Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

The Argentine poet and journalist, Raúl González Tuñón, mounts a defense of the work of the Mexican artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, supporting his position of taking artwork to the street. The writer comments on Siqueiros’s lectures at the Asociación Amigos del Arte [Association of Friends of Art] and talks about the support and rejection he has found in some artists, critics, and collectors. González Tuñón criticizes modern artists who are imitators of French and Italian artists—reactionary and ephemeral, in his opinion. He believes they are fearful of losing their bureaucratic posts and their buyers. He compares them with Lino Enea Spilimbergo, whom the writer calls the “el mejor dotado de los pintores argentinos” [the most gifted of the Argentine painters]. Spilimbergo is also a follower of Siqueiros himself.

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After he was deported from the United States, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) traveled to Montevideo in February 1933 and on to Buenos Aires, where he set up a studio in late May. In the River Plate, he conducted technical testing and engaged in polemics based on his lecture, Los vehículos de la pintura dialéctico-subversiva  [The Vehicles of Dialectical/Subversive Painting], drafted during his last trip to the United States.

In the Argentine capital, Siqueiros showed his work at Amigos del Arte [Friends of Art Association], a liberal institution that sought to modernize the arts. His controversial lectures polarized the art world between the defenders of “arte puro” [art for art’s sake] and those who defended “arte político” [political art]. He contributed to the daily newspaper, Crítica, whose editor, Natalio Botana, commissioned him to create Ejercicio Plástico [Plastic Exercise] (1933). This mural was to be executed in Don Torcuato, in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, by the Equipo Poligráfico Ejecutor [Graphic Work Team]. The members of the team were Siqueiros, Antonio Berni (1905–81), Lino Enea Spilimbergo (1896–1964), Juan Carlos Castagnino (1908–72), and Enrique Lázaro.

This document is part of a set of the articles published in Contra. La revista de los francotiradores [Contra: the Magazine for Snipers]. The Contra editor was the poet, Raúl González Tuñón (1905–1974), a communist who did not adhere to the cultural directives of the Communist Party. This enabled Contra to function as a leftist publication that stimulated political debate among the literary and political avant-garde. It was published between April and September 1933, more or less the same months when Siqueiros was staying in Buenos Aires. The presence of the Mexican artist became a central theme in the publication, most of whose contributors had worked for the daily newspaper, Crítica.

In this document, González Tuñón attacks modern artists, marking the separation between the artistic and the political avant-garde. The reference to Spilimbergo was a valid example for pointing out the possibility of modern art being politically committed. What makes this example especially apt is that this artist had been trained at what was called the School of Paris, along with the artists who were defenders of art for art’s sake.

Researcher
Roberto Amigo.
Team
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location
CeDInCI, Buenos Aires, Argentina.