Cuban Art and National Identity: The Vanguardia Painters, 1927-1950

By Juan A. Martínez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Origins and Early Development of Modern Cuban Painting: La Vanguardia

The radical artistic movements that transformed European art in the first decades of the century -- fauvism, expressionism, cubism, futurism, dadaism, constructivism, surrealism -- arrived in Latin America in the 1920s to form part of a vigorous current of artistic, cultural, and social renovation. Latin American artists, many of whom became acquainted with European avant-garde styles and theories abroad, did not imitate but adapted these new forms and ideas to create American versions of modernism.

The best known of the pioneer Latin American modern art schools are the Mexican mural movement, initiated in 1922 with the Manifesto of the Syndicate of Revolutionary Artists; the Brazilian group of painters that emerged out of the Modern Art Week in Sāo Paulo in 1922; and the Argentinean painters associated with the magazine Martin Fierro launched in Buenos Aires in 1926. Although similarly committed to reassessing tradition and expressing a national or regional presence in their art, these movements developed different approaches to the interrelated issues of modernism and nationalism. At one end of the spectrum, the Mexican mural painters promoted an art for the people that emphasized sociopolitical concerns over artistic innovation or autonomy. The Brazilian modernist movement occupied a middle ground in its concern for creating a complex national identity expressed in the language of European avant-garde art. Opposite the Mexican position, Argentinean modernism elected to make a cosmopolitan art that rejected, as stated in the Martin Fierro manifesto, "the absurd need to promote intellectual nationalism."1

Influenced to some extent by the Mexican mural movement but closer in

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