Sur [South] magazine, founded and financed by Victoria Ocampo (1890–1979), was one of the major literary journals in Argentina. It was published from 1931 until 1988, though on an irregular basis. The original group of contributors included writers such as Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) and Norah Borges (1901–98), Guillermo de Torre (1900–71), Oliverio Girondo (1890–1967), Leopoldo Marechal (1900–70), Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914–99), and Silvina Ocampo (1903–94), among others. The survey was based on the following questions: 1. Do you firmly believe that the term abstract art, which has been widely used until now, is improper and imprecise, and should now be replaced by the term nonfigurative art, but with the option of including, under the umbrella of this term, other names that might be used to identify more specific tendencies? 2. If not, what name would you suggest, based on the exactness of its meaning and its chances of widespread acceptance? 3. In your opinion, what is the meaning and the future of nonfigurative art as related to representative art? In Buenos Aires, the survey was answered by Cayetano Córdoba Iturburu (1899-1977), Manuel Mujica Láinez, Gyula Kosice (1924–2016), Juan Del Prete (1897–1987), and Tomás Maldonado (b. 1922). Some foreigners also responded: Mathias Goeritz (1915–1990), Hans Platschek (1923–2000), Vicente Martín (1911–98), Ricardo Gullón (1908–91), Eduardo Westerdhal (1902–83), and Ángel Ferrant (1890–1961). The links to foreign artists were, to some extent, because of the friendship between Ángel Ferrant and Guillermo de Torre, but were also a result of their cultural activities at the Escuela de Altamira [School of Altamira] in Santillana del Mar, Spain.
Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-84) was an Argentine writer born in Buenos Aires; later on he finished school in Paris when his family settled in Europe. He was known as “Manucho” and worked as a journalist for the newspaper La Nación; he also wrote a great number of novels and stories, many of which were adapted for the movies and television—such as “Bomarzo” that inspired an opera by the same name. The survey took shape after the exchange of letters between Julio E Payró and Guillermo de Torre was published in Number 202 of Sur [South] magazine in August 1951. That exchange, in turn, grew out of the reaction to Léon Degand’s exhibition Arte Abstracto, del arte figurativo al arte abstracto [Abstract Art: From Figurative Art to Abstract Art] in Buenos Aires in July 1949, and to de Torre’s prologue for Joaquín Torres García’s exhibition in April 1951. This document has been chosen because it indicates the writer and critic’s position vis-à-vis the open debate about abstraction, and confirms the willingness shown by both Payró and de Torre to discuss the question in greater depth.