Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    In this Revista de avance essay, historian and philosopher Jorge Mañach continues the discussion about avant-gardism. This time, he writes a historical analysis of avant-gardism, defining it as a term closely related to the transformations that have occurred in certain periods. Such great changes have had a range of effects on the various sectors of the society, which may or may not be aware of them in spite of participating in them. Mañach explains that while each era has a structure or appearance that characterizes it, the eras are also homogeneous in the way opposing forces or “dissenting minorities” exercise influence on different areas of life and sectors of a society. Using the historical material of major events and movements in Western Europe, such as Christianity, the Reformation, Romanticism, and the Industrial Revolution, Mañach outlines a genealogy of Western thought. The key determinant of that thought, he believes, is the consciousness of the individual who comes to question his role as a creative subject within each new social order. Mañach distinguishes at least two ways in which the events that mark a period affect individuals: one, deliberate; the other, incidental. The critic contends that the artist may choose to take part in or ignore these events and be influenced by them accordingly, or not. The forms of creation, the writer points out, will always be determined by this general effect which is the specific appearance or what Mañach calls “the categorical imperative of the period.” What he means—and this is the central argument of this essay—is that “a period is characterized as much by its new forms of action as by the reactions, also new, to which those actions give rise.” Given these considerations, the writer submits for discussion the “presumed obligation of the person with a creative spirit to ‘live in his own time.’”

    Annotations

    Mañach uses a historical perspective in his analysis of the relationship between the artist, as creative individual, his work, and the events that mark the period in which he lives. The Cuban historian and philosopher places form, style, and trends within the context of the specific circumstances in which they are incubated. This text sets forth the philosophical thinking of Mañach, who casts doubt on the political and aesthetic connection as the infallible key to all creative work. Starting from the concept that sociohistorical phenomena cause transformations, the writer states his belief that the creative individual may or may not agree with the ideologies or political stances of his period. The writer contends that what constitutes creative activity starts from a critical perspective and a way of seeing that is more linked to a specific interest than to “the general sense of the times and an adaptation to its most typical forms of expression.” Mañach sets aside the prevalence of politics, proposing that we consider aesthetics as a construct attuned to the rhythm of its historical time more than to that of the political world around it. In this way, Mañach expresses thinking related more to the political sphere than to any specific politics, a sphere in which the artist and the critic converge. These ideas are contrary to those of Martí Casanovas, another editor of Revista de avance and the main promoter of the exhibition “1927,” who conceived of a “new art” that would be created by the artist as a form of political action.

     

    [Regarding new art, see the following in the ICAA digital archive: “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)].