Artists: Magdalena Atria, Ricardo Rendón, Mariángeles Soto-Díaz, Rubén Ortiz Torres, and Antonio Muñiz.
Curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill
June 20 – July 25, 2015
Fabien Castanier Gallery
Culver City, CA, USA
Multifarious Abstraction is an exhibition that questions traditional understanding of the nature of abstraction as a modern field separate from reality. The five artists participating in Multifarious Abstraction present conceptually challenging, loaded and sometimes political explorations of abstract vocabularies in art, which point to unique ways to experience and think on contemporary culture. The five artists are from Latin America, where the division between high and low culture is not as central or as marked as in The United States and Europe. The abstraction proposed here moves away from modernist utopian ideals and pure aesthetics, to dialogue with industrial and popular culture, daily life, inner struggle, politics and gender.
Magdalena Atria is exhibiting free abstract compositions entirely made with plasticine. The artist, who has developed an extensive oeuvre with this material, addresses painting through a material which is malleable, fragile, common and familiar, to produce slowly complicated surfaces that embody “tension between the rational and the emotional, between the personal and the collective, between the existential and the banal, the formal and the symbolic.” Atria attempts to connect the ideal, manifested through abstraction, with the daily and existential dimensions of concrete reality.
Antonio Muñiz is an artist who explores by an intuitive method ways to free the mind and perception from predetermined responses. He employs fumage, a technique for producing organic forms with a burning candle at varying angles and distance from the canvas, thus creating an uncontrolled compositional structure. Muñiz pursues the “gray area”, a multidimensional space that is both symbolic and psychological and deconstructs conditioning dualities such as black/white, outsider/insider, and right/wrong. The artist states: “The gray area is a non-judgmental, non-linear space where we allow ourselves to interact with our environment, breaking free of duality and of conditioned responses.”
Ricardo Rendón’s work is informed by his interest in traditional trades and materials, which are for the artist places of “creative learning”. He states: “My work is presented as a system of questioning of the creative practice, of the execution, productive realization and notion of work.” His mediums range from industrial materials, to sand paper, felt and leather; and his techniques from perforating, cutting, nailing, grinding, sanding, gluing, to welding. For Multifarious Abstraction, the artist exhibits work from the two series: Work Area and Lighting Circuits, with materials such as copper and industrial felt. He transforms a plumber’s purposeful and precise procedure for joining copper tubes into the method for creating free standing sculptures which reflect both on traditional knowledge and on contemporary art’s expansive possibilities.
Mariángeles Soto-Díaz uses the language of abstraction as a way to materialize and connect ideas. Her work explores critically the legacies of modernism, echoing the particular modern historical traditions of Venezuela in dialogue with modernity and abstraction in contemporary culture. For this exhibition she will be showing the site-specific installation The Pink Elephant in the Room, to insert into the White Cube the discussion of gender and racial inequality in the art world. As the artist explains: “The Pink Elephant in the Room addresses the ‘invisibility’ of these issues through indulging in the color pink as a feminist statement while also re-signifying upon the language of abstract painting.”
Rubén Ortiz-Torres is a multidisciplinary artist who goes back to the late 1980s. His work, whether it be photographs, paintings, movies or sculptures, is informed by a hybrid and original combination of popular and mass culture. One of the key references in his work is the low rider and car industry cultures. In his recent work, he experiments with the auto industry’s most recent advances in car paint. For example, his piece Womb Envy (2014), is made with urethane and thermochromic paint and high-density foam. This orange piece in the shape of a pregnant tummy, when touched with your fingers, becomes marked temporarily in yellow on the work’s surface. His black Mexican and American flags made with urethane and chromo-luminescent paint, exhibited in the show, refer on the one hand to modern issues of anarchist ideology, and on the other, to how these national symbols, especially in the context of recent events in Mexico and the USA (The Baltimore riots), may allow the political minority standpoints in contemporary society to be embodied.
Cecilia Fajardo-Hill is a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator. Fajardo-Hill specializes in modern and contemporary art with a focus in Latin American art. She has a PhD in Art History from the University of Essex, England, and an MA in 20th Century Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England. From 2005- 2008, Fajardo-Hill served as Director and Chief Curator for CIFO and the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, and from 2009-2012 served as Chief Curator at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, CA. Presently, Fajardo-Hill is guest curator at the Hammer Museum, the Chief Curator of the Sayago & Pardon Collection and Abstraction in Action, and a visiting scholar at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. She is currently based in Los Angeles, CA.
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.
Most of my work has implicit connections to my native country, Venezuela, where oil production made the promise of modernism more tangible, and its failure more poignant, than elsewhere in Latin America. I ruminate on the future of abstraction while glancing back at Venezuela’s collapsed modernist project – its chromatic remains – through the fracturing prism of contemporary conditions. I use the language of abstraction as a way to materialize and connect ideas. Conceiving abstraction as the critical and poetic language of potential allows me to pierce the detached geometries of ordering structures, making them responsive and more pliable. I work with paint, paper, ink, slides, spices, felt and vinyl. But my favored material is paradox: the promise and perils of utopian abstraction, political formalisms, universal specificities, and the underlying order of chaos.
La mayor parte de mi trabajo tiene conexiones implícitas con mi país natal, Venezuela, donde la producción de petróleo hizo la promesa de la modernidad más tangible, y su fracaso más doloroso, que en otras partes de América Latina. Yo exploro el futuro a través de la abstracción, a su vez miro el pasado, estudiando el colapsado proyecto modernista de Venezuela – sus restos cromáticos – a través del prisma de la fractura de las condiciones contemporáneas. Uso el lenguaje de la abstracción como una forma de materializar y conectar ideas. Concebir la abstracción como lenguaje de crítica y poética de un potencial me permite perforar las geometrías de las estructuras adosadas y llevarlas hacia algo más sensible y más flexible. Trabajo con la pintura, el papel, la tinta, las diapositivas, las especias, el fieltro y vinilo. Pero mi materia favorita es la paradoja: la promesa y los peligros de la abstracción utópica, formalismos políticos, las especificidades universales, y el orden que ya subyace al caos.
Selected Biographical Information
Education / Training
- 2009: MA, Aesthetics and Politics, School of Critical Studies, CalArts, CA, USA.
- 1999: MFA, Painting, Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA.
- 1996: BA, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA.
- 1989-1990: Instituto de Arte Federico Brandt, Caracas, Venezuela.
Prizes / Fellowships
- Obermann Grant Wood Fellowship, University of Iowa, IA, USA.
- Ahmanson Scholarship, California Institute of the Arts, CA, USA.
- Five College Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Americas Fellowship, Five Colleges, MA, USA.
- Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts Grant, MA, USA.
- Claremont Graduate University Fellowship, CA, USA.
- 2013: “Color Felt”, Soho20 Chelsea Gallery, NY, USA.
- 2013: Los Angeles, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, CA, USA.
- 2012-2013: “Never Underestimate a Monochrome”, University of Iowa Museum, Iowa City, IA, USA.
- 2012: Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, CA, USA.
- 2012: “Color’s Ordinates and Affinities: Instructions for Chromatic Living”, University of Iowa ABW Gallery, IA, USA.
- 2011: “Abstract Numbers of a Revolution”, University of Iowa, IA, USA.
- 2010-2011: “The Utopian Tense of Green”, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
- 2010: Soho20 Chelsea Gallery, NY, USA.
- 2013: “Lines of Poetry”, Diane Birdsall Gallery, Old Lyme, CT, USA.
- 2012: “Pink Assignment”, Soho20 Gallery, NYC, NY, USA.
- 2011: “An Exchange with Sol Lewitt”, MASS MoCA, USA.
- 2011: “Gifting Abstraction”, Soho20 Gallery, NYC, NY, USA.
- 2010: “Muse/Reuse”, Doug Adams Gallery at the Badé Museum, Berkeley, CA, USA.
- 2013: Goodrich, John, “Only Engage,” City Arts: New York’s Review of Arts and Culture.
- 2013: Prugh, Brian,”Revolt Against the City and Never Underestimate a Monochrome,” Iowa City Arts Review, 1, Vol. 7.
- 2013: Berry, Amy,” Artists on the same page in Old Lyme exhibit,” The Day.
- 2007: Benko, Susana, “Extra-pictórico,” Art Nexus, 66, Vol. 6.
- 2007: Miguel, Miguel “Mariángeles Soto-Díaz,” Arte al Día.
- 2007: Carreño, Freddy, “Fia 2007,” Art Nexus, 66, Vol. 6.
- 2007: Yáñez, Ondina “Mariángeles Soto-Díaz en un Laboratorio de Chocolate,” Revista GP.
- 2006: Méndez, María Gabriela “El Chocolate y sus Divinas Proporciones” El Universal.
- 2005: Carr, Carlin “Gallery: Mariángeles Soto-Díaz” New England Watershed.
- 2002: Monsalve, Jasmín “Mariángeles Soto-Díaz Muestra Abstracción con Olor a Canela” El Universal.
- 2002: Feely, Erik “Mariángeles Soto-Díaz at the Galería Alternativa” The Daily Journal.
- 2001: Cun, Lan “Exhibitions at the Sweeney” Radar.
- 2001: Knaff, Devorah “Revelatory Art” The Press Enterprise.
- 2000: Ollman, Leah “Blood Oaths” Los Angeles Times.
- 2000: Letran, Vivian “Grave Events” Los Angeles Times.