The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this article Carlos Valdés writes a short review of the 1961 Salón la Plástica Mexicana [1961 Salon of the Mexican Visual Arts]. He tells the story of a woman who approached him at the exhibition and asked him if he understood why prizes had been awarded to such ugly paintings. Using the woman’s question as a starting point, the author expounds on the low quality of the production presented in the exhibition; nevertheless, he acknowledges the efforts of a few of the artists. Valdés points out that a focus on the figurative predominates in the works and that this is meant to overcome to the internal structure of form. He also points out the judges’ failure to award a prize to a work by Carlos Mérida that (in the author’s opinion) was created in the purest rigor of abstractionism. He also mentions other artists including Cordelia Urueta, Gustavo Montoya, Antonio Rodríguez Luna and Roberto Donis. Finally, Valdés gives an explanation of what he believes to be true abstract art. He states that it does not bring about any catharsis nor does it possess any purifying function; this kind of art cannot be created by gradually eliminating unnecessary elements, rather it is accomplished without transitions through the artist’s intuition for capturing the essence of form. In his perspective, abstract art is either completely understood or completely rejected.
Several young artists reacted against the hegemony of the so-called “escuela mexicana de pintura” [Mexican school of painting] and the Social Realist movement during the 1950s in Mexico. Even when other art fads had existed in parallel, they had either been marginalized or branded as menial copies of the European avant-garde trends. Artists such as Carlos Mérida, Rufino Tamayo, Germán Cueto, and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, among others, represented these trends. The nascent non-Realist movement of the 1950s was the result of the proliferation of private galleries as well as of art criticism that was more open to the diverse artistic possibilities that were then developing in the world. Nevertheless, some were considering the possibility that the Mexican nationalist painting was thematically and formally spent. Other influences were also at stake, including the government’s interest in modernizing and industrializing the country, the immigration of European artists and intellectuals and also, in large measure, the United States’ ideological battle against the Latin American nationalist movements. Shifra M. Goldman made a fundamental insight on this point in her book Mexican Painting in a Time of Change. Documents such as this make known both the public and the art critics’ response to these changes in the aesthetic tastes of the nation.