Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Vicente Lombardo Toledano states that without judging the political significance of the construction of Ciudad Universitaria (UNAM campus), the purpose of his article is to note certain errors in that project. Although they are minor, these errors reflect the ideological decadence that is prevalent in Mexico now. The writer briefly refers to the origin of the Mexican Revolution, its main ideals and the way the various active members of the society participated in the construction of a new country, starting by strengthening education. He tells the story of how the painters were key players in this post-revolutionary modernization process. During that period, muralism served the purpose of helping people forget the pseudo-colonial and pseudo-feudal past; as public art, it helped create a new concept of Mexican life. To Lombardo Toledano, mural painting is art because it realistically reflects people’s needs, and it reaches a universal level inasmuch as its content is essentially Mexican. He also notes that this is not work that can be ignored; it is either vigorously defended by those who see it as a part of a historic battle or else it is censored. To address the matter of the Ciudad Universitaria (UNAM), first he mentions the good work of the architects participating in the huge undertaking. Nevertheless, he notes that the buildings give the impression of being a small settlement constructed analytically rather than synthetically. For this reason, he is unable to discern the relationship between the set of buildings and the development of Mexico. Regarding the mural work, he comments that he was hoping for a continuation of the murals created in the 1920s, work that would somehow go beyond the earlier production in both Mexican and universal content and in its technique. To Lombardo Toledano, the mural work executed at Ciudad Universitaria does not artistically improve the architecture; it rather diminishes its stature. To such a point Toledano calls the artwork “ankle braces deformed by heavy mosaics” with absurd motifs or easel paintings hung on facades, among other negative descriptions. Regarding the problem of art integration, the writer states that he is fully confident that David Alfaro Siqueiros will resolve it in a satisfactory way. It strikes Toledano that the artists have nothing to say about the direction of the culture. The murals have no message to the people about the struggle to liberate Mexico from imperialism and the battle for human progress—which is about to disappear. Although some of these artists were revolutionary combatants, they now prefer to draw abstract signs, inoffensive figures, or conventional symbols.

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Starting from the heyday of the movement called “Integración Plástica” [The Visual Arts Integration] in the 1950s, there have been various controversies in Mexico questioning or defending the artistic value of both the architecture and the visual artwork. This article by the professor, union leader, political activist, and candidate for the Mexican presidency, Vicente Lombardo Toledano (1894–1968) fits into this category. Even if he does not mention names, the politician is highly critical of the work of Diego Rivera (1886–1957). He also finds it strange that a revolutionary painter such as Rivera would abandon the principles of social struggle held by Mexican muralism.

Researcher
Leticia Torres : CURARE A. C.
Team
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit
Reproduced with permission of Marcela Lombardo Otero, México, D.F. México
Location
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional