Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    This text reproduces excerpts from a series of six lectures given by Jorge Romero Brest in São Paulo in 1948, when he held a faculty position at the University of Montevideo and directed the magazine Ver y Estimar. In them Brest makes a case for the mathematical underpinnings of abstract art, in which “intelligence predominates over the senses.” He summarizes his argument: “figuration is art that is felt and abstraction is art that is thought.” While figurative art makes use of Euclidean geometry—“that of the finite, within reach of the senses”—abstraction turns toward n-dimensional geometry, which “develops to infinity.” To Brest, modern sculpture addresses the spatial demands of abstraction, and he concludes by predicting “the supremacy of sculpture over painting.” In his view, “the great art of our century is architecture,” since, like sculpture, it “manages real space.”

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    Argentine Jorge Romero Brest (1905–89) published his first book, El problema del arte y del artista contemporáneos, in 1937 and first gained renown as an art critic and speaker in 1943. In 1947, he founded the art magazine Ver y Estimar, undertaken with the help of students of the art history classes that Brest taught after being removed from his position as professor during the Peronist regime. He continued to teach courses in aesthetics and art history throughout his career, traveling often to give international seminars, such as those referenced in this document. He was appointed director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1955, serving until 1963, when he resigned to head the Centro de Artes Visuales [Visual Arts Center] of Instituto Di Tella, Argentina’s leading center for pop art, experimental theater, and conceptual art. Though Brest’s activities at the MNBA and the Centro de Artes Visuales are well documented, this text sheds light on an earlier moment in the career of the “illustrious critic,” in which he was developing his position as a champion of modernism. 

     

    This text is reproduced in the catalogue Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, which accompanied an exhibition organized in São Paulo by Aracy Amaral (b. 1930) and by Lygia Pape (1927–2004). It had a great impact in Brazil, and it led to a new reading of the meaning of the rationalist movements in the nation’s art. In 1977, the show was presented at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, and later at the MAM-RJ (Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro).

     

    [For complementary reading on this exhibition, see in the ICAA digital archive by Lygia Pape Projeto construtivo brasileiro na arte” (doc. no. 1110680), and by Ferreira Gullar “Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1315020).

     

    For more by Jorge Romero Brest, see “Diálogo sobre el arte abstracto y el arte concreto” (doc. no. 824437); “Punto de partida” (doc. no. 787253); “Respuesta de Jorge Romero Brest” (doc. no. 742904); “Punto de vista crítico” (doc. no. 742528); “Palabras liminares” (doc. no. 743276); “[Por tercera vez se organiza el ‘Premio Ver y Estimar’]” (doc. no. 753937); “[De todos los premios afortunadamente se multiplica fomentando...]” (doc. no. 753920); “El Premio Nacional Instituto Di Tella 1966” (doc. no. 761929); “[Cuando hace dos años...]” (doc. no. 741409); “Introduction” (doc. no. 768175); “[Con “Experiencias 1968” y...]” (doc. no. 759903); “Sociología y ontología a propósito del arte nuevo, 1966” (doc. no. 761944); and “La problemática del arte latinoamericano” (doc. no. 805676), among many others].