Leon Tovar Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of its latest exhibition, Structured Rhythms: Edgar Negret, Fanny Sanín, and Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar. On view at the Gallery’s 25th Street location, the exhibition showcases the work of three figures central to the history of Colombian Modernism.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Popayán-born Negret (1920–2012) and Villamizar of Pomplona (1922–2004) were staking their claim in a transitioning New York art world. While the former drew inspiration from the urban environment to craft his enchanting “Magic Machines”—wood and aluminum constructions painted in matte red, blue, black, and white—the latter produced subtle monochromatic reliefs after a period of abstract geometric painting. The formal clarity and sharpness of Negret and Villamizar’s artistic production during this time reflects similar tendencies found in the art of their Hard Edge contemporaries, among them Ellsworth Kelly, Jack Youngerman, and Louise Nevelson.
Although both Negret and Villamizar produced work in line with then-current New York aesthetics, each was likewise inspired by the artistry of indigenous and pre-Columbian cultures. Each artist would travel to Machu Picchu, where they were moved by the geometric and architectonic structures of the Incans. Much of Negret and Villamizar’s respective practices sought to bridge pre-Columbian artistic forms with both natural elements and a constructivist geometry. Their efforts led to stunningly different visual realizations: In Negret’s hands, aluminum is transformed into undulating ribbons of color, while Villamizar’s stoic, quiet sculptures assume a monumental grandeur.
Fanny Sanín (b. 1938, Bogotá) lives and works in New York City, and expands upon the rigorous formal approach of Negret and Villamizar. Sanín graduated from the School of Fine Arts at the Universidad de los Andes in 1960, before moving to the United States, where she studied engraving and art history at the University of Illinois, Urbana, later relocating to Monterrey, Mexico. As a painter, her work from the early 1960s was executed in an abstract expressionist vein. Under an invitation from the influential art historian and curator Marta Traba, Sanín had a solo exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá in 1965, before moving to London to continue her studies in 1966. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sanín leaves behind her formerly expressive approach for a more restrained and minimal mode with an emphasis on chromatic relations. Planar forms give way to vertical bands of color, later cut with horizontals and eventually strong diagonals, forming sonorous color harmonies. Sanín’s paintings are sumptuous explorations of color and structure, each carefully prepared through the production of numerous drawings which are small-scale, intimate works of art in their own right.
The title of the exhibition—Structured Rhythms—foregrounds the importance of geometry for each of these three artists, while acknowledging the variation and movement that such a rigid structure can engender. As Negret blends his “machine-focused vision” with the natural world, likewise does Villamizar broach the organic with a geometric organization. Sanín’s paintings, though reveling in a weighty classicism—a term applied to Negret and Villamizar while in New York, and one that the two transported back to Colombia—are home to carefully selected color combinations that impart a sense of dynamism. As one reviewer notes: “Space as such seems to have no place [in Sanín’s paintings], except insofar as certain colors recede and others advance. It is the color that she relies on to make the paintings ‘move’ . . . in terms of their weight and values and interplay. Not only light and dark, but cool and warm operate with each other as concomitants.” The work of these three artists—with all of the structural rigor that informs their respective aesthetic modes—are loci of movement and variation.