Line - Plane - Volume / Sculpture: 1944-2006
This exhibition of modern and contemporary sculpture shows the infinite reach of this art form.
Artists attuned to the intrinsic nature of each material, whether wood, sheet metal and wire, cement, clay, or acrylic created a new formal and eclectic vocabulary. In several sculptures a dialogue with painting is evident, as those artists are/were also painters.
Monumento, a 1944 wood assemblage by Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay 1874-1949) is the earliest work presented. In his search for a timeless expression, Torres-García emulated the first human assertive material gesture: to erect a menhir. Torres-Garcia intended to erect large-scale landmarks like Monumento throughout Uruguay, "to familiarize people with geometry, and through geometry with universal art."
Illustrated in his 1944 tome "Universalismo Constructivo,"Monumento, made of Lapacho, a South American hardwood, holds the summation of Torres-García's ideas. The irregular rectangular parts are joined as if stone blocks, reminiscent of Andean wall construction. The carved inscriptions: "Forma,""Abstracto,""Concreto,"and the triangle and the pictographic image of a sun condense his basic beliefs in art.
Francisco Matto (Uruguay 1911-1995) was a painter who shared Torres-García's interest in Amerindian cultures. In 1932, he traveled to Southern Argentina and Chile where he encountered the art of the Araucano and Mapuche Indians. The wood funerary posts in Mapuche cemeteries made him aware of the religious and ritualistic functions in tribal art. In his studio surrounded by his extensive collection of tribal art, Matto sought to infuse his own work with the magic he found in their art – it became his lifelong quest.
The Two Venuses of 1976 hark back to the earliest and most basic representations of the female goddess. Delicately painted, Matto's characteristic light brushstrokes skim the unfinished wood surface. These Venus are thoroughly modern and yet timeless; as the writer Robert C. Morgan so well described: "Like some African carvings, Matto understood the essential, the symbolic, and the emotional infrastructure that informed the space, the elegant maneuvering of space in relation to planar form. The subtle application of color in these works is as poignant as in many of the sculptures of David Smith."
Horacio Torres' (Italy 1924-New York 1976) nudes are in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts among others, but the wood, wire and fake fur sculpture in this exhibition is an experiment in conceptual art, far from the painting medium where he excelled.
Puzzled by the total faith that tribal societies have in the power of fetishes, the series of artefacts Torres made in the late 1960s were an exploration of the animistic qualities of objects. The totem- box like work has a narrow and dark opening into a cavity that is lined with unseen dark fur and from where a loose electrical wire can be glimpsed. Torres' modern fetishes were plugged into a live outlet and the viewer, invited to insert a hand, ran a real risk of being shocked. Trepidatious as with approaching ancient Rome's Boca de la veritá and concentrating on the wire, the hands unexpected contact with the unidentified fur is jerked away.
José Gurvich (Lithuania 1927-New York 1974) was another extraordinary painter who studied with Torres-García in his Montevideo workshop. As early as 1950 he worked with clay and he continued to do so finding ceramic studios in Rome, Israel, Montevideo and New York.
For Gurvich it was an ideal medium, for in its ductile quality he found immediacy for his expression. Out of a rolled piece of clay, his agile hands created fantastical shapes like the schematized figure on exhibit. Made in New York in the early 1970s, it combines delicate coils in intricate designs. Gurvich's skill as a miniaturist, translated the delicacy of his paintings and drawings into clay.
Gonzalo Fonseca (Uruguay 1922-Italy 1997) another member of the Taller Torres-García in Montevideo, was a brilliant painter, draftsman, and sculptor who worked with wood, cement, stone, clay, and marble. He completed important large public sculpture commissions in Reston Virginia, Mexico City, Tokyo, and New York.
Heads, 1968, is made of construction-wood planks that the artist found on the streets of New York, where he had settled a decade earlier. Nestled within the two boxes are two busts. Concealed behind one face-shaped hinged cover is a carved head choked by a ball stuffed in its mouth, and in the other, a playful reference to sex. This animistic composition confronts and surprises the viewer with an unexpected turn. Painted in chalk like white, earth red, and cobalt blue, within the context of Fonseca's output, Heads is an unusual piece.
Lidya Buzio's (Uruguay 1949) sculptural ceramics combine sculptural form and painting through her unique vision and talent. Formed of thin slabs of red clay through a careful process, the shape is dried, sanded, and painted with colours the artist mixes. As with the 2003 volumetric Cityscape II, the sculptures are then burnished and fired, and through the process the colour fuses with the clay resulting in a smooth, refined and rich surface.
For Robert C. Morgan, writing in American Ceramics, Buzio is "intent on giving the illusion of bulging, bending prostheses that go over and through convex and concave surfaces into some strange, enigmatic architecture.""The rhythms are most astounding. To see convincing replicas of archetypical buildings from a New York cityscape fully absorbed into the surface of a vessel where the eye forces the mind to move back and forth relentlessly between two and three dimensions is an inexorable experience."Buzio's sculptural ceramics are in the collections of important American and international museums worldwide.
When Julio Alpuy (Uruguay, 1919) settled in New York in 1961, he was conflicted by his earlier work. Painting, he said, kept pulling him back to what he had already done. His solution was to change the medium; it was then that he concentrated on working with wood. Alpuy, like Louise Nevelson, found in their downtown Manhattan neighbourhood ample discarded wood to make sculptures and like her, he hoarded it.
Formed from a chunk of wood beam, the 1989 sculpture Los Arquetipos (Archetypes), relates as the name suggests to a first form - an embryonic state: created by carved shapes like a female torso and tender plants. At top there is a bird-like carving, emerging from a nesting grove into its first flight, a flower bud, and a vessel-like shape. Alpuy's love for the organic and the primal, for the source of life, are presented in this piece in a balanced play of volumes. Concave and convex, the wood has been caressed into delicate lines, pierced, and carved to simulate deep crevasses that burrow into the depth of the earth from where all life emerges.
When in 1991, César Paternosto (Argentina 1931) was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation's Artist-in-Residency at the Lago di Como-Bellagio Study Center, he worked on a group of wood models for sculptures. Two years later he made his first sculptures of pigmented cement. "At this point," Paternosto wrote, "I decided that casting cement, a technique that I had learned long ago, was more feasible than carving stones."
Paternosto relates these sculptures (evident in the elegant vertical open accents in Impossible Seat, 1993) to a previous series of canvases titled Porticos. These door and window-like openings refer to the Andean or Greek "sun gates" and to the symbolic architecture of antiquity - where "the openings were metaphors for the transition from sacred to profane space."
Carlos Bevilacqua (Brazil 1965) studied architecture in Rio de Janeiro and in 1991-93, drawing and sculpture in New York at the New York Studio School. His whimsical work arrived from Rio in parts: lengths of wire, wire springs, glass beads, wood rods and spheres that we assembled - following his instructions. . It was an enlightening process through which one learned to appreciate how the various elements of the piece relate and connect to each other in a harmonious whole, either by fitting or by the tension of the springs.
Ladd Spiegel (United States 1952) Double Cube, 2006 has a tight cluster of pegs inserted on a square outline on a square base, Malevich's archetypal Suprematist icon, is repeated in space. This piece represents two cubes, one defined by the white-painted portions of the extended elements, and the other by the unpainted parts. The eye is challenged to create the cubic shapes from the chaotic forms.
As Jennifer Liese wrote "Spiegel's wood squares bring the Agnes Martinesque grid -customarily reserved for distanced contemplation of the sublime- right down to earth. Studded with hand-whittled pegs, the work invites us, if only by suggestion, to touch the sacred symbol and partake in our own meditation." The hand-carving of the 81 pegs is a Zen-like process for the artist, because the repetitive action creates a meditative state.
Alicia Penalba (Argentina 1918-France 1982) moved to Paris when in 1948 she was awarded a scholarship by the French Government. She studied with Ossip Zadkine at La Grand Chaumière academy, and in 1955 showed her work at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, her first solo exhibition was in Paris at the Galerie du Dragon. She was awarded the International Prize for Sculpture at the São Paulo Bienale in 1961. Her sculptures range from the monumental, as “La Grande Double”1972, a massive bronze at the Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Company Plaza in Milwaukee to gold jewelry.
Composition, of polished pewter, consists of container like elements suggestive of exotic, petrified, sea life forms, arranged in an asymmetrical, organic manner. Penalba was "moved by a need to spiritualize the symbols of eroticism which is the source of all creation and the purest and most sacred state in the life of a man." Composition, signed on the underside and with stamped initials and the number 21, was previously in the collection of the Rothschild family.
One of the most distinguished Argentine abstract sculptors, Ennio Iommi (Argentina, 1926), was a co-founder of Arte Concreto Invención in Buenos Aires, that was to become one of the most innovative avant-garde movements of the Rio de la Plata in the 1940s. Among many other projects, his large sculpture for Le Corbusier's Casa Curuchet in Buenos Aires is renowned. Iommi's Untitled 1949, in our exhibition, is an important example of a series of airy compositions the sculptor began in 1946 entitled Interrupted Continuity.
León Ferrari (Argentina, 1920) proposes a "written visual art" which substitutes image and figuration for a text description of his work. A notable example is his Cuadro Escrito [Written Painting] , 1964, as described by the artist; it is "a totally literary piece.” Ferrari maintains that the relevance of the rectangular shape of the sheet of paper, is often overlooked, "Every single page man has written is homage to the rectangle." The rectangular drawing on a sheet of paper, he adds, can also be repeated in the air, and "when projected into space becomes a prism whose faces and edges are the anonymous frame, repeated, impersonal, transparent, envelope within which a line simply has to find its place."
The Untitled small stainless steel piece, dated 1978, is made of thin vertical rods attached to a metal grid at the base. It is a precursor of the large "artifacts for drawing sounds," which Ferrari showed in 1980 in Sâo Paulo. Made of metal rods these sculptures can be 'played' as musical instruments. The motion of the wires, when either stirred by the wind or by the human hand, in their wave-like infinite configurations, inspired a series of 1979 drawings that depict the wires frozen in different movements, Ferrari titled them Vocabularies.
Ferrari's "January 5, 2006," is a hanging piece composed of thin wood rods attached by wire. Viewed from different angles, the triangles superimposing on each other create an intricate interplay of lines. It is an elegant drawing projected in space.
The triangles in Ferrari's piece resonate with the triangular planes in Lygia Clark’s (Brazil 1920-1988) Bicho [Critter], 1960. Clark was one of the outstanding artists of the Brazilian Neo-Concreto group. As the title implies, Clark conceived her hinged sculpture of geometric planes in metal as a living organism, she wrote how the hinges that connect the planes "made me think of a dorsal spine."
She emphasized their organic quality by enabling the viewer to manipulate the Bichos into different shapes. When asked into how many positions the Bicho can change, she replied: "I have no idea, nor do you, but the Bicho knows," as if it had an independent life of its own. The Bicho in our exhibition was shown in Lygia Clark's first New York exhibition at the Louis Alexander Gallery in 1963.
Marta Chilindron's (Argentina 1951) sculptures made of transparent acrylic, sometimes tinted, frequently more visible through shadow than matter, are of such lightness that one begins to ponder - the object's very existence.
Her folding sculptures invite the active participation of the spectator - to exist as such - they collapse, making the physical perception of space a factor subordinated to their conceptual discernment, to process, and somehow to enchantment. Constantly folding and unfolding, always in the process of existing and disappearing, Chilindron's translucent sculptures approach the ephemeral.
b. 1874 Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1949 Montevideo, Uruguay
When Torres-García arrived in Montevideo on April 30, 1934 after forty-three years of absence, Torres-García told the press that he had returned to his native country of Uruguay in order to "develop a wide range of activities, to lecture, to teach courses, to achieve... on walls what I have already achieved on canvas,... to create in Montevideo a movement that will surpass the art of Paris." These lofty ambitions were achieved through the creation of his world famous workshop, the Taller Torres-García, where he taught his theory of Universal Constructivism to future generations of Latin American artists.
Before returning to Uruguay, Torres-García had arrived at the concept of Universal Constructivism after a long development during which his painting evolved from Mediterranean classicism through periods of Vibrationism, Cubism, and Fauvism. A truly global artist, Torres-García lived in Spain, New York, Italy, and Paris, where his theories and aesthetic style culminated into his characteristic incorporation of symbols located in a geometric grid based on the golden section.
The uniqueness of Torres' proposal consisted of his incorporation of essential elements of indigenous American art into the basic principles of European constructivism and geometric abstraction. Today, he is recognized as a canonical figure in both Latin American and modern art in general, with works in prestigious public and private collections worldwide.
An online catalogue raisonné, which includes comprehensive information about Torres-García’s art, exhibition history, and literary references, as well as a chronology with documentary materials related to the artist’s life and career, is available online at www.torresgarcia.com
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b. 1919, Cerro Chato, Uruguay - d. 2009, New York City
Growing up in the Uruguayan countryside with little exposure to art, Alpuy first began drawing at the age of twenty. Within a year, the young artist met Joaquín Torres-García. Inspired by the master's theories of universal constructivism, Alpuy joined the Taller Torres- García, and is today recognized as one of the Taller's most important members.
In 1944, Alpuy contributed two murals as part of the Taller's project to decorate the St. Bois hospital in Uruguay; he would continue to create murals throughout his career. Encouraged by Torres-García, Alpuy and other Taller members travelled to the Andean region of South America in 1945; this experience, along with other periods of travel during the 1950s in South America, Europe, and the Middle East profoundly affected the themes and structural composition of his art.
In 1961, Alpuy emigrated to New York, where he remained for the duration of his life. Alpuy's art has been featured in numerous exhibitions about the Taller Torres-García, as well as in several international one-person exhibitions. His works are included in major international collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, New York; and Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Montevideo, Uruguay.
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b. 1948, Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 2014, Greenport, New York
A unique talent in the world of ceramics, Buzio learned to create, form, and shape clay sculptures from the master ceramicist José Collell, based on ancient Amerindian practices. Buzio continued to work within this same method, cutting earthenware slabs into geometric shapes, and then combining these cylinders, cones, and hemispheres to form the body of her sculptures. Using special pigments which she mixed herself, the artist drew and painted directly onto her unfired works. Before firing, Buzio burnished her pieces; this step serves to fuse the paint into the clay and results in the unique luminosity and distinctive hues that characterize her artworks.
After moving to New York in the early 70s', Buzio's pictorial vocabulary shifted to reflect her new urban surroundings, inspiring her to create her New York Cityscapes, with their evocative rooflines, cast iron architecture, and water towers. Her last series of abstract geometric designs executed in bright primary colors, represented a new direction in her practice.
Buzio's ceramics are found in the Brooklyn Museum New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas; the Honolulu Academy of Art, Hawaii; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the National Museum of History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan. Buzio’s work is also included in several other international museums and private collections.
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b. 1922 Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1997 Seravezza, Italy
In 1942, Fonseca quit his architectural studies in order to pursue an artistic career. Working under the direction of Joaquín Torres-García, Fonseca joined the artist's workshop, where he participated in the group's collective exhibitions. In 1945 Fonseca traveled with other Taller Torres-García members through Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia to study pre-Columbian art. This experience, along with numerous trips throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa during the 1950s, profoundly affected Fonseca's formal and theoretical approach to art.
Although Fonseca left the College of Architecture in Montevideo as a youth, an emphasis on structure and architectonics is present throughout his oeuvre. As a teenager, he taught himself to sculpt in stone and later returned to such sculptural practices after studying ceramics in Spain in 1953. Fonseca moved to the United States in 1958, and later divided his time between New York and Italy, where he created large-scale marble sculptures.
Artworks by Fonseca are included at The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museo Municipale, Pietrasanta, Italy; and the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, among other collections. The artist's works are also featured in numerous public spaces around the globe, including Tokyo; Palo Alto, California; New York; Reston, Virginia; and Montevideo.
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b. 1927, Lithuania – d. 1974 New York City
Populated with figures and images that reflect his Jewish upbringing, his participation with the Taller Torres-García, and his profound admiration for the European art masters Breughel and Bosch, Gurvich's artworks combine a unique personal style with technical mastery.
The child of Jewish immigrants, the artist was born in Lithuania and moved to Uruguay with his family in 1932. There, Gurvich excelled at both music and the visual arts, and it was while studying the violin alongside Horacio Torres that the young artist was introduced to Horacio's father, Joaquín Torres-García. Soon after, Gurvich joined the Taller Torres-García, participating in the workshop's exhibitions, writing for its publications, executing mural projects, and teaching. Gurvich's role at the Taller later influenced the creation of his own workshop, the Taller Montevideo, where he taught the next generation of Uruguayan artists.
In 1954 and again in 1964, the artist travelled to Europe and Israel, where he lived as a shepherd on the Ramot Menasche kibbutz. These experiences profoundly influenced the iconography of his paintings and sculptures. Moving to the United States in 1970, Gurvich joined his fellow Taller Torres-García artists Julio Alpuy, Horacio Torres, and Gonzalo Fonseca in New York City, where he continued to produce art until his premature death in 1974.
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b. 1951, La Plata, Argentina – lives in New York City since 1969
From her early veristic paintings to her contemporary sculptural installations, Marta Chilindron creates art that explores perspectival, temporal, and spatial relationships. In the 1990s, Chilindron began experimenting with furniture forms, altering their shapes to reflect her point of view in relation to physical space. In 1998, the artist began making collapsible, geometric sculptures in transparent colored acrylics, using hinges to allow movement. These pieces invite the viewer to participate, manipulate, and alter their shapes.
In 2010, Chilindron was invited to create a public installation as part of the Fokus Lodz Biennale in Poland, and her sculptures were featured as a special project at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California in 2013. The artist had a retrospective exhibition at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts in 2014, and at Point of Contact Gallery at Syracuse University in 2018. She was also invited by El Museo del Barrio to be part of their "Diálogos" section at New York’s 2019 Frieze Art Fair. Chilindron has recently completed a large-scale sculpture titled Houston Mobius commissioned by the University of Houston for the inauguration of their Temporary Public Art Program.
Chilindron's artworks are included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; the Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; El Museo del Barrio, NYC; the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), Miami, FL; the State University of New York (SUNY), Old Westbury, NY; the Fonds d’art contemporain de la Ville de Genève (FMAC), Switzerland; the IBEU Cultural Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as numerous renowned private collections.
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b. 1911, Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1995, Montevideo, Uruguay
A founding member of the Taller Torres-García, Matto studied painting as a child before meeting Joaquín Torres-García, the atelier's founder in 1939. Following this encounter and encouraged by the creative environment at the Taller, Matto's artistic production shifted from his early Surrealist-influenced work to paintings and sculptures with markedly orthogonal compositions; these works were often executed on humble material supports such as cardboard and found wood pieces.
At the age of 21, Matto traveled to Tierra del Fuego and acquired the first Pre-Columbian pieces of what was to become a major collection and an important influence on his art. In 1962, Matto opened his collection of Amerindian art to the public. The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art housed ceramics, textiles and sculpture from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
The Central Bank of Uruguay commissioned Matto to design a silver coin for the F.A.O. (United Nations Organization for Agriculture and Food). It was in circulation in 1969 and won the first prize from the Gesellschaft für Internationale Geldgeschichte, an international numismatic association based in Frankfurt, Germany.
In 1982, Matto was invited to participate in the First International Meeting for Open Air Sculpture in Punta del Este, Uruguay. He made a U shaped form sculpture in cement placed next to the beach.
His recent exhibitions include "Francisco Matto: Exposição Monográfica," 6a Bienal do Mercosur, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2007; "Francisco Matto: The Modern and Mythic," The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, 2009; “Constructed Dialogues: Concrete, Geometric, and Kinetic Art from the Latin American Art Collection," The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, 2012-2013. His work has also been included in group exhibitions in Paris, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany, Moscow, Tokyo, New York, and throughout Latin America.
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b. 1924 Livorno, Italy - d. 1976 New York City
Of the many painters who studied with his father, the great Constructivist artist Joaquín Torres-García, Horacio Torres made the quantum leap into the Contemporary art world of abstract and expressionistic painters in New York's 1970s. That he did so with figurative canvases was a singular achievement. Taken under the wing of the critic Clement Greenberg, who understood that Horacio's work was really about painting and was thoroughly modern, Horacio explored the thunderous territory of Titian, Velasquez and late Goya with a unique background of skill and aesthetic education in a contemporary way. Thus the series of headless nudes and of figures with faces obscured, make clear his painterly intentions and concerns. His monumental canvases are wondrous exercises of painted imagination formed with the structure of the depicted figure, but they are not about nudes, they are about painting.
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b. 1920, Buenos Aires, Argentina – d. 2013, Buenos Aires
Recognized for his unique oeuvre which blends art with politics, drawing with sculpture, and concept with form, León Ferrari is today regarded as one of the most important Latin American artists of the second half of the twentieth century.
Although he began his career in Argentina pursuing parallel interests in art and engineering (an influence which can be observed in the structural emphasis of much of his work), Ferrari first started exhibiting ceramic sculptures in the 1950s. From this point of origin, his artistic experiments expanded over the decades to include film, drawings, found objects, and hanging sculptures in materials ranging from wire to bones.
Despite the diversity of his artwork, a fascination for language - as a means of communication, as a visual form, and as a metaphor - has permeated Ferrari's career. This is perhaps best observed in his written drawings, which take their departure from written script.
A world-renowned artist, Ferrari's work is included in major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NY; the Casa de las Americas, Havana; Daros Latin America, Zurich; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The artist received the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Biennale in 2007. In 2009, New York's Museum of Modern Art showed León Ferrari's and Mira Schendel's work in its dual retrospective exhibition, Tangled Alphabets.
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b. 1931 La Plata, Argentina – lives in Segovia, Spain
Around 1957, César Paternosto started creating artworks based on Geometric Abstraction. After attending a serial music concert, he was enthralled by Anton Webern's pregnant silences, which influenced the next development in his art. By the end of the 1960s, Paternosto moved the emphasis of depicted matter in his paintings to the outer-sides of the canvas, leaving the front blank. By shifting the attention to the sides, he was questioning the traditional viewing of paintings frontally, and as the range of the pictorial field was expanded to the sides, the three dimensionality of the painting turned it into an object. His 2012 essay, “Painting as Object: Geometric Forms and Lateral Expansions,” explained the evolution and continuity of his idea, from the early lateral vision canvases, to his most recent work.
In 1977, Paternosto began to travel to Bolivia and Peru to study the archaeological sites Tiwanaku, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu. These trips marked an important turning point in his work sparking new formal explorations in form, composition, and color. By rooting his art in American autochthonous traditions rather than in the modern European model, Paternosto created a new and original type of abstraction based on the centuries-old woven textiles and sculptural stones of the Inca.
Paintings by Paternosto are found in various prestigious collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland; and the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany, amongst others.
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