lunes, 26 de agosto de 2013

On the roots of Latin American abstraction

Buenos Aires Herald. Published Sunday, March 23, 2003
Art On Sunday

On the roots of Latin American abstraction

By Alina Tortosa
For the Herald 

Geo-metrías /Abstracción geométrica latinoamericana en la Colección Cisneros opened two weeks ago at the Malba –Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires-. The  well chosen pieces of the Cisneros Collection – 110 in all, from the 1940s to the 1970s- provide a fantastic insight into the work of the artists represented, as well as an overall view of one of the most refined ensembles of Latin American art.

It is abstract art because the artists grasped the very essence of line and harmony, creating works that are whole in themselves, and not references to the physical world, and geometric because they were concerned with the properties and relationships of points and lines and shape as form and content.

In a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams it is reassuring to learn about the processes that went into creating the work exhibited, putting together a sensitive and coherent art collection, and working to show it to advantage.  Ariel Jimenez, the Collection curator and curator of this exhibition, gave a guided tour to the press and to the public the day of the opening, during which he explained the layout into six different areas and the choices that make up the selection.  He spoke of each work passionately, describing the creative process and the subsequent historical implications.

In Latin America, what is called geometric abstraction, also known under different names  -Madi, concrete art, kinetic art-  was the result of the work by artists from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.  Why these countries and not others in Latin America?  Was it because they could not relate to ancient sophisticated indigenous cultures, as in the cases of Mexico and Perú? Not really. Actually the question today is: why artists who were born in countries who had originally developed sophisticated indigenous culture did not relate to the abstract geometric designs carved in stone by their ancestors and chose to represent the world around them in a figurative expressionist and/or picturesque manner? Perhaps the time has come to turn the tables on the supposedly authenticity of some of the “authentic Latin American” painting and sculpture. Could it be that these artists who chose to represent the folkloric and picturesque images of their time were really turning their back on their ancient indigenous past as not an adequate pattern to follow, and that those abstract modern Latin American artists, labelled as to pro-European at the time, had grasped the principles of ancient American abstraction, as is well proven in the case of Cesar Paternosto, the Argentine minimal abstract painter? 

The phases of the exhibition takes us through what is best in terms of intelligence and aesthetics in XX c art, which fits exactly the aim of the Cisneros Foundation: to expose in no uncertain terms the quality of Latin American creativity, beyond the periphery syndrome of the politically obvious and the picturesque that has been promoted for decades both by European and US curators –who preferred to keep Latin American art within an intellectual play pen-, as well as by Latin American curators, who wanted to conform to non Latin American standards, a preoccupation that I have always found mystifying.

Huellas (Traces) or The work as a surface for inscription, Lo cristalino (The crystalline) or The work as perfect body, Mecánica plástica (Visual mechanics) or The work as an active body, Espacio-Tiempo (Time-space) or The work as the site of an event, La metáfora orgánica (The organic metaphor) or The work as a quasi-corpus and La dimension antropológica (The anthropological dimension) or The work sensitive to its social surroundings are the stages through which the curator takes us to interpret and understand the development of the work exhibited.

We are introduced into the show by a virginal work by Alejandro Otero from Las Cafeteras (The Coffee Pots) series, 1947, to illustrate how the vertical lines of the physical objects eventually developed into Líneas coloreadas sobre un fondo blanco (Coloured Lines over a White Background), a minimal abstract work, much in the same way that Mondrian’s famous tree became his first abstract linear compositions.  Ariel Jimenez, at this point, is also registering the physical imprint of the artists’ hand through matter on the support in the mystical and elusive work by Mira Schendell, among others,  as well as in the dynamic and energetic work by Torres García, and their psychological impulses, apparent in his need to stress and to proclaim,  totally different to Schendells’ subtle impressions. 

In Visual Mechanics, the next stage, the work has achieved autonomy from the artist, devoid of  physical traces, the result of intellectual and mechanical processes that have willed them to be objects in a world of objects.  There is a kinetic quality in the pieces by Lygia Clark, Willys De Castro, Judith Lauand, Tomás Maldonado and Juan Melé that foretells the movement of the work of art into space, off the wall.

In Time-space the work has left the wall, it may be an environment or a construction we walk into or around, which requires more time and attention than just passing by a static object.  It has become an event, a walk within or without, a rite of passage into the three-dimensional world. 

In The organic metaphor matter, and the articulation or handling of matter, entail sensual and visceral experiences.  The work of art is to the artists an intellectual pursuit spurred on by a physical perception of the world around them and of themselves as biologically alert and sensitive beings. 

In The anthropological dimension the artists concerns go beyond their own needs and impressions into the social needs and experiences of the communities around them. But this social and anthropological perception does not distract them from their aesthetic preoccupations, they articulate these around their subjects interrelating them, which is what makes the difference between art and propaganda tout court.

Pieces by European artists with similar aesthetic preoccupations are exhibited as peripheral references that set the work by these Latin American artists within a world context, as their own work sets the work by European artists in a world context as well. It illustrates a give and take situation in which both sides benefited.

This elegant and harmonious exhibition is full of poetry and of passion. Good poetry deals with absolutes, with an obsession to understand and to transmit economically to others what one believes one has understood, avoiding stereotypes and exaggeration.  An all through the work we can sense the passion that went into living life deeply, trying to understand, to acknowledge, to penetrate and to hold.

Once again, what we may call the “new” Malba, under the curartorships of Marcelo Pacheco, head curator, and Victoria Noorthorn, vice curator, has stood to its commitment of showing regional art at its best. Neither the exhibition, nor the catalogue that goes with it, should be missed.

(Geo-metrías /Abstracción geométrica latinoamericana en la Colección Cisneros, Malba, Figuroa Alcorta Av. Until May 19).

No hay comentarios.:

Publicar un comentario