Artists: Emilia Azcárate, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck, Cecilia Biagini, Sigfredo Chacón, Emilio Chapela, Eduardo Costa, Willys de Castro, Diana de Solares, Marcolina Dipierro, Eugenio Espinoza, Jaime Gili, Mathias Goeritz, Juan Iribarren, Bárbara Kaplan, Ramsés Larzábal, Raúl Lozza, Beatriz Olano, César Paternosto, Alejandro Puente, Luis Roldán, Osvaldo Romberg, Joaquín Torres García, and Horacio Zabala.
Dirty geometry has existed throughout 20th century art although not in a manifest way; it implies a subversion of the laws of logical rigor, systemism and utopian modernism that have pervaded geometry since Kandinsky. In his milestone book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky argues against geometry as decoration; instead, he promotes geometrical painting as a spiritual tool. The quest of the spiritual, of a balance between the mind and intellectual order constituted the fundamental idea behind geometric art. Geometrical abstraction was used in different times, as we see for instance in Kandinsky’s compositions, in the rigorous nihilism of Malevich’s “Black on Black”, and in the concrete iconography of Max Bill.
Through my concept of “Dirty Geometry,” I want to undermine the rigid, global imposition of geometry that has dominated from the beginning of the 20th century. Of course, other artists have already played with this approach more or less consciously: Rothko when he broke the grid, Frank Stella with his Cone and Pillars series from the eighties.
However I came to realize that Latin-America offers the most prominent examples of “Dirty Geometry.” First, this might be explained by the often rudimentary absorption of the center by the periphery, as peripheral access to major art trends has long been mediated by art reproductions, and perceived through local cultural prisms. This is even truer in Latin-America where most countries lacked a radical and contemporary art scene. Secondly, in Latin America one always finds forms of political and existential resistance against the values of neo-liberalism embodied by the center.
“Dirty Geometry” will question different aspects of American, Russian and European abstract art such as the imposition of polished finish on paintings, the compositions and the purity of its lines, classical applications of colors inherited from the Bauhaus, Concrete Art, etc.
In the forties for instance, the Latin-American group MADI challenged the format of the canvas, the relation between two and three dimensions, etc. In the sixties the Latin-America group of Kinetic Art in Paris challenged the static geometry produced by artists such as Vasarely and Herbin, and introduced movement, light and shadow to abstract art.
I would therefore suggest that Latin-America has proceeded to elaborate a kind of creolization of the dominant geometrical art; this is a recurrent phenomenon in other fields of Latin-American culture, and we encounter it in religion, education, food, inventions, etc.
The more figuration moves away from reality and representation, the more it needs to resort to theory in order to retain legitimacy. Geometry as we traditionally conceive it can only be legitimized by a tight, rigid theoretical framework. “Dirty Geometry” is therefore a rebellious attempt to break from all theoretical frameworks and thus invent a geometry that would be free from theory. This is a dirty war, one that we could define as “below the belt”. George Bataille believed that “divine filth” brings about true eroticism; likewise, I would suggest that it is possible to bring about an eroticism of geometry through dirt.