Written in 1975, this essay by the art critic [José Ribamar] Ferreira Gullar (b. 1930) was part of the discussion about the question of ‘national expression’ in Latin American art of the period. Ferreira Gullar warns against the error of relying on conventional standards of nationalism (whether of the ‘why-I’m-proud’ or the ‘Malinche-ist chauvinism’ variety) to address cultural issues. The author defends the theory that all aesthetic creation arises from specific sources, never from general ones. Furthermore, at that time in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, artistic searches for “national” elements were in terms of the creation of a particular work, as well as for the development of other forms of expression beyond the realm of art. In the author’s opinion, the ‘national’ nature of a work of art is an expression of an accumulation of cultural experiences that cannot be separated from social practices.
This essay is emblematic of Ferreira Gullar’s point of view since the early 1960s, and illustrates the disagreements that existed between artists who favored international avant-garde styles and those who took a national approach. His most controversial essay, subsequently published as a book, was undoubtedly Vanguarda e subdesenvolvimento: ensaios de arte (1969), in which he analyzed the European art and cultural movements that exerted an influence in Brazil. The crux of his ideas concerns the question of the existence of avant-garde expression in the early stages of developing countries, as in the case of his archenemy, the concrete poetry of São Paulo.