The lecture that Joaquín Torres García gave about Mexican artists in August 1938 is of particular interest because it reveals his personal opinions about the major muralists in a period of time where “social realism” in painting was debated among the intellectual audience in Montevideo. JTG admits that he should turn away from the ideas that undergird his work in order to praise the work of the Mexican painters, particularly their murals: “having abdicated my position on art […] I must now speak enthusiastically about these three great artists.” He begins, however, by praising the provocative, revolutionary stridentist art movements of the 1920s. This was a reminder that JTG was in touch with Mexican avant-garde artists and poets as a result of his friendship with Germán Cueto in Paris in the late 1920s. JTG also praises the anti-bourgeois and nonconformist spirit of those movements, for which he sought to be an avant-garde representative in the Río de la Plata region despite the fact that his work was considered “purist” and conservative in some social realism circles.
It is interesting to see that JTG lauds these artists for having exposed “the human suffering that is deeply embedded in our pseudo-civilization,” no matter that his own critique of contemporary civilization was rooted in very different ideas to those that inspired the muralists. This was particularly true of Siqueiros, an artist who, far from speculating about the metaphysics of classical and archaic cultural tradition, according to JTG, advocates appropriating capitalism’s technological revolution.
[As complementary reading about Mexican mural painting, see in the ICAA digital archive, the following articles by the Portuguese-Mexican critic Antonio Rodríguez: “El Muralismo de México: Gran y aparatoso adefesio de la Historia, dice José Luis Cuevas” (747199); “El Muralismo de México: Uno de los momentos culminantes del Arte en este siglo” (747077); and “El Muralismo Mexicano, un enorme absceso que contagió a todos nuestros países: carta abierta de Marta Traba sobre el problema del Muralismo Mexicano” (747211)].