In his praise of Carmelo de Arzadun (1888–1968), Joaquín Torres García (1874–1949) includes applause for the former’s daring embrace of constructivist ideas, a doctrine in which he himself had invested a great deal of aesthetic, ethical, and philosophical effort, pushing back against the prevailing fear of change and eclecticism. He defends artists whose work was inspired purely by artistic principles or what (in local circles) were understood as attributes of art. It should be remembered that JTG wrote this article in the midst of the backlash that was unleashed by his constructivist sermonizing. Arzadun is described as being “brave, and is now on the other side,” someone whose career was widely acknowledged in Uruguay, yet dared to experiment, risking his prestige and his friends. JTG therefore celebrates his decision to step away from his routine, mediocre, and twisted activities, thus gaining in structure and clarity of concept. Finally, JTG shakes up his readers, sharply urging them to observe inventions they enjoy on a daily basis (radio, transatlantic communications, airplanes, modern architecture, and the automobile), in other words, to live in the twentieth century in aesthetic terms as well. JTG’s return to Uruguay in 1934 (after spending 45 years abroad, mainly in Europe) created a great deal of excitement and expectation in Uruguayan intellectual circles. He dreamed of blending into that circle and stirring things up with his constructivist teachings, but it didn’t take long for rifts to materialize amid mutual questioning. JTG constantly undervalued local art and was unimpressed with everything he saw: the production of a misunderstood “Impressionism,” the complacent assessment of the critics, audiences that would not tolerate the slightest change, and artists who did not understand Cubism which, according to JTG, was nothing but a new form of artistic exploration.
This document reveals the mutually hostile climate that developed between JTG and most local Uruguayan artists.
[As complementary reading, see the following articles written by Joaquín Torres García in the ICAA digital archive: “Con respecto a una futura creación literaria” (730292); “Lección 132. El hombre americano y el arte de América” (832022); “Mi opinión sobre la exposición de artistas norteamericanos: contribución” (833512); “Nuestro problema de arte en América: lección VI del ciclo de conferencias dictado en la Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de Montevideo” (731106); “Introducción [en] Universalismo Constructivo” (1242032); “Sentido de lo moderno [en Universalismo Constructivo]” (1242015); “Bases y fundamentos del arte constructivo” (1242058); and “Manifiesto 2, Constructivo 100%” (1250878)].