Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

According to José Corral, it is unquestionable that Mexico is completely unaware of Latin American art history, since the whole continent takes its cues from Europe and the United States. This is why the arrival of the Guatemalan sculptor Rafael Yela Günther fills the Mexicans with curiosity. Corral notes that this sculptor belongs to a new generation that, along with Carlos Mérida, was educated in Paris. As such, he has adopted techniques learned in Paris and set aside the old academic molds in order to create original Latin American works inspired by the ancestral civilizations of Latin America. The writer particularly focuses on two of Yela Gunther’s sculptures. In conclusion, Corral clarifies that this concept of Latin American art—so little known in Latin America—refers to these artists’ efforts to Latin Americanize their work without recourse to the European masters.

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Rafael Yela Günther arrived in Mexico in 1921, one year after the arrival of his countryman, the painter Carlos Mérida (1891-1984). Both had traveled and studied in Europe. Upon their return to Guatemala, they had joined a group of artists and intellectuals in Quetzaltenango that was interested in the popular nationalist and Indianist motifs. Two other members of this group are the musician Jesús Castillo—who studied Native music—and the poet Alberto Velásquez. Between 1921 and 1925 in Mexico, Yela Günther participated in the Teotihuacan Valley project, organized by Manuel Gamio. Research by Daniel Schávelzon shows that the project included Yela Günther’s concept for an auditorium on the archaeological site as well as his monumental sculpture and relief. Around 1925, the Mexican government commissioned him to execute the mural decoration for the dining room of the MacVeagh mansion. At the time, this mansion was the residence of the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C., and today it is the Casa de la Cultura de México. Only a few fragments of this work have survived. When Yela Günther made his final return to Guatemala, he became the director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes until his death in 1952. Along with Mérida, he wielded the Latin Americanist construct in Mexico in the 1920s. 

Researcher
Leticia Torres : CURARE A. C.
Team
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit
Courtesy of El Universal de México, Mexico City, Mexico
Location
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional