Two concepts are key to understanding the ideology and practice of the Grupo Toledo Chico. First, the idea that art is an instrument of social action with local methods and aims. This idea leads to a rejection of art’s “universality” as unification of languages. Art is “universal” only insofar as essential to the human condition, but its forms and outcomes differ from place to place. Second, the idea that art does in fact “represent the world” and, hence, an art of the people is necessarily figurative. For the group, “abstraction” is a formula put forth by colonialist art that has taken root in local institutions. The group thus repudiates the Instituto General Electric in Montevideo and the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires.
It is striking that, even in the late sixties, intellectual circles continued to debate the issue of abstraction versus figuration even though it was, for most artists, settled. The abstract/figurative dualism was a problem of the thirties that, in relation to “social realism” specifically, continued to be relevant into the fifties. The ties between political-cultural colonialism and a certain way of making art attest to the contradictions that “leftist intellectuals” of the day grappled with. In keeping with the thinking of Roger Garaudy, which was influential throughout the sixties, some advocated an art without borders; others upheld the idea of “Latin Americanist art”; still others supported “staunch localism” as crucial to independence from any form of colonialist submission.
[For further reading see, in the ICAA digital archive, the following documents published by the Grupo Toledo Chico: issued by the Federación de Estudiantes Plásticos del Uruguay (FEPU) “2ª exposición al aire libre en homenaje a Stalingrado” (1210566); “Ha muerto Felipe Seade lloran las paredes blancas” (1193080); by J. Aroztegui (editor-in-chief) “Hacia el encuentro del hombre” (1194504) and “Llamado al espectador” (1195546); “Un mate para despedir el 66 y recibir el 67” (1194176); and “El XV Salón Municipal de Artes Plásticas” (1193049)].