later, in 1958, he published his first text on art in the influential Lima newspaper El Comercio, thus beginning his career in the field of criticism and art theory. His essays offered a complex assessment of the local artistic panorama, identifying the different nationalistic aspects that were at work within the Peruvian arts. It had been just a few years since the intense debate regarding abstraction, one of the central points of which focused on the relationship between art and national identity. Nevertheless, at the end of the 1950s, pre-Columbian art was beginning to establish itself as a possible solution to the opposition between the search for a national art and the cosmopolitan trend of abstraction; this latter trend was in fact the subject of Acha’s investigations in his series of texts. Although Acha’s position would evolve significantly over the course of his career, his commitment to the “avant-garde art” trends would remain constant, as would his inquiry into the role played by “identity in art,” be that Peruvian or Latin American.

[For complementary reading, see in the ICAA digital archive the following texts by the author: “Las bienales en América Latina de hoy” (doc. no. 1079465); “¿Está aún vigente la pintura figurativa?” (doc. no. 1097217); “Consideraciones estéticas: Szyszlo en el I. A. C.” (doc. no. 1292805); “Arte Pop: procedimientos y finalidades” (doc. no. 1107517); “En busca de un autor para Túpac Amaru: una candente polémica” (doc. no. 1107496); “La vanguardia pictórica en el Perú” (doc. no. 1142850); “El Homenaje al cuadrado de Josef Albers” (doc. no. 1293025); “El video” (doc. no. 1097190); and “Teoría y práctica de las artes no objetualistas en América Latina” (doc. no. 1088533). See also these texts on the controversy surrounding the tribute exhibition for artist Sérvulo Gutiérrez: “Artes Plásticas: Sérvulo Gutiérrez” (doc. no. 1107586); “La pintura de Sérvulo” (doc. no. 1107534); “Polémica sobre el homenaje a Sérvulo: Juan Acha responde a Juan Ríos” (doc. no. 1107568); and “Polémica sobre el homenaje a Sérvulo: Juan Acha responde a Juan Ríos; hija de Sérvulo protesta porque el IAC se negó a exhibir el primer cuadro de su padre” (doc. no. 1107551)].

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Reproduced with the permission of the archive of Mahia Biblos and Juan Acha, Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico.