Since the debates initiated in modernism and abstraction by pioneers such as Carlos Cruz-Diez (Caracas, 1923 - Paris, 2019) and Jesús Rafael Soto (Venezuela, 1923- Paris, 2005) made relevant changes through formal processes, a different understanding of the artistic field raised with new forms of production of the artwork. The proposals of Elias Crespin (Caracas, 1965), Magdalena Fernández (Caracas, 1964) and Felipe Pantone (Buenos Aires, 1986) continue within this paradigm to show the contradictions and fragility of this concept, achieving to move in the space what often happened only in the spectator's retina.
About the possibilities of geometric abstraction to generate ideas on cultural topics, Darío Escobar (Guatemala City, 1971) and Patrick Hamilton (Belgium/Chile, 1974) reflect on how to use them to develop a critical view of certain moments of Latin American history, due to the variety of perspectives about identity in the region. In Hamilton's case, a reflection on climate change is visible, and in Escobar's work through a formal and conceptual research, within the territory of the pictorial, the artist offers a critical and incisive reflection on geometric strategy.
The project for this Viewing Room looks for a reflection about the dialectic perspectives of abstraction and its future in the art world by contrasting seven proposals that create a wide view of the different possibilities and creative potential of this artistic expression in the contemporary discussions.
Carlos Cruz-Diez was one of the most prominent figures of kinetic art, whose work has been based upon the revaluation of color as an experience in itself, as a phenomenon of light in which interpretation or cultural background are no longer relevant. His artistic practice invites viewers to become conscious of how perceptual relationships constitute the aesthetic, and how every context implies a different approach and construction of the same artwork.
Cruz-Diez research has positioned him as one of the key thinkers of the 20th century when it comes to color. He has contributed majorly to the possibility of rethinking the relations between artist, spectator, and art, framing them within a participative process rooted exclusively upon the use of color. In 1959 Cruz-Diez began a serial process under the name of "Physichromies", through which he realized the idea of chromatic autonomy and its impact upon the viewer’s environment; one of the results was an important body of work that in later decades surpassed the limits of painting and explored the transformation of diverse spaces through the manipulation of color.
His work emphasizes participation and interaction, spatial perception, and movement as the key elements of the experience of art.
Jesús Rafael Soto was one of the main representatives of kinetic art. Throughout his career, he was prominent for the redefinition of the social role of art, grounded upon ample research about the spatio-temporal unity of the artistic object.
Having studied Fine Arts in Caracas, he moved to Paris in 1950, where he joined The Dissidents, a Venezuelan collective of artists that sought to renovate artistic practices back in their country of origin. Even though he has been commonly associated with Op Art, Soto’s work is rather characterized by the continuous study of movement and the dematerialization of the form, producing kinetic constructions in which the active participation of the spectator is key.
Elias Crespin's mobile sculptures are characterized by being complex geometric assemblages that, through computer programming, draw choreographies in the space. The movements that make up the dances have an organic character despite the fact that their origin lies in mathematical formulas. The pieces are modified in an almost imperceptible way, showing their possibilities of articulation, decomposition and recomposition.
That the kinetic quality originates in the work itself does not impede spectator participation, inasmuch as viewers’ particular perspectives also modify how the piece is seen. This is the cooperative character of the work, making sculpture into a moment of interaction between subject and an object that is itself mobile.
Magdalena Fernández is an artist whose artistic production incorporates knowledge from fields such as physics or mathematics to develop a multidisciplinary body of work, in which both visual and sound elements converge in order to offer a new perspective of nature, based on its elemental qualities, rather than on the historical and cultural stories that define our perception of the environment.
Influenced by Venezuelan artists related to geometric abstraction, Fernández incorporates technological devices that allow her to establish a relationship with the history of modern art - devoid of an obvious or metaphorical representation.
As an intrinsic part of her proposal, the pieces —from their approach to the final result— can be interpreted in different ways, either from an organic point of view or in relation to their context.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fernández began using digital media to incorporate moving images to her work. She started a series of Dibujos móviles (Mobile Drawings) in 1998, followed soon after by a series of video installations called Pinturas móviles (Mobile Paintings).
Felipe Pantone’s work retains the public vocation of graffiti, of urban communities in dialogue with the city itself. Abstraction, at first used as stylistic branding, poured towards the referents of a present time full of infographics, statistics, and visual representations of data that synthesize vast realities into quickly reprehensible formats.
Pantone, in this sense, constantly reproduces the saturation of our contemporary visual experience, making important echoes of the modernizing work of kinetic art and its research of perception based upon current theories of sight. Today, in that accelerated world of industrial production (of light, of color, of previously impossible visual experiences), Pantone unbalances kinetic art’s naturalist discourse in order to give back cultural insertion to perception, the recognition of a certain type of chromatic combination as a glitch, as a technological failure, or of another combination as a code underlying the functioning of any paper printer, and no longer as experiences beyond culture. After all, culture is technology as well.
Darío Escobar's series entitled Geometric Constructions examine geometric abstraction in the second half of the twentieth century—using the bodies of stake bed trucks as a starting point. These bodies are usually painted in different styles: sometimes with clearly-delimited chromatic stripes, or with dynamic designs which play with horizontal and diagonal lines. This aligns with a geometric abstraction trend which had broad international visibility throughout the fifties.
Looking at the history of abstract art, Escobar’s works can be linked to the notion of "structure", which artists such as Frank Stella use in painting. Practically all of the pieces in these series were painted on assembled structures. Rather than use the doors or any other component of actual stake bed trucks, painting surfaces were constructed following their principles. Although they without a doubt evoke a specific reference (a "painted thing", as Stella would say), they also add on to the complexity of the pictorial solutions of each piece.
Taking in consideration the topic for the symposium Alternate Assembly: Environmental Impact in the Era of Pandemic organized by Expo Chicago, Galería RGR decided to include El invernadero rojo (The Red Greenhouse) by Patrick Hamilton in the roster, which presents a deep reflection about the idea of emergency and consequences of climate change in many aspects of the life in the Earth.
The starting point of El invernadero rojo is the relationship of red color with hard moments, from the field of ecology and economy as well, and how seeing the environment through that color could help us to be aware of the urgency to take actions in order to stop the current problems. Hamilton's work draws on experience and history to critically reflect on the future. In the case of this greenhouse, the work is a call for attention to the crises, whether economic, social or ecological, such as global warming.