February 27, 2024

Degrees of Separation at @MaddoxArts – Abstract art from Latin America

If the Radical Geometry exhibition at the Royal Academy has piqued your interest in Latin American art then hurry to Maddox Arts before 14th September. The gallery in Brook’s Mews is currently showing Degrees of Separation, a show that complements the pieces from the de Cisneros collection that can be seen at the RA. Maddox Arts has brought together work from some of the same geometric abstraction artists from the mid-twentieth century but has combined them with new pieces by the current generation of South American artists.

Like the RA show, Degrees of Separation includes pieces by big Latin Art names Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesus Soto. Ten recently made lithographs entitled ‘Chromatic Inductions in Double Frequency’ continue Cruz-Diez’s experiments in visual zing, placed by curator Laura Culpan opposite an abstract canvas by contemporary painter Cipriano Martinez. This looks like the output of a digital algorithm, a wide-screen, triangulated pixelation, but it has evolved from the artist’s interest in the landscape of his native Caracas. Martinez is also interested in visual games and the viewer is never sure where in space each small triangle is floating. He is trying to organise the unorganised and has found a precarious order, the whole seeming like an abstracted image of the favelas of Caracas itself.

Daniel Steegman Mangrane shows a delicate piece made from a single twig that has been carefully sliced. When hung from the ceiling it appears as four thin, interconnected shafts of wood. When lowered onto the floor it falls back into the shape of the original twig. From Brazil, it can’t but invoke ideas of the disappearing rain-forest and suggest the possibility of better, more thoughtful uses of natural resources.

The show includes a working kinetic sculpture by Abraham Palatnik from the 1960s. Spheres and coloured shapes rotate like a maddened solar system wrapped round a roller-coaster track. Also full of real movement, not just the sense of it that artists like to talk about are video works by Magdalena Fernandez. These are direct investigations into modernist abstraction that are surprisingly playful. In the why-is-it-named-that animation called 2VaTGO11, a white Mondrian-ian grid moves around the canvas. The position of the famous grid keeps changing, the  splashes of colour are forgotten. Fernandez mocks the static, unchanging nature of traditional paint on canvas paintings and insists that contemporary artists should use contemporary materials.

Amongst several other works on show is Daniel Medina’s wall installation Reja-Dispositivo Cinetico/Social. This is also an attempt to bring humour to the usually dry geometric aesthetic. Painted lines on the wall interact with a modernist grid, but this grid is made of welded metal and leans on the wall. Whilst playing the modernist optical game he also brings to the show questions of security and usefulness, the image suggesting a barricaded window and a co-option of geometric art to the service of bourgeois wealth and power.

The juxtaposition of old and new works shows the influence of one generation on the next – 45 year old Rafael Reveron-Pojon is even showing embroidered works entitled Homage to Gego. The younger artists have moved on from pure optical experiment to create works with humour and a relevance to life outside the gallery.

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