March 2010

Magic Realism, an Art Movement and a Style

Situations in literature and visual art that could be real, but probably are not, mysterious or contradicting are identified with some Latin American works. Magic or Magical Realism is the blending of realistic imagery and magical elements, enigmas or paradoxes. It is the step between Realism, real contemporary life and Surrealism, situations that could not possibly exist. It is both a movement and a style.

Magic Realism, lo real maravilloso, is first used by German art critic Franz Roh to describe an art movement after WWI, representative art with elements of expressionist tendencies. The style remains popular in Europe and the USA from the 1920s through the 1950s. The naïve art of Henri Rousseau and the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico use ambiguous perspectives and unusual juxtapositions. Rene Magritte was interested in the relationship between objects, images and language. He uses magic realism to create a sense of wonder in everyday objects.

The most celebrated Nicaraguan artist, Armando Morales, achieves fame with abstract expressionism, but in the early 1970’s complexly changes his style. He creates his own “magical realist” technique, the unlikely use of color and tones with the unique collaging of pieces of painted canvas onto the works.

The style of magic realism is evident in contemporary Latin American visual and literary artists as well. In the 1940s, magical realism is a way to express the realistic American thinking and create an independent style through the literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and later Isabelle Allende and Jose Saramago. Their stories set up oppositions between real life and unreal situations.

According to David Craven in his Art & Revolution in Latin America, Marquez believes that realismo magico is one of the most effective artistic modes in Latin America for engaging with the uneven development of history and the regional underdevelopment related to it. It is an enigma in a real life setting for sure.

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