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Call for Papers

Transatlantic Encounters: avant-garde discourses in Spain and Latin America

February 28, 2013

This program aims to explore the notion of avant-garde as it relates to the experience of modernity and to the shaping of the political and aesthetic vanguardia by post-war art and politics between 1920 and 1970. The specific nature of avant-garde and neo avant-garde practices, and the way in which transnational dialogue helped delineate artistic discourses in Spain and Latin America, will be the reflections guiding this event.

The international conference Transatlantic Encounters: avant-garde discourses in Spain and Latin America (July 11-13, 2013) looks into the artistic and intellectual dialogue between Spain and Latin America during the 20th century. It forms part of Museo Reina Sofía’s mission to become a platform for the study and dissemination of Latin American art in Europe. The conference has been planned to coincide with the exhibition Concrete Invention: Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (Museo Reina Sofía, January 23 – September 16, 2013). The studies and debates here proposed thus help rethink dominant historiographies of modernism and modernity – a revisionist undertaking that has been promoted by Museo Reina Sofía through its exhibitions, public programs and publications.

A growing interest in the study of modern art from Latin America has helped question the legacy of Modernism, and the way in which the formalist canon has legitimised boundaries between centre and periphery. The relationship between the avant-gardes and Modernism has been a complex history of competing narratives that continue to debate the political and aesthetic agendas of the avant-garde. Resisting absorption into the Modernist canon, championed by Greenberg’s notion of ‘self-criticism’, many avant-garde practices in Spain and Latin America were fuelled by utopian desires to create a new society through the agency of art. Their experimentation gave rise to innovative and radical practices which have helped to revise dominant historiographies of modern art. Many of these works were the result of transatlantic encounters between artists, critics and curators working from these two geopolitical spheres.

Rather than looking at specific movements, this conference aims to explore the notion of the avant-garde as it relates to the experience of modernity, and the way in which a political and aesthetic vanguardiawas shaped by post-war art and politics between 1920 and 1970. The specific nature of avant-garde and neo avant-garde practices, and the way in which transnational dialogue helped to delineate artistic discourses in Spain and Latin America, will be the reflections underlying this event. Through keynote speakers and papers, the different sessions will highlight the most recent research, thus contributing to a better understanding of Modernism from a transnational perspective.

The following lines of research serve as transversal themes underlying the four sessions:

  • The way in which the concept of national avant-gardes in Latin America and Spain challenged the cosmopolitan nature of vanguardismo– thereby manifesting the complexities of avant-garde projects outside the main cosmopolitan centres of New York and Paris.
  • The complex negotiation between history and modernity, originality and tradition.
  • The way in which the utopian projects of the historical avant-gardes transformed and adapted to the socio-political problems of Spain and Latin America in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
  • The artistic and intellectual exchange between Spain and Latin America during the first half of the 20th century.
  • The relationships between artists and critics in the articulation of an aesthetic and political avant-garde, and the mechanisms of representation and display that responded to them.

The papers will be divided among the following sessions. Please specify in your abstract the session with which your proposal best corresponds.

Session 1: Encounters between Spain and Latin America
Session one explores the new routes of exchange that bypass the Paris-New York axis, thus creating new cartographies and journeys that highlight exchanges between avant-garde movements that have not been sufficiently considered by current historiography.

Session 2: Museography, representation and curatorial narratives
Aborda la importancia de los relatos museográficos en la divulgación de proyectos vanguardistas entre 1920 y 1970, así como los mecanismos expositivos y “construcciones” curatoriales que sobre las mismas se están ofreciendo actualmente tanto en espacios públicos, como alternativos.Session two addresses the significance of museography and exhibitions in the dissemination or institutionalisation of avant-garde projects between 1920 and 1970, as well as current curatorial narratives and display mechanisms that offer revisionist readings of this period.

Session 3: Genealogies and avant-garde discourses
TWith the study of artistic practices as its point of departure, session three analyses the role of art criticism and theory in the construction of avant-garde discourses. It seeks to establish a genealogy of practices, vocabularies and concepts that reflect the particularities of avant-garde production in Spain and Latin America.

Session 4: Modernity and modernism(s): discrepancies and displacements
Session four focuses on the legacy of the modernist canon and formalism as discourses that have helped legitimise the boundaries between centre and periphery. Considering concepts like ‘margins, periphery, alterity and divergence’ this session seeks to reveal the fissures present in a complex geopolitical map.

Conference Organisers:

Paula Barreiro López. History Institute at the Human and Social Sciences Centre, CSIC (Spanish National Research Council)
Jesús María Carrillo Castillo. Museo Reina Sofía
Fabiola Martínez Rodríguez. Saint Louis University Madrid
Gabriel Pérez Barreiro. Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Activity´s details

Organized by: 

History Institute of CSIC; Department of Arts and Humanities at Saint Louis University Madrid; Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Museo Reina Sofía

Submission details:

Proposals must consist of a 500 word abstract and CV (two pages maximum). Please send to Paula Barreiro López paula.barreiro@cchs.csic.es.
The official language of the conference will be Spanish but papers in English will also be accepted.

The results will be made known on the 25th of March.
If the proposal is accepted participants may request financial aid to help cover the cost of travel and accommodation. Due to limited funds, participants requesting aid must justify that no other sources of funding are available.

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