Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    These questions serve as part of a survey for the Cuban magazine, Revista de Avance. Here, Luis Felipe Rodriguez is asked these four questions, all of which align with the bigger theme question of identity: “Que debe de ser el arte Americano?” To the first question, “Do you believe that the American artist should reveal a preoccupation with America?” He responds “yes, the work of the American artist must reveal an American preoccupation, like a mirror reveals the image of a man and of things, that even though they have a foreign origin, are in front of him. I know “que de viejos clavos” depends my new American ideal, but I will repeat what I have said before once more: If our art and our literature do not tend to be “a mirror of our native sky,” let them simultaneously be a vast mirror of our unanimous life. It may not belong to us entirely in the relative circle physically, spiritually and morally, where a social and national conscience is generated for the public. To the second question, “do you believe that americanidad is a question of optics, of content, or of medium?” Rodriguez responds: “Americanidad can be a question of optic for the son of Cuba or of Mexico who sees things of America through a European medium. But for us, the time is coming in which “americanidad” must be a question of transmission and content. The third question is, “Do you believe in the possibility of common characteristics shared by the art of all of the nations in our America?” To which Rodriquez says, “This question is too serious to be answered and taken lightly. Brevity poses a threat on superficiality. I believe that there is the possibility of common characteristics in the art of all of the countries in our America, when the industry, especially commerce, the conscience of our American responsibility, has tackled the borders of the geographic means.” The final question is “What should the American artist’s attitude towards Europe be?” Rodriguez says that “We must acknowledge faithfully that we once were and we still are generally tied to Europe, where the root of our culture lies. This is not a reason to ignore that we were born in an American space that needs its vital sense of expression. We adapted the European, like a strong and old discipline, to affirm our own.”  

     

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    Luis Felipe Rodriguez was a native Cuban, born in Manzanillo. He is considered to be one of the most important figures of literature of his time. Known as a storyteller and novelist, he was one of the first writers that became known as vanguard, famous for his contemporary Cuban writings, and is also known as one of the precursory influences of criollismo in Hispanic American writing. He was one of the twelve writers and artists that were asked to participate in this survey conducted by Revista de Avance, a magazine based in Havana in 1929. Like Amauta (Lima), Revista de Avance was a forum where intellectuals living in various Latin American countries (and Europe and the United States) debated, among other topics, the question of nationalist qualities in art and literature. Rodriguez embraces the European influences in this search for the American identity in art, however, like most of his colleagues, also acknowledges that there is a vast need for the American artist to have an identity of their own.

     

    [For additional interviews of this series, see the following digital ICAA documents: by Rufino Blanco Fombona (doc. No. 832186); by Alfonso Hernández Catá (doc. no. 832204); by Carlos Montenegro (doc. no. 832240); by Jaime Torres Bodet (doc. no. 832061); by Carlos Prendez Saldias (doc. no. 832258); by Carlos Enríquez (doc. no. 832163); by Eduardo Abela (doc. no. 832077); by Eduardo Avilés Ramírez (doc. no. 832146); by José Antonio Ramos (doc. no. 832276); by Raúl Roa (doc. no. 832346); by Regino E. Boti (doc. no. 832100)].