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Argentine Embassy Showcase Oft-Overlooked Legacy of Geometric Abstraction

By Jonas Meuleman

On the second floor of the historic mansion that is home to the Argentine Embassy, a dazzling work of art called “Layers I” by Cristina Ghetti asks you to physically move around and examine the piece from different viewpoints. The repetitive, undulating patterns create the illusion of movement and play with our senses, offering us various possibilities of how a painting can be viewed.

The piece is part of the exhibition “Geometric Conversations,” which explores the evolution of geometric abstraction in Latin America. The minimalist, striking pieces evoke a contemporary feel, but the art movement itself is actually very historic: Geometric abstraction has its origins in Russia and France, but it was Latin America that first launched the art movement in the 1940s.

The artists featured in the exhibition are Cristina Ghetti and Gladys Nistor, both from Argentina and both intrigued by the use of geometry as a form of artistic expression. “The only thing that is necessary to know about this kind of art is that finally, we are talking about perception,” Ghetti said during the exhibition opening.

Argentina Geometric
Argentine Deputy Chief of Mission Gerardo Díaz Bartolomé, Gladys Nistor, Gabriela Rosso of RoFa Projects, Cristina Ghetti, and Cultural Affairs & Public Diplomacy Counselor Sebastián Di Luca gather in front of one of Ghetti’s paintings for a photo. Photos: Embassy of Argentina

For Ghetti, formal redundancy is of the utmost importance. This is a classic mechanism used to achieve the sensation of virtual movement. The works displayed in the exhibition can indeed be easily recognized by a linear and concentric character, sometimes colorful, sometimes pale, but always creating the effect of apparent movement. One piece of hers stands out immediately: In the downstairs ballroom, a hallucinogenic work of art called “Colour Thinking Composition” uses optical illusions to heighten our senses and force us to think about the purpose of the piece.

Nistor’s work, on the other hand, tries to evoke feelings of doubt and uncertainty, but also order in disorientation. Nistor strives to incorporate elements of spirituality and poetry into the straight, clean lines of her geometric-inspired works, and she sees art as “an organization of the vacuum.”

Entering the embassy, you are immediately drawn to a site-specific piece of hers. Using reflections of light and black acrylic paint, the final result forms the optical illusion of a unified painted piece hanging on the wall.

Argentina Geometric Abstraction
“Color Think Energy” is among the works by Cristina Ghetti at the Embassy of Argentina that examine the geometric abstraction movement.

A similar site-specific installation by Nistor can be seen when you walk up the majestic stairs of the historic embassy building, which was designed by Julian Abele, the first African American architect student to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. A combination of black acrylic paint on the wall and light radiating from a projector on the first floor creates an intriguing piece that also seems to be hanging naturally on the wall. Here, the stark emphasis on the modern and the contemporary is not as obvious here as it is in other parts of the exhibition.

“Geometric Conversations” is curated by RoFa Projects, a contemporary art platform based in Potomac, Md., that works with artists in Latin America to examine the intersection of art and sociopolitical movements.

RoFa Projects is led by curator Gabriela Rosso, who said “Geometric Conversations” is one of her proudest accomplishments. In an era when gender equality is more relevant than ever, the exhibition reflects the important role that women play in Latin American art, including the geometric abstraction movement.

In her opening remarks, Rosso talked about the significance of French art gallerist Denise René, “a very brave woman who decided to move some of the artists from Argentina and from Venezuela, like Jésus Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez, to Paris and show their works at her galleries in the 1960s.”

Argentina Geometric Abstraction
Artist Gladys Nistor used a combination of black acrylic paint on the wall and light radiating from a projector to create a site-specific installation along the staircase of the Argentine Embassy.

But the work here not only highlights women’s artistic contributions and geometric abstraction in general, but it also offers a glimpse into the process behind making the art. Pointing at Nistor’s light-and-dark reflection installation downstairs, Rosso told the Diplomatic Pouch that, “It’s a very strong piece. You can feel the energy, and the way that she installed the pieces is also interesting…. The result is the light, it’s the beauty, it’s the reflection, it’s the perfection. But for me, if you see Gladys installing the piece, it’s a kind of psychoanalysis taking place. It’s a very strange process.”

Rosso also praised the Embassy of Argentina, which regularly hosts exhibitions and other cultural events, for its willingness to host innovative artists.

“It’s lovely to see that they have the courage to open their spaces to do this kind of installation, because it’s easier just to hang a painting,” she said. “And it’s beautiful, because you see the mixture between the modern and the contemporary, which is what the most important museums are doing nowadays.”

Argentina Geometric Abstraction
Gladys Nistor tries to infuse the clean, straight lines of her geometric abstract creations with elements of poetry and spirituality.

In addition to the Embassy of Argentina, Rosso said the exhibition is set to be displayed at seven other Latin American embassies in the city.

RoFa Projects is also showing another exhibition in cooperation with George Mason University called “Migratory Aesthetics,” inspired by the migration crisis in Latin America that’s been driven by the exodus of Venezuelans fleeing poverty and instability in their homeland. Artists such as Angel Poyón, Ana de Orbegoso and Erika Harrsch will also look at the timely issue of migration from a personal perspective, exploring topics such as departure, abandonment and reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the Embassy of Argentina is hosting a concurrent exhibition called “Expiation,” featuring modern wall sculptures created by Ana Rendich. “Expiation” runs through Nov. 1 while “Geometric Conversations” runs through Nov. 4 at the Embassy of Argentina, located at 1600 New Hampshire Ave., NW. For more information, please call (202) 238-6400 or visit https://eeeuu.cancilleria.gob.ar/en.


Jonas Meuleman is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.




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