Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
Editorial Categories [?]

Mario Canale relates events that occurred at the National School for Decorative Arts; they concern the interaction between professors of drawing and a group of students, under the supposed influence of David Alfaro Siqueiros, who protested over the teaching methods of the school


Having been expelled from the United States, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) traveled to Montevideo in February of 1933, and by the end of May in that same year he had established himself in Buenos Aires. In the River Plate, Siqueiros experimented with technique and presented arguments based on the contents of his lecture Los vehículos de la pintura dialéctico-subversiva [The Vehicles of Dialectical-Subversive Painting], which he had developed while in the United States. In June he exhibited in Buenos Aires at Amigos del Arte [Friends of Art], a liberal and modernizing arts institution. He gave controversial lectures that polarized the arts field into the defenders of “arte puro” [“pure art”] and “arte político” [“political art”]. He was supported by Contra. La revista de los francotiradores [Against: The Snipers’ Magazine], run by the leftist writer Raúl González Tuñón [see documents 733230, 733314, and 733270, among others]. Siqueiros collaborated on the newspaper Crítica [Critique], run by Natalio Botana. Botana commissioned Siqueiros to paint a mural in the cellar of his house, Quinta Los Granados, in Don Torcuato, in the Province of Buenos Aires.

The Equipo Poligráfico Ejecutor [Lead Polygraphic Team]—formed by Siqueiros, Antonio Berni (1905–1981), Lino Enea Spilimbergo (1896–1964), Juan Carlos Castagnino (1908–1972), and the Uruguyan set-designer Enrique Lázaro—created Ejericio Plástico [Visual Exercise], with distorted nudes over the curved surface of the vaulted ceiling, by means of photographic projection. It was conceived as a fresco on cement, using such technical innovations as application by mechanical tools and the use of industrial silicates. In December 1933, sketches and photographs of the mural were exhibited in the magazine Signo [Sign] premises. Currently the work is in storage due to litigation; damage may affect its conservation. During the period, Argentinean right-wingers strongly attacked the Mexican Communist painter in its publications Bandera Argentina [Argentinean Flag] and Crisol [Melting pot], which were representative of the Catholic nationalism that had gained momentum since the 1930 military coup [see documents 733206, 734050, and 733182, among others].

Momento Plástico [Visual Moment] was the publication of the artists who came together to form the Corporación de Artistas Plásticos [Association of Visual Artists], a professional association largely organized by Mario Canale; Canale also ran Momento Plástico. The five issues of this publication were published between April and August of 1933. The galley proofs of issue 6 have been preserved. The institution managed to obtain a certain level of visibility on a brief time, challenging both the Comisión Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Commission of Fine Arts] and the plans to reform arts education, as well as debating the Salón Nacional. Emilio Pettoruti, Atilio Boveri, and Alfredo Bigatti were prominent among those who collaborated on Momento Plástico and were also distinguished members of the Association of Visual Artists.

Mario [A.] Canale, a disciple of Eduardo Sívori, had been an active student leader during the reforms that began during the 1910s. He also developed the magazine Athinæ, a publication of some importance in the art field of that time, which advocated the institutional development of a national art. He was an active official of the Comisión de Bellas Artes [Fine Arts Commission] of Buenos Aires as well as a lecturer at the Universidad de la Plata until the nationalist military interventions of the 1940s.

This document is a galley proof of issue number 6 of Momento Plástico, which was never published. It is attributed to Mario [A.] Canale. The reference to the situation at the School of Decorative Arts is important given that in 1933 a proposal to reform art teaching methods made by the National Foundation of Fine Arts was being debated. Canale, who opposed the official reforms due to technicalities, also takes on the ideological impact Siqueiros had on the students’ proposals. [See document 733287, “Sindicalismo à outrance” [Excessive Unionization].

Roberto Amigo.
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Courtesy of Hna. Lucía I. Canale, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fundación Espigas, Archivo Mario A. Canale. Buenos Aires, Argentina