Theses Doctoral

Avant-Garde and Socialist Dreamworlds in Latin America: Global and Local Designs, 1919-1939

Castillo, Mauricio

This dissertation examines the avant-garde as one of the last significant cultural manifestations in Latin America that attempted to offer an alternative to capitalism in the twentieth century. My study redefines the avant-garde as a global critique of modernity whose emergence can only be explained from a geopolitical perspective. During this time, the world order dictated that metropolitan areas like Western Europe be engaged in a mutual economic dependence with peripheral regions such as Latin America. Consequently, a revolutionary socialist impulse originated from within secondary economic areas in the world like Russia and Latin America. Movements such as Dada and Cubism conveyed the necessity for art to break from the autonomous status attributed to it by the bourgeoisie; but ultimately, these aesthetic projects did not address an essential component of the changing social picture, namely the articulation of collective fantasies directed at the emerging masses.

The avant-garde was able to articulate these dreamworlds only after art intersected with socialism. With this convergence art claimed a different kind of autonomy, one not based on innocuous insularity but on a socially conscious critical capacity. The revolutionary discourse that resulted from the combination of political and artistic realms aimed at addressing the masses as an integral part of a new modern society. The chapters include muralism (Diego Rivera), periodicals (Amauta), and poetry (Vallejo). Building upon local and global geopolitical perspectives, these works constructed socialist dreamworlds, expressions of utopian desires to transform the world, against the backdrop of art's tendency toward new modes of production and aesthetic sensibilities in the early twentieth century. Sifting through the ruins of these cultural artifacts, I discuss topics such as the figure of the intellectual and the history of radical ideas in Latin America; Marxism; public art and state sponsorship; iconography of revolution and spectrality; and the autonomy of art at the intersection of politics and aesthetics.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Alonso, Carlos
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 7, 2013