Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    In this text, Raul Roa responds to the question that the editors of revista de avance posed to their readers: “What should American art be?” He specifically addresses each of the four sub-questions grouped under this larger question. To the first—“Do you believe that the American artist should reveal a preoccupation with America?”—Roa responds affirmatively, but questions the magazine’s intentions in posing the question this way. Instead, he suggests rephrasing it as, “Should or should not a work by an American artist display revolutionary preoccupations (in the accepted historical sense)?” To the second—“Do you believe that americanidad is a question of optics, content, or medium?”—he replies that it is a question of all three, but emphasizes that art primarily should be a means toward something and never an end in itself. To the third—“Do you believe in the possibility of common characteristics shared by the art of all of the nations of our Americas?”—Roa replies that this is a possibility that has not yet been realized. When it is, the characteristics shared by American art will be of an ideological nature and not an aesthetic one. To the last question—“What should the American artist’s attitude be toward Europe?”—he responds that it should be “imminently critical,” and that Americans should be suspicious of Europe, especially of Rome and Paris.

    Annotations

    Raul Roa was a Cuban intellectual, politician, and diplomat, who wrote regularly for revista de avance during the late 1920s. He was a political radical who was involved in government protests and anti-imperialist movements during the 1930s. His response to the question “What should American art be?” was published in 1929 in revista de avance, a magazine based in Havana. 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. In this text, Roa urges his readers to understand these questions in political terms. For him, endorsing the idea of americanidad does not mean promoting a cultural or aesthetic point of view, but rather, assuming the position of a political revolutionary. At several points in this text, he entices Latin Americans to think about how economic and political independence form the basis for a continental art and literature.