Known primarily as a surrealist poet, César Moro also created numerous paintings and collages in a surrealist mode. Born in Peru, Moro made the obligatory sojourn to Paris in 1925 to immerse himself in European avant-garde activities. In 1928 he met André Breton and began to experiment with surrealist technique as a means to push both his painting and his poetry in new directions. Moro was one of the first Latin American artists to take up collage as an autonomous art form, creating images that combine text with photographs from advertisements, scientific journals, and newspapers in bizarrely incongruous ways.
When he returned to Peru, Moro organized the first exhibition of surrealist art in Latin America at the Academía Alcedo in Lima, Peru in 1935. Given the dominance of Indigenism in the visual arts in Peru, this was a bold move on Moro’s part. While the exhibition baffled the public, it introduced new possibilities to young artists working in Peru and challenged the ascendancy of Indigenism. In 1938 Moro left Peru for Mexico where he would remain for the next decade. There he renewed his contact with Breton and the two joined forces, together with the painter Wolfgang Paalen, to organize the Exposición Internacional del Surrealismo at the Galería de Arte Mexicano in 1940.
This essay will trace César Moro’s extensive engagement with surrealism, from his early participation in Breton’s surrealist group in Paris, to the exhibition he organized in Peru, and finally to Mexico. By examining closely Moro’s surrealist collages and paintings, I hope to reveal the depth of his involvement with the movement, as an artist, poet, and organizer on a transnational scale.