Screenshot 2014-08-21 10.24.36

Artists: Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, Ricardo Alcaide, Emilia Azcárate, Juan Pablo Garza, Jaime Gili, Dulce Gómez, Esperanza Mayorbe, Ana María Mazzei, Teresa Mulet, Susana Reisman, Luis Romero, and Fabian Salazar.

Unsettled Primaries -Project by Mariángeles Soto-Díaz
Online gallery launch on August 23, 2014
Torrance Art Museum
Torrance, CA, USA

The Venezuelan flag features horizontal bands of the primary colors, yellow, blue and red, occupying equal parts in its rectangular composition. It is said that Francisco de Miranda, the Venezuelan transatlantic revolutionary known as “The First Universal Criollo” who inititated the process that would lead to the independence of Venezuela and Latin America, conceptualized the Venezuelan flag for independence after exchanging ideas about color theory with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Europe. While this is only one myth among many surrounding Miranda’s inspiration of primary colors for the flag, the story still resonates with Miranda’s interdisciplinary and philosophical interests, which are well documented in his extensive journals chronicling encounters with Europe’s leading intellectuals, artists and politicians.

For this project, Mariángeles Soto-Díaz invited Venezuelan artists to choose and interpret a set of open instructions to make an abstract work with equal distribution of primary colors. The instructions were meant as a productive challenge to the artists, particularly in light of the volatile political climate in Venezuela today and especially the many conflicts surrounding the use of the national flag in recent years.*

This experimental abstract project is a proposition put forth to think through many questions: Is it possible to reconcile formal and political meanings on a plane of simultaneity? Can color help us activate a shared experience of ambiguity and nuance, or are the established “universal” primary colors, an essential discovery in color theory, always mired in nationalism or flag-waving for Venezuelan artists? Is viewing art through the screen of a computer while imagining its materiality in real space a new kind of phenomenological experience? For individual artists, can a simultaneous performance of instructions interpreted in different parts of the world feel like a collective gesture?

Unsettled Primaries explores the potential of making something charged, tired and familiar new again, examining settled meanings. As in past projects directed by Soto-Diaz under the umbrella of her entity Abstraction At Work, Unsettled Primaries rests on the underlying premise that there is a conceptual and ambiguous border in the notion of abstraction that encroaches upon and even overlaps with symbolic representation, underscoring the uncomfortable fuzziness and fluidity of meaning in subject matter.


* In 2013, as the two major candidates for presidential elections dressed in primary colors, government officials forbid the opposition from using them in their campaign despite the fact that the flag and its colors in various configurations were being used by the incumbent presidential candidate and precisely in that context. The rationale used by government officials was that using primary colors was an inappropriate use of patriotic symbols as per the Constitution passed in 2006 revising the Ley de Bandera Nacional, Himno Nacional y Escudo de Armas de la República Bolivariana Venezolana and/or the Supreme Justice Tribunal’s own judgment.