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In this article, Alfredo Chacón reviews and issues commentaries on the principal arguments of the art critics involved in the controversy that Marta Traba began through her article “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis.” Chacón states that Traba’s manner of focusing on the problems regarding Latin American art is erroneous since it represented a denunciation based on her inherent judgment of values. On the other hand, he criticizes R. Guillent Pérez for his zeal for Western culture as if it were the established “absolute norm.” Looking at it from another angle, Chacón censures Ludovico Silva on the grounds of the latter’s tendency to equate the situations in Europe with the ones in Latin America. Finally, Chacón rejects Alejandro Otero’s search in Europe for the origins of Latin American culture, finding it anachronistic for the time. Additionally, Chacón postulates that art results from a total social process. Therefore, he surmises, encountering “real art” is equivalent to the artist’s struggle in achieving an authentic world. The search for “cultural universality,” in his opinion, is only achieved when it runs parallel with the pursuit of a “universal realization of human nature.”
This text is essential to the controversy that began with the article titled “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis” in the weekly Papel Literario, the supplement section of the newspaper El Nacional of Caracas, published on May 2, 1965 and written by the art critic Marta Traba [see doc. no. 799377]. The controversy continued approximately through September of that same year, and participating in the debate were renowned Venezuelans J.R. Guillent Pérez, Alejandro Otero, Roberto Guevara, and Alirio Rodríguez, besides Traba. The dispute extended to other media organizations, such as the Revista Nacional de Cultura, appearances on radio and television, in addition to lectures and debates.
The articles that appeared in the Papel Literario of the El Nacional newspaper were compiled in the Delta Solar collection as Modernidad y postmodernidad. Espacios y tiempos dentro del arte latinoamericano (Caracas: Museo Alejandro Otero, 2000). Moreover, a selection of the articles that appeared in the Revista Nacional de Cultura was published in Roldán Esteva-Grillet’s anthology Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas. Siglos XIX y XX (Caracas: CDCH/UCV, Vol. II, 2001).
The importance of this article, written by the poet and anthropologist Alfredo Chacón (b. 1937), lies in his pointing out the shortcomings and weaknesses of those arguments put forward by the main contenders of the controversy—namely: Marta Traba, J. R. Guillent Pérez, Alejandro Otero and Ludovico Silva—even when their conceptual viewpoints on the issue were not substantially helpful. In fact, the critiques were not discussed or taken into account subsequently by the writers who wrote on the issue. Chacón favors the final assessment made by Marta Traba on the depersonalization of Latin American art, although he objects to the perspective of her approach, demanding a dialectical analysis.