Juan José Cambre. Chromatic

MACBA - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires
May 10, 2013 9:38PM


MARCH 16, 2013 - MAY 12, 2013


The Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires (MACBA) presents its first temporary exhibition of the year 2013: Juan José Cambre. Chromatic, with a selection of 30 art pieces from the highly recognized Argentine artist.

The exhibition features the road Cambre’s  production has elapsed from the year 2000 to date, characterized by a continued exploration of the richness of color with a waiver of figuration in pieces in which the artist conceals his mark, the result of a process which started in 1986, when he abandoned oil in order to begin using acrylic.

Cambre’s researches are distinguished by the desire to liberate color of conventional color theory, a valuation of urban colors over those present in nature, accompanied by a link with music. For Cambre, painting assembles in many cases to musical interpretation. According to the curator, Ma. Constanza Cerullo, the are several aspects to explore referring to the history of color and its entailment to music along the history of art, that are relevant for addressing the work of Cambre, especially with the innovation of John Cage which reaches him in his special sensibility embodied by the characteristic sound of the music of Morton Feldman.

The exhibition includes a first group which encloses a series of monochrome pieces that emerge from a process that starts with the employment of photography. Cambre registers with his camera a particular situation of nature: branches, tree shadows and reflections in water whose image then projects on a cloth uniformly colored. Painting the background white, then the work will lead to glazing. The result of this system is the variation of a color tone and a second tone achieved from the superposition of layers. At this point, his art work encloses his creative process; consistent with the photography which gave birth to it, the never painted figure reveals only through the application of color. This pictures also arise a reflection on what sounds familiar to us: on one hand, the colors which were chosen resemble various objects of industrial fabrication which we see on a daily basis and, on the other hand, portray a contemplative experience before nature, which paradoxically is not so close to the dynamics of urban life.

The second group of art pieces that integrates the rest of the exhibition is dedicated to two sets of prints in which Cambre has abandoned any type of narrative. In Matriz he makes an investigation about color using 27 different color tones.

The series of prints entitled Brancos is printed on newspapers distributed during the controversial 28th Sao Paulo Biennial, that are silenced by the impression of a white rectangle, which is also a forceful call to reflection about the image, the word and the object of art.

The exhibition includes the painting Límite Sud (2008) that belongs to the MACBA collection, in which Cambre uses a grid to systematize overlapping colors on the canvas through freedom of choice; this appears again in the polyptych Chroma II composed by sixteen identical racks, each one of them painted with numerous layers of color.

In the selection of works are also presented three monochromes on wood; in this case, the selection of colors is arbitrary, connected with the color of the bracket. This simplicity in the structure of the art work has turned out to be the leitmotiv of his new production, in which Cambre chooses paper as support, and restricts his palette to the use of primary graphics colors: cyan, magenta and yellow. The work is circumscribed to a closed system that Cambre designed himself from the observation of the use of color by artists of the Vienna Secession. It deals with a series of works that are characterized for the use of very transparent glazing, that create a soft fabric and a subtle expression of the artist's imprint. Cambre works with three elements: the golden ratio to lay out the pattern of vertical stripes, the shortage of elements and color harmony that leads us to unexpected places.

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, which was specially produced in Spanish and English, and includes an essay written by the curator Ma. Constanza Cerullo and the biography of the artist, with color reproduction of all the pieces exhibited.



Juan Jose Cambre was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1948. He studied painting with Luis Felipe Noé between 1972 and 1974 and, in parallel, graduated as an architect at the Universidad of Buenos Aires. In 1976 he began to make a series of exhibitions in galleries of Buenos Aires, the first of which took place at Lirolay.

In 1981 he won a trip to New York with the Premio Banco del Acuerdo scholarship. The next year he was awarded the prize “Young Artist of the Year” by the Asociación Argentina de Críticos de Arte and a year later he was runner up at the “Prilidiano Pueyrredon” painting prize. During those years he was member of the group La Nueva Imagen, organized by Jorge Glusberg and formed by Alfredo Prior, Ana Eckell, Guillermo Kuitca, Fernando Fassolari, Armando Rearte, Pablo Suárez and Juan Pablo Renzi. These artists participated in the Sao Paulo Biennial of 1985, entitled “The Great Fabric”.

During the 80’s, the color became the main protagonist of Cambre’s work. This “supremacy of color” would mark his work until today. On the last year of this decade begins a period in which Cambre would dedicate his painting to a particular object: the vessel. This object became the starting point of his work for the next ten years, until the exhibition called Últimas Vasijas (Last Vessels) in the Auditorium Theatre of Mar del Plata in 1999.

From the year 2000 a new phase started. In the first paintings made from photographs of nature, we can see the strong contrasts produced by the light that filters through the branches of trees as moles. After working with these big tonal variations, he turned to monochrome works. In those years he travelled to Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, where he participated in various exhibitions. Cambre exhibited in galleries and cultural institutions placed in Paris, Mexico D.F., Milan, Paris and New York. These included the retrospective exhibition held in theCronopios gallery in the Centro Cultural Recoleta titled Espectadores de la laguna (Viewers Lagoon) in 2008. He lives and works in Buenos Aires.

MACBA - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires