This is the last speech given by Mário Pedrosa, written after his return to Brazil after years of forced exile: when (1978) he participated in the First Latin American Biennial in São Paulo. When he realized the very low priority placed on art in mass society, Pedrosa revisited (this time in a more incisive manner) the idea of cultural dependency, a concept which had weighed on him for decades, and which he explored in one of his most important essays: “Bienal de cá para lá,” in which he advocated for resistance art (or “rearguard” art), a proposal which develops his critical vision of the transformations that occurred in art during the 20th century. Pedrosa alerts us to art’s potential (which decreases every day) for renewal in advanced capitalist societies; his text argues for the need to return to a position of unyielding resistance, critical reflection, and political action.
Mário Pedrosa (1900–81) was an intellectual and politician, and undoubtedly the key theoretician and critic on Brazilian art of the 20th century. He began as an international politics correspondent for the Diário da Noite, and beginning in the 1920s he was affiliated with the PCB (Communist Party of Brazil). He was imprisoned in 1932 because of his political militancy (Trotskyism). During the Estado Novo of Getúlio Vargas, he lived in exile in France and New York, and only returned to Brazil after the Second World War, when he worked for the Correio da Manhã. His stance against Stalinism led him to found the Vanguarda Socialista, a weekly publication. He presented a thesis on aesthetics called “Da natureza afetiva da forma na obra de arte” (1949) at the School of Architecture (Rio) that made use of his philosophical background, and his knowledge of Gestalt psychology; during that time he was also one of the founders of the AICA (1948) and also organized the International Conference of Art Critics (Brasilia, 1959). He wrote an arts column for the Tribuna da Imprensa (1950–54) and was an organizing member of the II and III São Paulo Biennials (1953 and 1955), later becoming director of the MAM-SP (1961–63). He served as secretary for the National Council of Culture during the brief government of Jânio Quadros. During the military dictatorship he took refuge in Chile, where he became director of the Museo de la Solidaridad in Santiago; after the Pinochet coup (1973), he left for Havana, where he served as secretary for the Museo de la Resistencia Salvador Allende. He only returned to Brazil in 1977 (at the beginning of the amnesty) and was the first to sign the manifesto creating the PT (Party of Workers, 1980). His vast library (which included eight thousand volumes) is partially available at the national library in Rio de Janeiro.
[As complementary reading, see the following texts by Mário Pedrosa in the ICAA digital archive: “Abstração ou figuração ou realismo?” (1085648); “Arquitetura e crítica de arte” (1086553); “Crise nas artes individuais” (1110406); “Da abstração a auto-expressão” (1085707); “Da lógica na apreciação artística” (1086587); “Debate: o artista e a crítica” (1110951); “Lições do Congresso de Críticos” (1110410); “Paulistas e cariocas” (1085056); “Pintura brasileira e moda internacional” (1126469); and “Problemas da pintura brasileira” (1075171)].