North and South Connected: An Abstraction of The Americas
This survey illuminates the unfolding of an abstract art that emerged in North & South America from a cross-fertilization with the indigenous arts. The exhibition juxtaposes the work of artists involved in the search for a modern American rooted art and ancient Andean textiles.
In the mid-thirties, Joaquín Torres-García and two transplanted Europeans, Josef and Anni Albers, led the way in searching for structural as well as symbolic principles in the art of the pre-Columbian peoples. The younger Adolph Gottlieb followed suit in the forties, a decade during which some of Torres-García's disciples; Francisco Matto and Gonzalo Fonseca, travelled through the Andean region in order to study the ancient arts and architecture. Louise Nevelson travelled in the fifties to Mexico and Guatemala to see the Maya stelae first hand, while Maya architecture and astronomical lore was also part of Alfred Jensen's complex intellectual background. Lifelong abstractionists like Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar in Colombia and the Argentines Alfredo Puente and César Paternosto also reoriented their work as they encountered the indigenous arts.
The uncompromising geometry of the ancient Andean textiles in the exhibition - a superb selection from the Andrés Moraga Gallery in Berkeley, California - exemplify the textile paradigm, a grid that precedes by millenia the modernist grid of our century. The exhibition presents the woven masterpieces as paragons of abstraction on a par with the work of artist-weavers Anni Albers and Lenore Tawney, with abstract, grid-based painting and with Cecilia Vicuña' s expansion of weaving into space.
César Paternosto, the curator, is the author of The Stone and the Thread-Andean Roots of Abstract Art (University of Texas Press, 1996). Lucy R. Lippard, has called him "an intellectual visionary." In Overlay (Pantheon Press, 1983) she said of his work: "[it] consists of monochromatic abstract paintings in dense, glowing earth colors, which incorporate some of the principles and geometric symbols (notably the stepped inverted pyramid) of the pre-Columbian sites with which he is intellectually obsessed."
The gallery that Cecilia de Torres opened in 1993 has been a leader in broadening the perspective on Latin American art for North American audiences. Ms. de Torres's expertise in the art and artists of the Constructivist school established by Joaquín Torres-García has led to numerous museum and gallery exhibitions over the past several years.
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b. 1931 La Plata, Argentina – lives in Segovia, Spain
After beginning his career working in an informalist mode, followed by a brief period of lyrical figuration, Paternosto first created artworks based on Geometric Abstraction in the early 1960s. By the end of this decade, his formal and theoretical explorations led the artist to push beyond the very boundaries of the medium of painting. Leaving the surface of the canvas blank, Paternosto shifted the emphasis of his artworks to their outer edges, converting his paintings into objects, and rebelling against the inherited tradition of only viewing paintings frontally. Since this breakthrough, he has remained on the vanguard of abstraction in both New York, where he lived for over four decades, and Latin America.
In addition to his career as a painter, Paternosto has studied Pre-Columbian art with academic rigor. This expertise has
not only influenced his artistic practices, but has also led him to assume scholarly and curatorial roles, including the international exhibition, Abstraction: The Amerindian Paradigm. In 2005, the artist moved to Segovia, Spain, where, just a year prior, a major retrospective of his work had been on view at the Esteban Vicente Museum of Contemporary Art. Paintings by Paternosto are found in various prestigious collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland; and the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany, amongst others.
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