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Volume 50 / Humanities

ART: SPANISH AMERICA


19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES

LEONARD FOLGARAIT, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Vanderbilt University

WORKS FROM AND ABOUT MEXICO once again dominate this section. This is due to two factors: 1) Mexico appears to be the major publisher in the field; and 2) very little has been received on the art history of Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries. I have cited only part of the recent literature on the Mexican muralists, especially that on Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. Mexican and North American scholars have collected a vast amount of material to mark the centennials of the births of Rivera and Orozco in 1986 and 1983, respectively. Unfortunately, a good deal of this work is purely celebratory, adding layer upon layer of mystification to the reputations of the artists and their works. The majority of contemporary scholars in this area are still unable and/or unwilling to work toward more objective interpretations of the significance of these muralists.

Fortunately, there are several welcome exceptions to the prevailing orthodoxy, mostly from younger scholars who have managed to shake loose from the conservatism of the field. I especially want to highlight the work of Alicia Azuela (item bi 89001944), Irene Herner de Larrea (item bi 89001949), and Ramón Favela (item bi 89001950). Each has focused on a special Rivera topic and produced rigorous and useful scholarship. I also want to mention the commitment to quality on the part of Cynthia Newman Helms, Linda Downs, and Ellen Sharp in their preparation and presentation of Diego Rivera: a retrospective (item bi 89001958), an exhibition catalog that serves as a research tool of the highest order.

Orozco has been well served by Raquel Tibol's biography (item bi 89001965) and by the exhibition catalog of his caricatures (item bi 89001955). Coincidentally, a work of my own treats Siqueiros' last major mural project (item bi 89001952). Thus, the Big Three are receiving unprecedented attention of late. It will be interesting to see whether or not the influence of these unorthodox writers will be felt on subsequent scholarship. It is my hope that progressive tendencies will determine future scholarship well beyond the hoopla of the centennials. Also, perhaps well-deserved attention will be drawn to artists outside of the large shadow cast by the Big Three, in works such as those by Olivier Debroise (item bi 89001947) and Arturo Casado Navarro (item bi 89001945). Other publications of interest include an article by Shifra Goldman (item bi 89001953) and an excellent guide to murals in Mexico City edited by the always progressive-minded Esther Acevedo (item bi 89001943).

The decline in the receipts of materials on the art history of Latin America in the 19th and 20th centuries is a perplexing trend. That Mexican literature has eclipsed that of the rest of Latin America is unlikely. Let us hope that this decline is a temporary aberration rather than a serious indicator. We look forward to the next volume, HLAS 52, in which these gaps should be filled.


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