Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

This essay is by Peruvian art critic and poet Alejandro Lora Risco regarding the French artist Jean Dewasne and the incomprehension demonstrated by his colleagues relating to Dewasne’s exhibition at the Galería de Lima. Lora Risco relies on André Malraux’s argument that art is not a direct expression of nature but that of previous artwork, whose purpose is transcending it. Therefore, he considered a “true artist” as one who rebelled against prevailing conventions in search of a new style. In his opinion, ethics and rebellion were indissoluble when it came to art. But it is precisely the rejection of “what is known” that generated the misunderstanding of the artist by his contemporaries. To agree with the general public signified the reiteration of assimilated concepts, thus relinquishing the creative effort. From Lora Risco’s perspective, the artist is “a hero” who creates in solitude while unquestionably mapping future paths.


Though abstract expressionism was prevalent in Peruvian artistic circles, uncommon and exclusive trends such as those of Jean Dewasne (1921–99) were the incentives for non-figurative Peruvian art in the 1950s. During the fifties, Dewasne’s Atelier d’art abstrait in Paris would accommodate such Peruvian artists as Eduardo Gutiérrez (b. 1920) and Benjamin Moncloa (1927–2018), the latter of which had a prominent career when he returned to Peru. Most crucial, however, was the French artist Jean Dewasne’s visit to Peru in 1954 due to his exhibition at the Galería de Lima. The exhibition was an ambitious series on the part of Dewasne of European modernity (including Italian) that would confront the local environment generating a continuous series of debates that year, almost always hostile, when relating to abstract art. In Lima, Dewasne met frequently with the non-figurative artists, one of them being Fernando de Szyszlo, and with those artists who would later participate in the Primer Salón de Arte Abstracto in 1958. This encounter would bring to light the enduring effect of his influence [on this subject, see in the ICAA digital archive “I Salón de Arte Abstracto” by the Arts Board of Trustees (doc. no. 1143441)].

Leading the general critical recognition in Lima on the quality of Dewasne’s work was Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94), undoubtedly the main defender of modernism in the country, thereby making evident all the possibilities that were open for non-figuration [see by Miró Quesada Garland “En blanca y negra...: arte abstracto de Jean Dewasne” (doc. no. 859530) and “En blanca y negra...” (doc. no. 859589)]. However, there were also notable and important art critics, such as Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65) [see “Artes plásticas” (doc. no. 859550)] and also Edgardo Pérez Luna (1928–84) [see “De arte: Jean Dewasne en la Galería de Lima” (doc. no. 859484)] who would question the relevance of this pictorial style in Latin America. In their view, it was a continent whose “original” condition would require a visual arts rooted in a broader social reality.

Ricardo Kusunoki
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Reproduced with the permission of Pedro Lora Lezaeta, Santiago, Chile