Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    In this article, the Cuban philosopher/historian Jorge Mañach carries on the debate about avant-garde art that he had started in two articles previously published by the journal. This time, the Revista de avance editor responds directly to what seems to have been a heated confrontation between the defenders of tradition or pasadistas and the avant-garde or “new” artists. According to Mañach, the traditionalists consider themselves followers of Velázquez and an art heritage based on the reproduction of reality and the development of technique. The avant-garde artists, whom the writer seeks to redeem, are precursors of those who would come to deplore inherited aesthetic values and a style that was no longer “either fertile or vitally interesting.” Mañach states that the aesthetic values developed within the concept of what is new are closely related to the changes that have historically altered the established order. While this “temporal imperative” of each period is not scornful of the works of earlier periods, it is also not limited to admiring them. In this way, gaps open for the emergence of the unexpected; this is where a new sensibility arises in a different time. From his positive perspective, Mañach declares that art is “a medium of biological adaptation whereby we become more aware of the present and our daily lives.”

    Annotations

    Mañach’s earlier articles laid the foundation for the avant-garde as a critical, militant approach tied to the historical development of each period. In this third installment, the writer defines the relationship between art—as a generator of aesthetic forms and meanings—and the specific nature of each era. This text reflects the humanism of Mañach, who broke with the tradition of valuing art based on the concept of the artist who observes and reproduces reality. The work of such artists was understood as a higher-level activity that was independent and separate from society. The tradition he was setting aside emerged from the biographies of artists written by Giorgio Vasari during the Renaissance, books that represented the beginnings of art history. In Cuba, however, to think about art and the artist in the context of its recent history was fairly provocative. The relationship between the individual and different aspects of a society was precisely the locus where Mañach founded his principles of creative work, the role of the artist, and the meaning of art.

     

    [For more on this theme by Jorge Mañach, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: “Vanguardismo I” (doc. no. 1298695), and “Vanguardismo II: La fisionomía de las épocas” (doc. no. 1298747)].