The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
The Puerto Rican artist and art historian Osiris Delgado outlines the history of Puerto Rican painting, spanning the period that began with Francisco Oller (in the nineteenth century) and ended in the 1940s. Delgado recalls that early twentieth-century art was closely linked to patriotism. He also refers to the valuable exhibitions presented by the University of Puerto Rico in the 1930s, and mentions the foreign artists (initially Americans and Spaniards) who settled in Puerto Rico and contributed to the development of local art. Delgado also discusses the scant governmental interest in and minimal support of cultural activities. Among other artists, Delgado mentions Francisco Oller, Ramón Frade, Miguel Pou, Manuel E. Jordán, and Julio T. Martínez.
In the early twentieth century, Puerto Rican artists were deeply involved in the question of national identity. The government provided no support for cultural initiatives, so art was taught in workshops and schools sponsored by some of the artists themselves. There was no public support for avant-garde or modern movements because most people considered classical (realist) art to be the only method worth teaching. The Puerto Rican artist Oscar Colón Delgado (1889–1968) once openly stated that he “hated modern art because it was incomprehensible to the masses.”
Plástica magazine, where this review was published, was an art publication that appeared fairly regularly in Puerto Rico. It began modestly enough in 1968, as the newsletter of the Liga de arte de San Juan [San Juan Art League], but changed its name in 1978 to Plástica revista de la Liga de estudiantes de San Juan [San Juan Student League Visual Arts Magazine]. Its very specific title notwithstanding, the twenty-one issues of the magazine explored a wide range of subjects within the broad parameters of Puerto Rican and Latin American art, filling its pages with retrospective coverage of subjects, such as the V Bienal de San Juan del grabado latinoamericano y del Caribe [5th San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Prints] (1981), Puerto Rican architecture, and Latin American visual arts. The first editorial board of the magazine included Hélène Saldaña, Delta Picó, Cordelia Buitrago, and J.M. García Segovia. In addition to the many essays written by top Puerto Rican thinkers, the magazine published contributions from some of the leading Latin American artists and critics, such as Luis Camnitzer, Damián Bayón, Jacqueline Barnitz, Samuel Cherson, Joseph Alsop, Omar Rayo, and Ricardo Pau Llosa, among many others.