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In this article, the critic Roberto Guevara harshly rebuts the theses of Marta Traba, who argued in the mid-1960s that Latin American art had been “depersonalized” and contaminated by the “mimicry” of international art. Guevara, who felt the need to show the impact on the reach of universal art, echoed the sentiment of other debaters on the subject. He pointed out that, on the one hand, there were trustworthy and truly honorable artists in Latin America, and on the other, that one could not speak of traditions that were no longer current or in existence. Thereby, Guevara criticizes Traba’s guidelines from an ethical standpoint, with the warning that among other things, she moved away from the responsibility of every critic, which was to thoroughly analyze when it came to complex issues.


This article written by the Venezuelan critic Roberto Guevara (1932-98) is about the controversy provoked in Caracas following the article titled “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis” written by Marta Traba (1923-83), the Argentinean art critic who lived in Colombia, published in the Papel Literario supplement of El Nacional newspaper (May 2, 1965). The article caused a prolonged debate throughout September not only in the Sunday newspaper’s supplement but also in the Revista Nacional de Cultura [see doc. no. 799377].  Traba had been invited to give three lectures at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas, and in addition there were radio and television programs ending with a final debate at the Ateneo de Caracas. Besides Roberto Guevara and Marta Traba, the other relevant participants of importance were philosophers J. R. Guillent Pérez and Ludovico Silva, artists Alirio Rodríguez and Alejandro Otero, and the critic Perán Erminy.


This document is important and relevant as it demonstrates how passionately Guevara expressed his displeasure on the polemics absorbing the heart of the Venezuelan cultural community created by the statements made by Traba. In addition to vehemently refuting her thesis, Guevara recorded opinions of other debaters and polemicists to this regard. He thought that Traba merely proposed “some sort of anthropological-historic-cultural research to determine—supposedly—some twenty or so regional Latin American ‘principles.’” This text is also important because of its ethical content: while Traba’s statements are questioned regarding her competence as a critic, the qualities that were desirable of one are set forth. Traba was accused, among other things, of voicing subjective opinions with the calculated purpose of promoting herself.


The articles that appeared in the Papel Literario supplement of 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).


In regards to other written articles on this debate, see by Perán Erminy “La visita positiva” [doc. no. 799445], and by Alejandro Otero “Carta a Guillent Pérez, a propósito de limbos y apocalipsis” [doc no. 798998].

María Elena Huizi
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Roberto Guevara, 1965