Decomposing – Recomposing: Concepts, Processes, and Sources
I had the pleasure of seeing Magdalena Fernández’ video installation 2iPM009 for the first time at the 10th Cuenca Biennial in 2009, the same year the artist created it. In a darkened gallery, the sound of rain and the crisscrossing white lines mesmerized me—visually, sensorially, and experientially. The work, in dialogue with Piet Mondrian, an early 20th-century proponent of abstract art, is remarkably creative. I thought it would be ideal for the Frost Museum. Art students and the museum’s extended audience now have an opportunity to enjoy the artwork and, as well, to learn about an artist who is one of the most innovative exponents of contemporary geometric abstraction in the Americas.
My hope is that 2iPM009, together with the two essays in this catalogue, will further an understanding of the artist’s concepts, processes, and sources, for this video installation in particular, and for aspects of her overall development in general. My essay focuses on two aspects of her multivalent work: the lesser-known, formative period and several of her dialogues with modernist and post-modernist artists. Fernández’ studies in math, physics, and graphic design in Caracas from 1983 to 1989 were followed by additional studies and professional work in Italy from 1989 to 2000. The artist’s accumulated experiences during those years shaped her thinking and practice as they evolved during that time.
Magdalena Fernández’ early training in physics, math, and graphic design were the three fields of study that became fundamental to her artistic practice—drawing, photography, sculpture, installations, urban interventions, and video (1). From 1983 to 1984 Fernández began studies at the Universidad Católica Andres Bello in Caracas to teach physics and mathematics. After two years she decided to redirect her studies to pure math and physics at the Universidad Simón Bolívar. At that time math and physics interested her because she thought those fields held the answers to certain existential questions such as truth and certainty. In the months between the end of one semester and the beginning of the next, she taught math and began studies in graphic design at the Instituto de Diseño Fundación Neumann (Institute of Design Neumann Foundation). Shortly after the beginning of the new semester at the Universidad Simón Bolivar, Fernández recognized that, in spite of its reputation in physics and math, classes there were impersonal, classrooms overcrowded, and faculty attention minimal. Therefore, she decided to leave the university and pursue graphic design, which had already “seduced” her (2). She felt that graphic design offered more intimate environment as well as an opportunity to do work that was more centered on her creative self. Her decision to go to the Neumann (1985 to 1989) was one she would never regret. Her learning, training, as well as the actual work produced either in labs, workshops, or for assigned exercises formed the artistic foundation of her future development in a geometric abstract language.
The Neumann’s teaching was based on the curriculum of the Bauhaus (1919–1933), which was founded on the principle that the crafts and the fine arts were of equal importance (3). Fernández took courses in printmaking, photography, art history, life drawing, color theory (based on Josef Albers), three-dimensional design, typography and layout. In general, courses were geared more toward practical rather than theoretical aspects of design. For example, students learned to make objects from wood and clay in carpentry and ceramic workshops.
Fernández recalls working a lot with her hands, using different tools to build objects and make ceramics by shaping clay without the use of a wheel. She worked equally hard in craft workshops as she did in graphic design courses. Both areas taught her how to think about volume, three-dimensionality, and spatial relationships in both open and closed spaces. Her workload at the Neumann filled her days and very often her evenings. As a consequence of consistent hard work, she developed a method and discipline of working that required concentration and perseverance in making of handmade objects or solving of design assignments. By the time she graduated with honors, Fernández well understood the objectives of graphic design—to visually communicate an idea with images and, or words. She learned how make a visual idea come alive and be convincing, and at the same time, while taking into account the time and money required to produce the end product.
At the conclusion of four years at Neumann, she had acquired the knowledge, techniques, and tools needed in graphic design, and, just as important, she had acquired the discipline and commitment to strive for excellence in whatever she undertook. These assets would stand her in good stead when she left Venezuela for Italy shortly after graduation. (4)
After graduating with honors in graphic design, Fernández left for Italy where she lived for eleven years in Castiglione delle Stiviere, a town halfway between Milan and Venice. After arriving in Italy, Fernández tried making ceramics, a craft she had very much enjoyed at the Neumann, but the experience in Castiglione delle Stiviere was less than felicitous, so she abandoned that endeavor. She also turned to photography, another medium she had worked with in Caracas, and produced images that featured fragmentary views of piles of books and wooden block letters used in printing. These images, which she had taken at a printing house, were exhibited in 1991 in Esperando la palabra in the townhall in Castiglione delle Stiviere. (5)
Following a short period of transition, Fernández was introduced to A. G. Fronzoni (b. 1923; d. 2002), the Italian designer and architect renowned for his work in interior design, graphics, exhibitions, theory, and teaching (6). She traveled from Castiglione delle Stiviere to Milan three to five times a week (a four-hour round-trip) from 1990 to 1993 to Inscape and Graphic Design, A. G. Fronzoni Studio. Fernández’ work in the “shop,” as Fronzoni preferred to call it, proved invaluable to her artistic development as both an artist and a person. Fernández, still referring to him as her teacher (maestro), says that he instilled in her a philosophical view of art and life that continues to influence her (7). Principled, rigorous, and disciplined in his daily life, design work, and teaching, Fronzoni believed that each person should consider life as his or her project and that an art or design project was of secondary importance. He encouraged Fernández’ work, gave her confidence, and introduced her to artists working in geometric abstract languages. Through these connections she had meaningful dialogues and discussions with many artists who worked in constructivist, kinetic, and optical directions. Some of the artists whom Fernández met during and after the workshop years were Bruno Munari, Giovanni Anceschi, Luis Tomasello, artists who had been part of Gruppo T., and the Madi International artists. Along with his global vision, his clear pedagogical theories, and his austere life style, Fronzini held that design, in all fields, should be executed with minimal means. (8)
A central tenet of Fronzoni’s life and work was Mies van der Rohe’s adage, “less is more.” As the Italian theorist put it, “We need to aim at essential things, to remove every redundant effect, every useless flowering, to elaborate a concept on mathematical bases, on fundamental ideas, on elementary structures; we strongly need to avoid waste and excesses.” (9)
Toward the end of 1993, Fernández prepared in the “shop” the maquettes for a large-scale installation at the Sala Mendoza in Caracas as well as an extensive series of smaller works known as “structures.” The latter, created over a period of two years, became part of her first solo exhibition, Structures /Estructuras. Fronzoni took Fernández to the Galeria Arte Struktura Milán, a gallery known for promoting constructivist, concrete, and kinetic art as well as the work of the Madi International artists. After seeing her small-scale “structures,” the gallery owners encouraged her to continue developing that work. The installation, 1i993, consisting of hundreds of black rubber balls suspended from the ceiling by nylon, created a web of interconnected lines and volumes that had a sense of lightness and buoyancy. Visitors were encouraged to touch the balls, thereby energizing the space through their interaction with them. That work had the potential for movement, and thus began her subsequent development of sculptures and installations combining movement and stasis (10). Approximately seventeen structures / estructuras, as they are called, were innovative examples of three-dimensional drawings (11). Each “structure” was made from a polyester sheet that the artist cut into different geometric forms (or modules); she then pricked holes in the polyester and wove nylon through them to connect each module. The finished “structures” resembled woven fabrics(unos tejidos) fastened to frames made of acrylic bars.
The suspended structures, installed in a gallery leading to the Sala Mendoza, created an engaging visual counterpoint to the large-scale installation. Looking back on the suspended “structures,” Fernández feels that she was responding to some of the directions advanced by Gego’s three-dimensional drawings without paper from the 1970s and 1980s, made with wires and other materials, suspended from the ceiling. In fact, some of Gego’s own small structures of intersecting lines resembled weavings. (12)
Fernández greatly admired and respected Fronzoni’s philosophical positions and work ethic, both of which she shared, and felt privileged to discuss her work as it developed in Italy. So while her work in his workshop ended in 1993, her professional relationship continued.
Toward the end of 1993 the artist began work as a freelance in graphic design at Agape in Mantua, one of Italy’s leading design companies specializing in bath fixtures and furnishings (13). She began in a junior position, following up on the production stages of various product lines. In time, she worked in the advertising area where she contributed to the design ideas for the corporate image for packaging, brochures, catalogues, and invitations. She designed the instructions for the bathroom products so the customer could assemble them. While she earned her living as a freelance, she also had time to do her own work, and, as her website indicates, her production was prolific. She had solo exhibitions in Venice, Mantua, and Lisbon as well as in Venezuela, where she returned frequently to visit family and to continue work. The artist’s work, informed by math and physics, embraced geometries where the lines were precise, repetitive, and the overall work, innovative. As mentioned earlier, the artist was keenly aware of the importance of geometric and optical art in Italy in the 1990s. Three interesting and important projects are discussed here.
1i996 was a further exploration of ideas on spatial organization, the use of inexpensive materials, and a repetition of forms to redefine the space of a white box (14). Elastic bands, all the same width, were anchored to the upper and lower walls, creating a stationary web of interwoven lines. As the visitor moved around the environment, he or she could feel the tension of the elastic material and, at the same time, a sense of delicacy and openness. After seeing Fernández’ installation, a friend, who had taught her photography in the “workshop,” commented that 1i996 had affinities with Gianni Colombo’s Elastic Space (1974). Although Colombo (1937-1993), was a kinetic and optical artist often referred to in Fronzoni’s “workshop,” Fernández did not know about that particular work at the time she created hers. Following her friend’s comment, however, the artist looked closely at Colombo’s work in a catalogue. While Colombo moved the white elastic bands mechanically in Elastic Space, she recognized certain shared material and conceptual directions common to the two works. (15)
2i997 wasFernández’ first light sculpture, conceived, at least in part, as a response to sculpture she had seen at Leonardo Mosso’s studio in Turin. Leonardo and Laura Mosso Castagno, two very well known Italian architects and researchers, had advanced the concepts of management and production of spatial organization in their design projects. Fernández spent an unforgettable day with Fronzoni at their studio where she saw the Leonardo’s articulated sculpture, which had the potential for movement. In a 1997 return trip to Caracas, Fernández planned an installation that was exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno Jésus Soto in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. Relying on her ability to create a high-tech look with handmade techniques (lessons learned in carpentry workshops at the Neumann), she designed transparent PVC tubes of different lengths and had a company fabricate them. She inserted pieces of Scotch Optical Lighting Film, made by 3M, to spread light throughout the tubes. She then attached small white light bulbs at one end and a mirror at the other to reflect the light inside. To even out the different colors of white of the cheap bulbs, she added filters in the tubes, which cast a mixture of bluish and greenish light in the gallery. Each tube was connected to the other and then suspended in such a way that they created an unstable equilibrium (“equilibrio inestable”), which became a conceptual and pictorial element in much of her subsequent work.
About a year after Fernández left Castiglione delle Stiviere for Caracas in 2000, she received an important commission from Agape for a major furniture show in Milan. The commission gave her an opportunity to merge design and art seamlessly while working in a large space where the artist’s work had to conform to several pre-set rules. Her challenge was to create a spatial environment that would enhance the cube-shaped floor modules containing the company’s products. The resulting work, 2i001, featured a series of floating squares (the same size as a side of the cube), each hung at different heights above the cubes. Both structures were covered in the same white fabric. A visually interesting play existed between the geometric earthbound forms and those that seemed to float in the air above them.
After this Agape commission Fernández moved beyond two-dimensional drawings on paper, three-dimensional structures, and site-specific installations and began to explore such mediums as mobile drawings, mobile paintings, and video animation. In these mediums she uses sound to move the abstract geometric imagery. As noted earlier, in the discussion of her work in the Fronzoni studio, the artist devised an idiosyncratic system for her titles, exemplified by 2e992 and 1i993. The first number in each title indicates its sequence in the series; the lowercase letters e and i indicate the medium, e for estructura (structure) and i for installation; the last three numbers in each title represent the year the work was completed, for example, 992 for 1992 and 993 for 1993. The look and systematic nature of the titles derive from her experience with typography in graphic design and her math background, but also reflect her intention to keep the titles free of signifying references.
As Fernández expanded her range of mediums and processes, she also used in her titles the initials pm, for pintura mobil (mobile paintings); dm, for dibujos mobiles (mobile drawings); and em, for estructura mayor (large structures). When she initiated a dialogue with an artist, she included his initials in the title both to identify him and as a play on words; for example, iPM in 2iPM009 signifies “installation Piet Mondrian.” Scientific names of birds and frogs are written in parenthesis after the title, for example, 1pm006 (Ara ararauna).
The artist began to dialogue with some of the indisputable “masters” of geometric abstraction beginning in 2004 with Sol LeWitt; in 2006 and 2009, with Piet Mondrian; in 2006, with Kasimir Malevich; in 2008 with Hélio Oiticia; and in 2010, with Torres García (16). By considering some of the works in these dialogues that engaged the artist’s mind and eye, one may obtain further insight into the processes involved in developing or constructing her work.
We begin with 2iPM009, the video installation at the Frost Museum. Originally Fernández hadbeen interested in responding to Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942–1943), a paradigmatic work in art history that features a square in which the vertical and horizontal lines, precisely spaced, were composed of red, yellow, blue, and gray blocks. The white areas between the lines were filled with similarly colored planes of various sizes. The painting was in homage to Manhattan’s skyline, neon lights, street activity, and to the overall dynamic rhythm of the city, as he perceived it after his arrival there in 1940 (17). However, as ideas churned in Fernández’ head, she came across a corporal performance by the musical group Perpetuum Jazzile on the Internet (18) and decided to respond instead to Mondrian’s Composition in Line (1917) (19). The Dutch artist’s first black and white painting represented a transition in his work that for him was a “new form.” (20) This early iconic abstract work is characterized by a pattern of small horizontal and vertical lines.
2iPM009, a video one minute and fifty-six seconds (on a loop), begins with barely audible sounds of light rain and the appearance of barely visible tiny dots. In perfectly measured timing, the dots begin to appear in greater quantity and with greater frequency, in effect evoking, however momentarily, a twinkling starry night. The dots slowly become short vertical and horizontal lines, very much like those in Composition in Line. Progressively these lines increase in size, becoming longer and wider, moving in horizontal and vertical directions across the screen, creating a cascade of intersecting white lights. It is the sound of the rain that determines the velocity of movement, and as the sound becomes incrementally louder, it effects a virtual downpour. Suddenly a crash of thunder causes the lines to reach their maximum density. Another crash of thunder resounds, bringing on the same bold imagery. The sensorial effects of sound and light are very dramatic. As the storm subsides, the imagery seems to reverse itself. The video ends when the sound of pattering rain and the tiny moving dots disappear. For a split second, the screen is black and silent. It would appear that nature’s cycle has come full circle.
Ironically the sound is not “real” rain—the simulation is created by the Perpetuum Jazzile choir, whose artistic director conducts them to snap their fingers, clap their hands on their knees, and jump at different moments on the floorboards to create the sound of rain and thunder. The little black and white lines in Mondrian’s 1917 painting were the starting point for a stunning composition of moving imagery perceived as rain. Were the video paused at second intervals, each pause would be a similar but different composition, were it painted. Fernández used sound, light, and the moving image to give a 21st-century twist to a 20th-century utopian vision.
Looking back to 2006, Fernández created an animation with the sounds of macaws titled 1pm006 (Ara ararauna). As noted by Piet Mondrian’s initials in the title, this was her first conversation. Macaws or guacamayas (Ara ararauna) are found in Venezuela and other parts of South America. Several pairs of these birds roost in a particular tree in front of the artist’s apartment window, everyday from the early evening to early morning. These noisy, large tropical animals are blue, golden yellow, and green. It was the colors of the birds that reminded the artist of Mondrian paintings structured by black lines and planes of colors. Without any specific work in mind, the artist’s response to Mondrian was set in motion, quite literally and figuratively. To establish correspondences, I refer to Mondrian’s Compositions of the 1930s. During that decade Mondrian strove to achieve a sense of “dynamic equilibrium” defined by the black lines structuring the planes, which in his consideration were the active elements of the composition. (21)
Fernández’ video begins with a frame in which the three colors are divided asymmetrically by two black lines. The sounds of macaws move the lines and the planes, thus disarranging an otherwise stable composition. Literally, the geometric image becomes animated through the sound frequencies of the birds—the higher or lower the pitch, the greater the volume, the more the movement. Their loud vocalizations create an unexpected dynamic when one views the moving planes anticipating their having a quiet sensory effect. They are surprisingly playful responses to one of the great proponents of “pure” abstraction in modernism. (22)
In 1dm004 (Eleuttherodactylus coqui), Fernández used sound and animation together for the first time, as she would in subsequent work (23) .The second part of the title refers to coquis, the very small frogs found in Venezuela and throughout the wetland areas of the Caribbean. As a peculiarly distinctive part of the urban atmosphere, their high-and low-pitched sounds fill the air like strident contemporary music around the artist’s home and literally generated the imagery of the rectangle in the following manner. The sounds made by three male coquis were recorded, separated one from the other using a sound program, then edited in a program that generates graphics (“gráficos”) from the sounds. The artist manipulates the graphics (the lines of the rectangle) to obtain a slightly clearer configuration. The movement, or the breaks in the lines, correspond to the frogs’ high-and-low pitch, volume, speed, and duration. The higher the pitch, the more acute the broken angles.
Most interestingly, the recording includes the sounds of three male coquis that croak to attract female attention. As a consequence, the top line of the geometric mobile drawing remains stable because it corresponds to the female coqui. However, the three moving lines on the two sides and bottom are generated by the male’s sounds. (24)
2dmSLW004 belongs to a series of videos based on Fernández’ interest in Sol LeWitt’s exquisite, permutating lines evidenced in his wall drawings, a genre he explored for decades. Regarding LeWitt’s “wavelike horizontal lines,” Carl Andre and Robert Barry paid homage to their close friend of many years by writing “Sol Is Our Spinoza” (25) .LeWitt’s drawings, composed of nonstraight lines in all sizes and densities, are endless in their variety” (26) .Fernández acknowledges his enormous contributions to post-1970s art in her mobile drawing. The video begins with three wavy white lines that move continuously across the screen (27) .They then become slightly more elaborated as the few vertical lines intersect the horizonal ones. Their movement, described below, is dancelike. One may feel they resemble thin streams of water. Then the diagonals begin to appear over the mutating vertical and horizontal lines, delicately moving, visually captivating due to the process she uses to animate them. The video ends as it began with three wavy, waterlike lines horizontally structured. Fernández’ video is intended to be projected on a large wall, so it relates to the architectural space as do LeWitt’. (28) .In dialoguing with LeWitt, Fernández’ minimalist, repetitive structuring seems to have resulted more from her training in the Fronzoni “workshop” than from her knowledge of the theoretical writings of either LeWitt or other Minimalists. Through Fronzoni and other artists in Italy, Mies’ adage “less is more” has informed her work in all mediums.
This mobile drawing (similar to Fernandez’ other mobile works) was executed by combining high- and low-tech methods with a well-developed sense of know-how. When she studied design at the Neumann, she learned how to build craft objects and solve spatial problems. For this work, the artist draws the lines on the computer; the computer drawings are sent to a company that cuts out the lines on thin vinyl sheets (the thickness of paper); she attaches the vinyl to a thin sheet of white transparent acrylic. The acrylic (with the vinyl) is placed on the light box located at an angle over the bucket of water. As light passes through the cutout designs in the vinyl sheets, the artist moves the water gently while the camera films the reflections of light. (“Filmo los reflejos de los dibjujos hechos luz por la caja de luz. Lo que está filmando es luz.”)
A series of three of mobile paintings—2pm006, 3pm006, and 4pm006—certainly reference Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935), but they are not as closely related to his work as are her dialogues with Mondrian or LeWitt. The circle and the square, two motifs among many that distinguish the Russian artist’s Suprematist paintings and Nonobjective art from 1915 through 1929, are adopted in this 2006 series. As anticipated, Fernández transformed the ground rules by adding motion to these works and by modifying their rigid geometries. The three videos, viewed side by side, are ludic. For example, 2pm006, which runs seven minutes and thirty-six seconds, features a white circle-like form on black with an irregularly shaped circumference that morphs—through movement—into a rectangle. At the end of video, the white on black geometric form seems like a playful allusion to Malevich. 3pm006 performs in a similar way. Its beginning and end may be reminiscent of Suprematist Painting: White on White (1918), but the dynamic disequilibrium, due to the movement of the reflections of the motif in the water, distances itself from its progenitor, if in fact the artist had this work in mind. 4pm006 performs very similarly to 2pm006, with the difference that the black square in the fourth mobile painting begins as a fairly straight-edged quadrilateral until its edges are unsettled, becoming a ragged-edged square by the end of the video.
Basic geometric shapes continue to be the subject of works by many artists, who have imbued them with endless meanings: a circle or a square or a triangle is not just a circle or a square or a triangle. Each holds a world of possibilities—thematic, conceptual, formal, and sometimes spiritual. Fernández evidently left out Malevich’s initials in the title because the references were too distant. She thought about the Suprematist artist, but from a distance, minus the earlier artist’s philosophical postulates.
From the perspective of the work discussed here, Magdalena Fernández has moved in two significant directions: internalizing Fronzoni’s need to aim at essential things, to remove redundant effects, to elaborate concepts on mathematical bases, fundamental ideas, and elementary structures; and also being very much in touch with the everyday world around her. Sounds (birds, frogs, rain, thunder), light, and movement from various sources have inspired the creative geometries of her work.
Fernández moves between high- and low-tech modes seamlessly as noted in the handcrafting of the 1992–1993 “structures” and the inventive fabrications using buckets of water and video cameras from 2003 to simulate movement in the mobile paintings and mobile drawings.
Dialogues with other artists, as well as responses and references to their work, both pre- and post-1950s, were motivated by diverse stimuli. In the case of Mondrian, the 2006 video was prompted by the colors of the macaws. The 2009 video installation in this exhibit was inspired by a musical group that simulated rain and thunder by clapping. The artist’s dialogue with Sol LeWitt was triggered by his wall drawings in which geometric forms are characterized by minimal lines within complex spatial relationships. Kasimir Malevich’s early circles and squares spurred a rethinking of the possibilities to disarrange their precise forms through continuous movement.
The leitmotif that courses through the artist’s work is her ability to achieve an “unstable equilibrium” in all mediums. Subtracting while adding is somewhat of a conundrum—reaching its high point, in this exhibition, in 2iPM009, an engulfing work in which symmetry and asymmetry, sound and silence, points and lines, open and filled spaces meet in harmony and disharmony, all in perfect turn.©
Julia P. Herzberg
Email communication between the artist and the author occurred frequently between January and June 2011. I have chosen to leave her words in the text from time to time so the reader can hear her voice.
(2) Untitled talk for the Latin Maecenas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, January 13, 2011. Hereafter referred to as the Houston talk.
(3) The German architect Walter Gropius (1883–1969), founder of the Bauhaus, described the school as a utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression. The Bauhaus taught fine arts, crafts, and design education so that its graduates could produce beautiful, yet utilitarian objects suitable for modern life.
(2) Fernández did not go to museums frequently during the Neumann years, but on occasion she saw the work of such leading Venezuelan geometric artists as Jesús Soto (1923–2005), Alejandro Otero (1921–1990), Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt, 1912–1994), and Carlos Cruz Diez (1923–). As a design student with a grasp of art and architecture, she often heard about their work from students who often spoke about it. She saw the work of the Venezuelan geometric artists in public spaces and, more often, in books. Gego, who had taught at Neumann in the late 1970s, had a former student who taught Fernández a course in three-dimensional design. It is logical to assume that Fernández was familiar with Gego’s belief that design and art were indistinguishable from each other. Eugenio Espinosa, then a young geometric abstract artist, taught Fernández an art history class; their friendship continues.
(6) Victor Lucena, a geometric artist in Venezuela, introduced Fernández to Getulio Alvani, an Italian artist in Milan who had worked for several years at the Museo de Arte Moderno Jesús Soto in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. After learning about her training and interests, he arranged for the introduction to Fronzoni.
(9) See http://www.cultdesigned.com.au/shop/designers/a-g--fronzoni.html
(10) After designing the maquette for the installation, Fernández went to a recording studio with a friend, Arno Hanmacher, and saw a sonogram of the sound of drops of water. The sonogram report gave her the idea of how the rubber balls could be distributed. When preparing the actual exhibition at the Sala Mendoza, she added the sound of drops of water, but then removed the sound after the opening night because it did not enhance the installation.
(11) The seventeen small structures are e992, 1e992, 2e992, 3e992, 4e992, 5e992, 7e992, 8e992, 9e992, 10e992, 12e992, 20e993, 21e993, 26e993, 27e993, 28e993, and 29e993. Some of these are 9.8 x 9.8 x 0.31 in. (25 x 25 cm. x 8 mm), others, 18.7 x 18.7 x 1.96 in. (47,5 x 47,5 cm x 5 cm). Some of these structures are on the artist’s website.
(12) I am thinking specifically of Drawing Without Paper, 1978, iron net, iron wire, enameled iron rod, 14.8 x 15.9 x 0.6 in., a small, suspended work that resembles a weaving. In all probability Fernández had knowledge of works like this in which a drawing with net and wires creates the look of a woven fabric. For a reproduction of this particular work, see Nadja Rottner and Peter Weibel, eds., Gego 1957-1988: Thinking the Line (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2003), p. 184.
(13) She worked in other firms, but most of her graphic design was at Agape.
(14) The 1996 installation was exhibited at the Centro Verífica 8+1 in Venezia-Mestre, Italy.
(15) In conversation with the artist, she noted that she consciously referenced Colombo in 1i009 (2009), a kinetic light installation exhibited at Steellife – Triennial of Milan, Studio Chiesa, Marcegaglia Foundation, Milan.
(16) Discussions regarding the artist’s dialogues with Oiticia and Torres-García will be the subject of another essay.
(17) For reproduction and discussion of the painting, see Joop Joosten and Angelica Rudenstine, “Catalogue,” Piet Mondrian 1872–1944 (Boston, New York, Toronto, London: A Bulfinch Press Book; Little, Brown and Company, 1994), pp. 292–293 respectively.
(18) The artist called the artistic director of the musical group in Slovenia for permission to use part of a corporal performance the group did before singing “Africa” in her video. See YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjbpwlqp5Qw
(19) For discussion of the painting and its reproduction, see “Catalogue,” Piet Mondrian 1872–1944, p. 173. Alicia Torres, who discussed Mondrian as a general source of inspiration for Fernández’ work, illustrated two silkscreens by the Dutch artist, Composition in Lines and an Untitled work, both in the collection of the Fundación Museos Nacionales, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. See “Magdalena Fernández: When the Spirit Blows Upon the Waters,” Superficies (Caracas, Venezuela: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, 2006), p. 17.
(20) “Catalogue,” Piet Mondrian 1872–1944, p. 173.
(21) Yve-Alain Bois, “The Iconoclast,” Piet Mondrian 1872–1944, p. 315.
(22) Fernández represented Venezuela in the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 with 1pm006 (Ara ararauna). The video is now part of the permanent installation Neoplastic Room - Open Composition, in the collection of Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, Poland.
(23) Recall that the artist explored the role of sound in 1i993 by adding it to the installation on the opening night. Nevertheless, in her view the sound recording was not integral to the work and thus not essential.
(24) In addition to the artist, who elaborated on the process involved, I thank Alexander Coyle, a graduate student at the Institute for Fine Arts, New York University, who also assisted me as well in understanding the technical aspects of the manipulation of sound and image in computer programming.
(25) Carl Andre and William Anthony, “Sol Is Our Spinoza,” in Sol LeWitt: 100 Views (North Adams: MASS MoCA in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2009), p. 11.
(26) Susan Cross, curator at MASS MoCA, analyzes both the complexity and simplicity of the artist’s wall drawings in “Drawing Restraint,” in Sol LeWitt: 100 Views, pp. 39-41.
(27) 1dmSLW003 was actually Fernández’ first attempt to use water as a vehicle of movement in a video. Her first mobile drawing in dialogue with Sol LeWitt began as a sketch or a trial in 2001–2002; she perfected the process by 2003. The idea came to her serendipitously in Venice in 2000 when she noticed a small square reflected on the water of a canal. The moving reflection of the geometric shape instigated her search for a process that would enable her to simulate it.
The artist showed this video on a large wall in the exhibition at CIFO: Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami and at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Caracas in 2006.