Surrealism in Latin America
The history of surrealist ideas and practices in Latin America is a vibrant research field that has developed over a number of years. Scholars, however, face significant challenges: primary documents are often located in archives that are difficult to access, and secondary sources exist in several languages, including Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, and German, complicating conversations among scholars. Historical narratives tend to give incomplete accounts of both Surrealist exile groups and local art communities in Latin America, obscuring nuanced relationships and influences. More work remains to be done on the relationship between surrealism and pre-Columbian art; the role of key figures such as Peruvian poet César Moro and Austrian painter and editor Wolfgang Paalen; and surrealism's continuing legacy in the work of postwar artists in Latin America. The Surrealism in Latin America research project addresses these challenges and research gaps.
The Getty Research Institute's Latin American surrealist collections encompass various media: archival papers, journals, rare books, photographs, and artwork. They come from Chile, Peru, and Mexico and include, most notably, the papers of poet-editors Vicente Huidobro, Enrique Gomez-Correa, César Moro, and Emilio Westphalen. The journals that were edited by these influential figures, together with a large number of journals acquired separately, extend the sometimes local narratives of the archives into the international surrealist movement. Mandrágora (1937) from Chile, Las Moradas (1947) from Peru, Dyn (1942) and El Hijo Prodigo (1943) from Mexico, in combination with French journals Surréalisme au Service de la Révolution (1930) and Minotaure (1933) and North American journals VVV (1942), View (1940), and Tiger's Eye (1947), offer an unprecedented opportunity for understanding the evolution of surrealism. These journals contextualize correspondence and manuscripts from the archives, illuminating the early Latin American surrealists' conflicted relationship with indigenismo and Marxism. The journals also elaborate how, during World War II, surrealism splintered into groups, challenging Breton's conception of aesthetic revolution and his problematic view of pre-Columbian cultures.
The Surrealism in Latin America research project organized a symposium on June 25 and 26, 2010. In addition, team members are developing an exhibition proposal, digitizing important primary documents, and publishing a selection of scholarly articles as well as a book.