This text is essential to the controversy that began with the article titled “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis” in the weekly Papel Literario, the supplement section of the newspaper El Nacional of Caracas, published on May 2, 1965 and written by the art critic Marta Traba [see 799377]. The controversy continued approximately through September of the same year, and participating in the debate were renowned Venezuelans J. R. Guillent Pérez, Alejandro Otero, Roberto Guevara, and Alirio Rodríguez, in addition to the critic herself. The dispute extended to other media organizations, such as the Revista Nacional de Cultura, appearances on radio and television, in addition to lectures and debates.
The articles that appeared in the Papel Literario supplement of El Nacional newspaper were compiled in the Delta Solar collection as Modernidad y postmodernidad. Espacios y tiempos dentro del arte latinoamericano (Caracas: Museo Alejandro Otero, 2000). Moreover, a selection of these articles that appeared in the Revista Nacional de Cultura was published in Roldán Esteva-Grillet’s anthology Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas. Siglos XIX y XX (Caracas, CDCH/UCV, Vol. II, 2001).
The importance of this document lies in the responses given by Alejandro Otero (1921−90) to the ideas expressed by Marta Traba gathered from his practical experience as an artist, a pioneer, and as a participant in the avant-garde movements in Venezuela, acquired in France. Otero reveals in the document the spiritually conceptual and formal motivations that led him—and many of the artists of his generation—to join new and universal artistic trends, in search, according to his understanding, for the roots of Latin American art in Western art. For Otero, “being Latin American,” in regards to identity, was inherently manifested by all Latin American artists, but without implicitly leading to the creation of art of a nationalist character.
Likewise, it is also important to highlight (among the many contributions to the controversy made by the article), Alejandro Otero’s clarification on the heterogeneous composition of Latin American society, which he exemplifies through his focus on Venezuela. As he explains, it is only possible for artists to represent the societal fragment with which they identify. In this sense, he argues, “nationalisms” cannot wholly represent the Latin American society either, as Traba aspired. Otero justifies the search for the “universalism” in the arts through those broader “globalized” concerns with mankind’s conflicts that “conscientious” artists should express. His view is ultimately opposed to the “consciousness” concept postulated by Traba, who frames it as a byproduct fundamental in understanding Latin America’s essential problems. Corollary to the article is Otero’s stance in defense of the fate of Latin American art exclusively at the hands of the artists and their work, a tacit allegation against Traba, who claimed for the critics the shaping of the Latin American identity. In essence, a confrontational dispute between the artistic “is” and the critical “ought to be.”
It is also of note the fact that although all of Otero’s standpoints in this text are in response to his differences with Traba’s article, he eludes from directly confronting the critic and sends his comments in a letter to Guillent Pérez, one of the main contenders of the debate.
For additional information, see another text by Otero on the controversy titled “Mi respuesta a Marta Traba” . In regards to other written articles on this debate, see by Perán Erminy “La visita positiva” , as well as “Rigor y autenticidad” , a critique by Roberto Guevara.