A number of contemporary British artists are certainly still influenced by their 1950s and ‘60s predecessors, Anthony Caro and Gillian Ayres for example, however there is certainly no straight, traceable line as there is with Latin American art.
This summer, London has played host to twentieth century Latin-American art on a mass scale with Radical Geometry at the Royal Academy of Arts, Pangaea at the Saatchi gallery, Made in Mexico at the Fashion and Textile Museum and Degrees of Separation at Maddox Arts, Mayfair. The final of these four exhibitions focuses specifically on the archetypal style of Latin American art, with artists born in the twenties exhibited alongside contemporary artists of South American roots.
Maddox Arts is tucked away just behind Claridge’s hotel and on Brook’s Mews, a small and unbelievably quiet street dotted with several new galleries and only five minutes from the mad rush of Oxford circus. Whilst the gallery’s artists hail from all over the world, Maddox holds a focus on raising the profile of Latin-American art – an area which has gained more and more attention over recent years, with Tate and the Pompidou increasing their collection as well.
Degrees of Separation brings together work from all over South America, the UK and USA, from incredibly well-known figures (amongst the Latin-American art world) such as Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez to new names such as Rafael Reveron-Pojan and Daniel Medina. One of the most striking pieces comes from Abraham Palatnik, a pioneering artist of Russian and German descent, and the inventor of ‘kinechromatic’ art – whereby a piece’s appearance, its colour in particular, changes due to movement. For Degrees of Separation, Maddox have acquired one of Palatnik’s original kinetic objects: a small, precise work of metal and wood which ticks away like some sort of solar system diorama, futuristic and yet analogue in its mechanism. Palatnik’s work reminds of Russian constructivism and Minimalism, with a De Stijl colour palette.
The movement of colour and light is a theme amongst all of the works: Daniel Steegmann Mangrane’s modest green hole-punched leaf which, held up against a light, strikes a silhouette against one of Maddox’s white cube walls; Medina’s sculptural wall piece, which appears to cast a stretched blue shadow against the gallery walls; and Cruz-Diez’s Op Art series, Chromatic Inductions in a Double Frequency, which invites viewers into the gallery and begins the visual illusion.
Venezuelan artist, Medina has been pegged as ‘one to watch’ in terms of the British art scene; interesting seeing as his work is so clearly informed by the art of South America, and concerned with its politics. Still, Medina’s contribution to this exhibition holds more of a visual than conceptual connection to his roots – reflecting 1950s Modernist abstraction – whereas Rafael Reveron-Pojan’s stitched postcards and hanging assemblages reference the favelas, makeshift buildings and urban architecture of his home city, Caracas.
Reveron-Pojan’s paper postcard pieces are simple in their execution, yet convincingly portray miniature worlds where angular sculptures of thread float upon the Thames or shoot down like beams of light from church spires. With intimate pieces such as this or Magdalena Fernandez’s geometric works on iPads, and ground-breaking items such as Palatnik’s kinechromatic invention, Degrees of Separation reveals the experimental nature of Latin American throughout the past century and its continuation today.
Maddox Arts, Degrees of Separation is open for two weeks longer. Closing on 14th September 2014.