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    The question of Latin American Art: Does it exist? / Jaqueline Barnitz

    Plástica Latinoamericana (San Juan, Puerto Rico) . -- Vol. 1, no. 12 (Sep. 1984)

    p. 14-16 : ill.
    English; Spanish
    Journal article – Essays
    Barnitz, Jacqueline. "The question of Latin American Art: Does it exist?" Plástica Latinoamericana: Revista de la Liga de Arte de San Juan (San Juan), year 6, vol.1, no.3 (September 1984): 14-16.  Originally in: Arts Magazine (New York City), vol. 47, no. 3 (December 1966-January 1967): 53-55.
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Jacqueline Barnitz, who spent many years as a professor of Latin American art at the University of Texas at Austin, wonders if there really is “Latin American art.” This question was addressed at a symposium at the New School of Social Research. The panel at the symposium represented both extremes, and included those who believed there was such a thing, and those who did not. Marcelo Bonevardi, the Argentine painter, thought that “there are no nationalists; there are only good artists.” Barnitz compares North American and Latin American artists, claiming that each has certain clearly distinguishable characteristics. In her opinion, the most interesting common theme throughout Latin America is a concern for human values. In other words, Latin American artists speak directly to their audience about themselves and about humanity.


The question of whether or not there is such a thing as Latin American art has been asked many times. This article is particularly interesting because seventeen years later, the writer asks herself the same question in her essay, “The Question 17 Years Later” (see doc. No. 805646).

This issue of Plástica magazine was devoted to art in Latin America; it was produced by Ernesto Ruiz de la Mata, the Puerto Rican critic, who organized the Centro de Documentación de Arte Latinoamericano [Center for the Documentation of Latin American Art] in Puerto Rico during the 1980s. Some of the articles included in this issue were lectures delivered at various conferences and symposia that were collected here for the first time; other essays were contributed by their authors with no particular subject guidelines. This was the first time that a Puerto Rican magazine addressed the question of contemporary Latin American art.

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.

Flavia Marichal
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Courtesy of the Private Archives of Jacqueline Barnitz, Austin Texas USA, and Plástica, Liga de Arte de San Juan, Puerto Rico
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras