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In this chapter from América Latina en sus artes Jorge Alberto Manrique begins by describing the artistic movements of the 1920s and comparing this period to a giant hinge that moved backward to the nineteenth century and forward to the twentieth century. Manrique explains that the movements of the time attracted participants because of the awakening to modernity and opening of their eyes to the “contemporary revolutionary developments” in Europe. He also explains that there was a desire to use art as a means of addressing Latin American social realities, which allowed artists to define and identify themselves as European. While these artists and intellectuals are introspective and open to European modernity, this contradictory approach resulted in what Manrique describes as an “oscillation” between the two poles of Latin American identity: the Creole, Europe-focused nations and the mestizo nations. In the last segment of his essay, Manrique states that he believes Latin American art has abandoned the search for its own unique expression explaining that most artists of the region simply want to be artists.


Jorge Alberto Manrique (b. 1936) is one of the leading art critics in Mexico and has written several books and numerous articles for publications in several countries. He served as the director of the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas at UNAM, was the founding director of the Museo Nacional de Arte, and served as director of the Museo de Arte Moderno. This chapter on the theme of “identity or modernity” comes from the anthology América Latina en sus artes (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1974), 19-33.

María C. Gaztambide, ICAA; Esmeralda Salinas, collaborator.
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Courtesy de Jorge Alberto Manrique, Mexico City, Mexico.
Jorge Alberto Manrique, “¿Identidad o modernidad?” en Damián Bayón (ed.), América Latina en sus artes. México, D.F.: Siglo XXI Editores, 1974 © siglo xxi editores, s.a. de c.v.