Faculty Spring 2023: Marco A. Martínez

Aesthetics of Displacement: Mexican Artists in the Modern Metropolis 1920-1950

Assistant Professor of Spanish

In my project I examine the contributions of poet and art critic José Juan Tablada, cartoonist Miguel Covarrubias, choreographer José Limón, and music theorist Carlos Chavez to New York’s modern art scene from 1920 to 1950. I analyze the ways in which three different experiences of displacement­–exile, migration, and expatriation­–, affected their creative process. I argue that in all four cases these experiences served to create what I defined as aesthetic of displacement, that is, an aesthetic that capitalizes on ethnic and racial differences to establish cross-cultural ties between the artistic communities in both countries. For all of them, the physical displacement implies the reconfiguration of the aesthetic, literary, and intellectual projects, as well and an ambivalent relationship with the American intelligentsia. To the local intellectual scene foreign intellectuals and artists never going to be totally assimilated or exclude. The national origin precedes all of them. As a mechanism to mitigate the peculiarity of being a foreigner, the difficulties of living between two languages and cultures, these four artists used the translation as an act of cultural resistance. At the same time, the different dynamics of displacement generate the creation of transnational artistic and intellectual networks of modernist practices and exchange between the two countries.