In May 1947, a group of Peruvian intellectuals—mostly architects—formed Espacio, a group geared to advocating and defending modern art and architecture in Peru. The group was the voice of a young generation that initially rallied around an ideal of progress that bound the art avant-garde to a humanist vision. Members of the group included architect Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94), writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65), painter Fernando de Szyszlo (b. 1925), and intellectual Samuel Pérez Barreto (1921–2003)—figures who, despite occasional clashes, played an important role in the Lima art scene. The Espacio group began by publishing a statement of principles, one of the foundational documents of Peruvian modernism. Indeed, that text provided local modernism with a clear shared agenda. In its manifesto, the group explicitly rejected the revival of neo-colonial architecture underway at the time, a laden ornamental style that looked to the viceroyalty as it appealed to the continuity of a “national” architectural tradition. Soon after the manifesto was written, Espacio was able to reach a wider audience thanks to a periodic column in El Comercio—a Lima-based newspaper that belonged to the Miró Quesada Garland family—and to its own journal, Espacio (1949–51). In this editorial in the first issue of the publication, the group further clarified a vision of artistic innovation that embodied commitment both to man and to freedom, a vision only vaguely bound to the Peruvian context. The group’s statements were apolitical; they did not attack the repression enacted by the dictatorship of General Manuel A. Odría in power in Peru from 1948 to 1956.
[For further reading, see in the ICAA digital archive the following texts on the Espacio group: “Expresión de principios de la Agrupación Espacio” (1126309), and (unsigned) “Dice Fernando Syszlo que no hay pintores en el Perú ni América: el joven pintor peruano declara sentir su pintura y la de los demás pero no puede explicarla” (1137793). The following texts were written by the Agrupación Espacio itself: “Polémica” (1137823), “Prescindir o no prescindir” (1138933), and “Polémica: ¿hay pintores en el Perú?” (1139402). See as well the following texts by Samuel Pérez Barreto: “El Perú y la cultura: Sentido y expresión de las formas” (1138491), “Polémica: ‘polémica Espacio’” (1137916), and “Pintura: la guerra de los pintores: plumas por pinceles” (1137839)].