The Creators of Indian-American Painting

By César Vallejo

Let us cite a phrase from Cocteau, who is neither a great poet nor honorable man, but who at times, however infrequently, has sound judgments that demonstrate clear and sensible exactness. Cocteau is not excited by verses or acts. Cocteau, like a skilled bricklayer, can occasionally put pen to paper accurately and knows how to join together ideas that lie or roll on the ground like wild elements of a half-achieved sensitivity. “Beware- Says Cocteau- of those poets that obtain the suffrage of youth too early. Nothing dissipates so quickly as improvised success, whether or not properly achieved. Radiguet also doubted and even denied the existence of a true creative spirit in the “child prodigies.” The rest are kindergarten tales to stimulate the morale and imagination of children of both sexes.

In America, more than anywhere else, the hoaxes of the “child prodigies” must be avoided along with their fulminating records of accomplishment. We Latin Americans are telluric by nature, precocious. To stimulate, with the myth of “child prodigies,” our precocity and the early mistakes of our lives is dangerous and even disastrous. At thirty years old, we have already given our blood in art, life and the passion for new things. “If you are over thirty- said an intelligent Peruvian friend of mine- and happy, meaning without having lost or tarnished our austere spirituality and creative faith, then we are safe. I am afraid that at thirty you hang up your muse and make a landing.” Before thirty we create, love, hate and laugh exclusively and cry exclusively. After, we cry laughing and laugh crying. In comes total or partial skepticism, sheltering, in the case of the latter, our vital faith in “eating well.” After, we replace the noble and disinterested spirit of youth with practical and bovine common sense. In a few cases, suicide, madness, a specific vice or an ecstatic drunkenness of desperation ensue. We become sterile pessimists, evil citizens, dyspeptic hearts or well-heeled government representatives. We Latin Americans are, in general, intelligent, enthusiastic, generous, rebellious and revolutionary, at least until we turn thirty. We travel, suffer, engage in adventure, struggle and live for humanity. But after this age, we give in and retract, attempting to subsist only for our sakes and that of our wives and children. We lose all larger vocations, replacing them with lesser appetites... We lose man’s creative instinct, replacing it, in the most innocent of cases, with a conventional role as a husband and, often times, for any social “tic,” such as becoming a doctor, sub-prefect, a decent individual, dandy or drug addict. The poet, a genius at twenty-five, - oh Cocteau! Oh Radiquet- warns that there is nothing left for him to do given that he has already done everything. The same happens with painters, musicians and sculptors. Their fires extinguish due to simultaneous causes: internal biological exhaustion and, as are the dangers that must be avoided in America, due to an atmosphere that has become soaked by an excess of ink used in praise set in linotype.

Macedonio has passed the age of thirty happily. He has not been billed as a “child prodigy,” and his work has not excited sudden and universal admiration. The majority of the public has remained indifferent and uniformed about his painting. He, after the terrible danger of the “alibi of thirty year olds,” has continued to work and create, hate and love, and all with an increasing creative spirit. He has not hurried himself and has no desire to improvise. He does not seek to swindle either others or himself. He, like Lenin, detests exports and imports through intermediaries: a complacent press, well-meaning friends or demagogical tricks or condescension of technique. During his four years in Europe, he did not wish to return victoriously to his birthplace in the “standard” style of other young people from America; instead, he has remained to study, meditate and produce like honorable men and authentic artists. He has been neither to exhibition halls nor newspaper rooms. He has participated in no guild meetings. He has no clandestine trade document. Cezanne, because he was Cezanne, still suffered “like a man” at thirty (another thing would be to say humanly) after having lived through seeing his best paintings: “Aprés midi a Naples” and “Femme a la puce” rejected at exhibition halls. His dignified anger, his dignified pain, could not be drowned and was transformed into a célebre (?) of protest before the Director of Fine Arts.

Macedonio is calmer and more confident and has never sent anything to the Autumn or National Rooms; he has sent nothing to the Independents or to the Winter Room. Refocused, submitted to a deep and intimate esthetic introspection and a practice of more austere moral discipline in his life as an artist and as a man, he uses these moments to prepare a truly great and pure work.

Given that Americans are used to “child prodigies,” they no longer believe in serious spirits and rested enemies of spectacular flashes and of easy work in small town squares. Certainly, one needs an extraordinary moral strength and a powerful sense of security in oneself to resist the temptations of the district’s routine and to go against the tide to defend the natural rhythm and healthy creative process of our spirit. Certain arrivistes from America would never understand this. These are waiters of hyperbolic beginnings and sad endings. They continue to shout their provisional and inoperative screams. Muteness exists- like that of the eternal rocks of the Andes- whose resonant and fertile transcendence is only heard by the adjoining distances of history…

Nevertheless, Macedonio de la Torre- with the sole act of having sent a painting to the Autumn Room at his friends urging- has elicited debates amongst high level French critics, as is befitting of a renovator in the world of painting. The critics of Paris did not praise him as they would any other, but instead praised him by debating about him, which is the true manner of praising a creator. “It is appropriate- as the “La Revue Moderne” has said- to point out to this artist the dangers of the path he is following. The artist will not achieve any art worth lasting through time if, in order to characterize his thoughts and emotion in an abbreviated manner, he displaces himself from reality. In contrast, the “L Art Vivant” is of the opinion that “his landscape painting of Vanves” is within the limits of a healthy artistic formula and that this almost classical spirit of artistic equilibrium do not constitute an isolated and fortuitous event in Macedonio de la Torre´s existence but instead is a dominant force on all of his canvasses.” etc. All of this proves that Macedonio de la Torre is the sovereign owner of a truly original and great esthetic.

París, 1929.