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.
In this text, published in the first issue of Revista de avance, Jorge Mañach analyzes the term “avant-garde” in terms of its identity as an ideology once we have added the “militant ‘ism’” to arrive at “avant-gardism.” The writer perceives a difference between the use of the word to mean “something new,” and its more complex meaning as a critical stance or attitude. In this context, the “ism” signifies a set of postulations based on which we attempt to define what is “new.” However, Mañach points out that the “ism” does not refer to a trend in politics or doctrine, rather a category of newness that is in movement toward a purpose, an end. Therefore, what initially appears as an impulse of renewal and change formulated from a “vague and scattered” point of view, later takes on a “state of consciousness.” Far from a doctrinal, static outlook, this awareness becomes “a responsibility about which we are urged to specify its conditions.” The writer suggests that this process is determined by the extension of “individual attitudes” toward a plurality that then generates a movement and exchange of ideas, which gives rise to the urgent need to formulate theories.
These comments by the Cuban historian and critic Jorge Mañach fall among the concerns that were already being mulled over by Latin American intellectuals at the time. These thinkers sought to distance themselves from the European avant-garde by responding to the intellectual and aesthetic principles underlying those movements. Considering the term “avant-garde,” Mañach places it in a new critical context, attempting to differentiate its use from that “nebulous term” represented by Pablo Picasso, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and Max Jacob; he refers to these art luminaries as precursors of a “fury of newness.” The writer suggests that we think about “avant-gardism” as a new phase of the term avant-garde, moving toward a militancy, toward a committed task whereby artists and writers are immersed in the search to achieve independent expression in works that reflect the problems, histories, and conditions of their own time and milieu. Toward the end of the essay, the writer refers to Ortega y Gasset, who sees the opportunity for renewal in Latin America that can no longer be found in a Europe settled into “decadence.” With these comments, Mañach launches a theme that would be the focus of many of the articles and issues of this journal, that of defining a new art. The idea of avant-gardism in Latin America was already being considered from the specific perspective of its cultural, social, and political environment beyond the trends that European artists and writers formulated in their Cubist, Futurist, and Surrealist manifestos. These debates set a precedent for what would be deemed avant-gardism in Cuban painting, which was introduced in Revista de avance even though it would be years before it took concrete form through the publication Orígenes, the art and literature journal whose editor would be José Lezama Lima.
[For more on this theme by Jorge Mañach, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: “Vanguardismo II: La fisionomía de las épocas” (doc. no. 1298747), and “Vanguardismo III: El imperativo corporal” (doc. no. 1298783)].
[Regarding new art, see “Arte Nuevo,” by Martí Casanovas (doc. no. 832040); “‘1927’ Exposición de Arte Nuevo” (anonymous) (doc. no. 1299824); and “Al levar el ancla,” by Alejo Carpentier et al. (doc. no. 1298675)].