What is the legacy of the School of the South?

What is the legacy of the School of the South?

During the early years of the twentieth century, several Argentine and Uruguayan artists participated in avant-garde movements in Europe. After returning home, they revolutionized the art scenes in the Rio de la Plata region (Argentina and Uruguay) by introducing the modern movements they had joined abroad. After many years in Europe, Joaquín Torres-García founded an art school in Montevideo known as the School of the South, which paved the way for abstraction to develop in the region. In the mid-1940s, Argentine and Uruguayan artists embraced Concrete art, pursuing a pure abstraction of colors and shapes. In Buenos Aires, artists formed two main groups, the Association of Concrete Art and Invention, which favored a geometry imbued with logic, and Madí, which embraced a more playful and intuitive approaches. Concrete art movements in South America later became synonymous with utopian notions of modernization and progress.

Image of bronze sculpture depicting a guitarist.


For Latin American artists, the practice of traveling to Europe to see first-hand the great masterpieces they had only learned about in books was well established by the early years of the twentieth century. When these artists arrived in Europe, they learned about the Cubist, Futurist, Dada, and Expressionist avant-gardes. As they tried to reconcile their interest in traditional art with modern movements advocating a radical departure from the art of the past, they often experienced a moment of creative crisis.
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Image depicting abstract angular forms in reds, blacks, beiges, and oranges

The School of the South

In 1934, Joaquín Torres-García returned to his native Montevideo, Uruguay, after being active in Europe for many years. Embracing his new geographic context, he proposed a new constructive art centered in South America and grounded in the geometry that is sometimes found in ancient American arts and architecture.
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Abstract image of green and yellow semicircles and red and black arcs with multicolored dots arranged on an off-white plane

Concrete art

During World War II, the fluid cultural exchanges between Europe and Latin America came to a halt, which made artists turn their attention towards their more immediate context. In the Rio de la Plata region (Argentina and Uruguay), a large group of abstract artists adopted an experimental attitude to producing art made with concrete visual elements such as shapes, lines, and colors.
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Image of sculpture consisting of red and black planes with angular points resting on a cylindrical base

Abstraction and the consolidation of modernity

By the mid 1950s, abstract artists in the Rio de la Plata region moved beyond specific styles in order to foster a more inclusive approach to abstraction. This generation of artists contributed to the consolidation of modernism as the leading visual language. In a time of economic prosperity, abstraction became a symbol of a modern utopia and general optimism for the future.
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