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    Synopsis

    The Argentinean poet, storyteller, essayist, novelist, and dramatist Juan Jacobo Bajarlía, director of the magazine Contemporánea: la revolución en el arte, argues for “committed art” and a “revolutionary” approach, explaining his thoughts on the political aspect of art from a perspective rooted in dialectical materialism. Bajarlía discusses in great detail the editorial board’s views as expressed in their 1948 manifesto. He dismisses imitation, “playfulness,” and automatism in art, noting its material quality. He suggests that art is something an artist does consciously, to serve society and be a force for transformation. This important document sheds light on the Argentinean concrete avant-gardes’ theories in the 1940s and 1950s: the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención, the Movimiento de Arte Madí, and Perceptismo.

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    In this article the Argentinean poet, storyteller, essayist, novelist, and dramatist Juan Jacobo Bajarlía (1914–2005), director of the magazine Contemporánea: la revolución en el arte, argues for “committed art” and a “revolutionary” approach from a perspective rooted in dialectical materialism. He shares his thoughts on the political aspect of art, discussing in greater detail many of the points made in the magazine’s editorial essay in its 1948 “Manifiesto” [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1297750)]. He suggests that art is a struggle with a social objective: the exaltation of the human condition. According to Bajarlía an artist should not be isolated from society; art is a social product which the artist dialectically creates with a knowledge of history. Bajarlía insists that art is real, not metaphysical; it is an instrument with which to grasp reality while being a reality of its own; art can transform current reality into a new one. He explains that an artist must be skillful in handling material, and must have a knowledge of nature but must not copy it, because imitation is passé in terms of contemporary reality. He also dismisses “playfulness” in art, existentialism, the idea of art for art’s sake, and automatism because in his opinion art is an entirely lucid, critical process. He is in favor of a revolution in art and against “reactionary” points of view that, numbed by nostalgia and out of touch with current human needs, seek to perpetuate the forms that were used in the past. Contemporánea’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Argentinean concrete artists, and willingness to encourage an overlapping of the arts, is evident in the way the text is illustrated with a drawing by the Austrian composer Estéban Eitler (1913–60) and a painting and sculpture by the Uruguayan visual artist Carmelo Arden Quin [Carmelo Heriberto Alves] (1913–2010), who were members of the Movimiento de Arte Madí.

     

    Contemporánea: la revolución en el arte magazine was one of the platforms of a movement for cultural reform in Argentina that prompted a fertile overlap between the visual arts and other artistic fields such as music and literature. Contemporánea was published in Buenos Aires from August 1948 to August 1950. The magazine’s contributors included the Argentinean poet Edgar Bayley (1919–90), the Argentinean visual artist Juan Melé (1923–2012), who was a member of the Asociación de Arte Concreto-Invención, and Arden Quin. In addition to the 1948 manifesto mentioned above, the first issue of Contemporánea included an article in which Melé lists the guidelines required to produce truly “realistic” concrete art in “Planteo concreto de la pintura bidimensional” (doc. no. 730362). Contemporánea enjoyed a second run, appearing in the fall of 1956 and again in October 1957. During that period Bajarlía was assisted by the Argentinean writers Jorge Carrol (b. 1933), Alberto Vanasco (1925–93), and Miguel Brascó (1926–2014). We would suggest reading the article that appeared in the first issue published during this second period, in which the editorial essay reiterated what had been stated in the 1948 manifesto and restated the magazine’s intention to promote a revolution in art in “Contemporánea” (doc. no. 1297835).