Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990

David Craven


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In this uniquely wide-ranging book, David Craven investigates the extraordinary impact of three Latin American revolutions on the visual arts and on cultural policy. The three great upheavals — in Mexico (1910–1940), in Cuba (1959–1989), and in Nicaragua (1979–1990) — were defining moments in twentieth-century life in the Americas. Craven discusses the structural logic of each movement’s artistic project — by whom, how, and for whom artworks were produced — and assesses their legacies. In each case, he demonstrates how the consequences of the revolution reverberated in the arts and cultures far beyond national borders.

The book examines not only specific artworks originating from each revolution’s attempt to deal with the challenge of “socializing the arts,” but also the engagement of the working classes in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua with a tradition of the fine arts made newly accessible through social transformation. Craven considers how each revolution dealt with the pressing problem of creating a “dialogical art” — one that reconfigures the existing artistic resource rather than one that just reproduces a populist art to keep things as they were. In addition, the author charts the impact on the revolutionary processes of theories of art and education, articulated by such thinkers as John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The book provides a fascinating new view of the Latin American revolutionaries — from artists to political leaders — who defined art as a fundamental force for the transformation of society.

David Craven is professor of art history at the University of New Mexico. A leading authority on the art and culture of the Nicaraguan Revolution, he is also the author of a landmark study of Diego Rivera and acclaimed studies of Cuban art since 1959.

"Craven's is an ambitious book, weaving political, economic, and a broad swath of cultural phenomena into the analysis of works of visual art that go continuously and very sharply in and out of focus. It is erudite, with cultural and art-historical references broadly ranging across time and space, and it is thoroughly documented with citations, some quite long, from critics, artists, and political and literary figures."—Art Journal

"Not only a valuable contribution to the scholarship because of its collection of drawings, paintings, and posters from 'las tres grandes,' namely the Mexican, Cuban, and Nicaraguan revolutions. It is also an exhaustive examination of the cultural policies employed by these transformational processes, an affirmation of the worldwide impact of the visual arts produced under their leaderships, and a defense of them as autonomous struggles. . . . Craven's artistic analysis, along with his appendices and endnotes, demonstrate a vast knowledge and are engaging to readers. His passionately committed defense of Latin American social transformations and generously wide scope are his greatest contributions to the field."—Katherine M. Hedeen, Latin American Research Review

"[A] beautifully illustrated volume. . . . Thoroughly documented, well conceived and executed."—Edward Hood, Latin Americanist

"This wonderfully intricate book on a seldom discussed topic is of undeniable pertinence to the future of the Americas. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries, specialized collections on Latin America, and collections dealing with the politics of social change."—Library Journal

“Given the current popularity of Cuba and other Latin American destinations, David Craven’s look at the artistic legacies of the Mexican, Nicaraguan and Cuban revolutions is timely. As well as providing an excellent background history, Craven looks at the ways in which different regimes strove to find images that would fit with their ideas on art, society and national identity.”—The Bookseller

“Craven . . . begins with an examination of the origins of the modern concept of  revolution and its roots in the Enlightenment ideals of the rights of man. The volume provides valuable glimpses into times of upheaval when artists believed their work held meaning for the general public and had the power to create a better future. He reveals how the revolutionary need to reinvent art and make it relevant for a specific time and place often led to innovation and helped artists avoid the trap of making art for art’s sake.”—Elizabeth Cook-Romero, The New Mexican

"Lavishly illustrated. . . . The book is well documented and the photographs are superb. . . . Rich in information and references of all kinds, especially on Mexico. It presents in one volume an impressive collection of photographs of various types of visual art in these three countries. . . . This book is itself an interesting case study, for it allows us to examine how ideology and power can permeate a scholar's perception of art and its function in society."—Yvon Grenier, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
ISBN: 9780300082111
Publication Date: July 11, 2002
240 pages, 9 x 11
130 b/w + 65 color illus.