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“How do you Imagine Latin America?”: Questioning Latin American Art and Identity in Print


In this essay I examine two questionnaires issued in Latin American magazines that offer different models for constituting Latin American art and its place in the transatlantic imagination in the early twentieth century. In 1928 the Cuban magazine Revista de Avance asked contributors from throughout Latin America, “What should Latin American art be? What should the attitude of Latin American artists towards European art be?” Three years later the Latin American magazine Imán, based in Paris, asked European Surrealists, “How do you imagine Latin America?” These two questionnaires, issued a few years apart, exemplify the tension between the autochthonous and cosmopolitan strains of the Latin American avant-garde, a struggle between autonomy from the international and integration with it. My essay first asserts the importance of the magazine form to the development and circulation of the Latin American avant-garde and then spotlights the overlooked genre of the questionnaire to centralize its role in defining a local and international artistic identity in print. Next, I examine each magazine’s questionnaire in depth to explicate the collective formation of an imagined “Latin American art” that emerged from the questions and responses, along with the modes of translation that they proposed. Lastly, I assess the implications of these versions of Latin American art to determine Latin America’s place within the field of global modernism, as articulated by the artists, writers, and editors who shaped it.

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