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Volume 52 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries

BELGICA RODRIGUEZ, Art Critic and Art Historian Specializing in 20th Century Latin American Art; Associate Professor of Latin American Art, Universidad Central de Venezuela; Director, Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States

IN THE 1990S THE ARTISTIC BIBLIOGRAPHY for Latin America can no longer be considered as minor in comparison with other regions, as is evident in the quality and quantity of literature reviewed for this biennium. As usual, this section includes many entries from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile, but it also contains a few items from countries such as Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, and so on. It is especially important to notice the interest the Central American and Caribbean countries now have in producing books, catalogs and many other publications about their artistic development.

Another change which has to be taken into account is the publication of theoretical reflections and aesthetical proposals on art within the cultural development of Latin America as a whole, (e.g., Arte moderno en America Latina, by Damián Bayón et al., item bi 90002085; The Latin American spirit: art and artists in the United States, item bi90-1994; and Ensayos y ponencias latinoamericanistas by Juan Acha, item bi 90002092).

From more than 200 items, I initially chose 170 to review carefully, including 158 of these in this section. I cannot, definitely, say that the unannotated books are entirely lacking in interest; serious scholars must consult them in order to know what has been written to date. As Leonard Folgarait noted in HLAS 48 and HLAS 50, the literature on Mexican art is once again the most numerous with 35 works. Next is the Caribbean (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Haiti, Martinique, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico), with 22, Venezuela with 20, Colombia with 11, Argentina and Chile with ten, Perú with eight, Uruguay with five, Bolivia and El Salvador with three, and Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua with two each. To a certain extent, Costa Rica's seven entries can be considered as the singular surprise, due to the great difficulties of getting research published in small countries. Nevertheless, the strength of Costa Rican artistic development deserves this recognition.

One of the important facts uncovered while reviewing publications for this volume of HLAS was the number of works devoted to the study of Latin America as a whole. These 17 contributions constitute a serious attempt to analyze differences and similarities within Latin American artistic production as a continental cultural phenomenon. It cannot be said that this research on Latin America art has been neglected. On the contrary, the development of a Latin American art theory is based on the important research conducted so far by numerous Latin American scholars, such as Juan Acha, Aracy Amaral, Frederico Morais, Damián Bayón, Adelaida de Juan, Jorge Alberto Manrique, Rafael Squirru, Germán Rubiano Caballero, Angel Kalenberg, Bélgica Rodríguez, and the late Jorge Romero Brest and Marta Traba. We as researchers, docents, critics, and historians know the richness of the bibliography in each country. It is necessary to admit that, unfortunately, this information remains largely unknown because of the complicated logistics of distributing it. However, we are pleased to note that the trend mentioned in HLAS 50 (p. 46) of declining receipts of 19th and 20th-century Spanish American art historical materials at the Library of Congress has been reversed.

One notable publication is Pintura boliviana del siglo XX (item bi 91001119), important not only because it covers a major gap in the field, but also because of the beauty of the book, and mainly because of the comprehensive visual and historical information included. Other works one should note are two publications on Mexican art: Orozco's Cuadernos (item bi 90009507), and Dr. Atl, 1875-1964: conciencia y paisaje (item bi 91000628). Both publications provide reassessments of the importance of these artists and an understanding of their work. Many other contributions from several countries could also be mentioned, if space allowed: most are compilations in which the organization of the reference material, the clear criteria, and the research methodology, make for useful reference tools.

To conclude, Latin American art bibliography is no longer (nor has it been for the last 15 years) merely an accumulation of documentation, dates, and facts, but is a theoretically-based methodology, with new conclusions being reached from a conceptual and formal point of view. The only regret is that Latin American art has been analyzed within Latin American cultural development, and not as a hemispheric phenomenon. I propose a shift toward research which deals in comparative terms with what has happened in the whole Western hemisphere, in order to understand ourselves both within our own culture as well as that of the Hemisphere.

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