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This document relates the response of painter and sculptor Juan Del Prete to the survey regarding abstract or non-figurative art, in which he considers all such nomenclature conventional. In addition, Del Prete believes that this type of discussion lends itself to literary and philosophical digressions, while also confusing the public.
Sur [South] was one of the principal Argentinean literary magazines, founded and financed by Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979). It was published from 1931 to 1988, although with fluctuating regularity. Its initial group of contributors included Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) and Norah Borges (1901-1998), Guillermo de Torre (1900-1971), Oliverio Girondo (1891-1967), Leopoldo Marechal (1900-1970), Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999) and Silvina Ocampo (1903-1994), among others. The survey was based on the following questions: 1) Do you believe the term abstract art, used until today with a more general connotation, is really inappropriate and imprecise, and that from now on it should be replaced by the term non-figurative art, without intent to include within this common nomenclature those other terms which might serve to designate other, more specific trends? 2) In the contrary case, what name would you suggest that would be recommendable for its exactitude and possibility of being readily accepted? 3) In your opinion, what is the future of non-figurative art in relation to representative art? Local respondents included Cayetano Córdoba Iturburu (1899-1977), Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-1984), Gyula Kosice (1924-2016), Juan Del Prete (1897-1987), and Tomás Maldonado (1922). Foreign respondents included Mathias Goeritz (1915-90), Hans Platschek (1923-2000), Vicente Martín (1911-1998), Ricardo Gullón (1908-1991), Eduardo Westerdhal (1902-1983), and Ángel Ferrant (1890-1961). The links to foreign artists should not only be ascribed to the friendship between Ferrant and Guillermo de Torre, but also to the cultural activities that they had undertaken at the Escuela de Altamira en Santillana del Mar [Altamira School at Santillana del Mar, Spain].
Juan Del Prete was a painter and sculptor born in Italy, who lived and developed his art in Argentina. At the beginning of the 1930s he mounted the first exhibition of non-figurative art in Argentina with his paintings and collages. Del Prete later exhibited sculptures made of wire, metal sheets, direct carving, and plaster, although he simultaneously developed a rich production of figurative works.
The call for this survey was sent out after the publication of the open letters exchanged between Julio E. Payró and Guillermo de Torre, published in no. 202 of the magazine Sur, in August 1951. At the same time, the controversy continued the debates begun by the presentation of Léon Degand’s exhibition Arte Abstracto, del arte figurativo al arte abstracto [Abstract Art, from Figurative Art to Abstract Art], mounted in Buenos Aires in July 1949, and also by the exhibition introduction written by Guillermo de Torre for the Joaquín Torres-García exhibition in April 1951.
This document was selected because it demonstrates the artist’s position concerning the open debate on abstraction, as well as Payró’s and de Torre’s interest in deepening the discussions on these issues.