Magdalena Fernández
The Sound of a Dot in the Sky

In 1998, Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernández (b. 1964) began to use digital media to include moving images in her artwork. In a series entitled Dibujos móviles [Mobile Drawings], she pro-duced several animated works that captured the deflagration of geometric figures. In 2003, Fernández created Pinturas móviles [Mobile Paintings], a series of elaborate video installations where she appropriated aspects from the creations of the masters of geometric abstraction-from Europe (Piet Mondrian), Latín America (Joaquín Torres García, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Clark), and the Venezuelan optical-kinetic movement (Jesús Rafael Soto and Alejandro Otero)-to forma pool of references and interpreta-tions. These connections were relevant to contemporary artistic concerns beca use she occasionally introduced movement to emphasize the concepts she sought to express, and they were also oppositional because they involved radical quotations from the canon of abstract art. In 2iPM009 (PLATES 12.1-.6] from the Pinturas móviles series, Fernández starts with a basic unit, specifically a geometric fig-ure-similar to and referencing those used by Mondrian in his Composition in Line (1917) from the Pier and Ocean series (1914-15)-and transforms it into a virtual installation that relies on light, images, sound, and movement to recreate a rainy night sky (FIG. 1). She takes this unit and then multiplies it, not on a pictorial plane, but projected exponentially on the walls of the exhibition pace. The instal~ation originates from a dot on the plane that then metamorphoses and moves in space with a degree of plasticity and flexibility that was probably never envisioned by Mondrian, the major exponent of Neo-Plasticism. Fernández's choice of this particular unit echoes the Dutch artist's attempts to evoke nature through the specific element of water. Yet, while Mondrian abstracted from nature, Fernández takes an abstract element and paradoxically endows it with representational qualities. The title of the installation is acode based on a system of digits and letters created by Fernández to na me her works, thereby elimi-nating any anecdotal reference that might somehow influence the viewer's interpretation. The system identifies her efforts in terms of production strategy, number, and date. In the title 2iPM009, for example, 2i means installation number "2"; the initials PM identify the artist in question, Piet Mondrian; and 009 refers to the year in which the work was produced, 2009. In her Pinturas móviles series, Fernández showcases her signature ability to take the essence of nature's organic forms in everyday events, infusing them with a playful quality by linking geometric images with animal sounds and urban noises while deconstructing the monumental rhetoric of geometric abstraction. Her approach to critically breaking down the assessment and authority of history is subtle and in part achieved by installing her work in contem-porary art venues; the result is that she succeeds in reconfiguring abstract art practices-past, present, and future-as a part of a dialectical continuum.

Endowed with an evocative poetic vision and fine-tuned by her sensitive view of reality as a universal whole, in 2iPM009 Fernández juxtaposes icons of abstract art alongside her own visual vocabulary, while also drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape, including, for example, the sounds of daybreak, the song of a macaw, ora tropical storm. Though technically complex, this project's formal expression is disturbingly simple: the burgeoning swarm of white dots on a black background expands as the sounds of rain and thunder become increasingly louder. The dots gradually evolve into crosses that shimmer like stars. These bright, shining forms overwhelm the senses. The soundtrack that evokes both the drumming and the gentle patter of rain is nota recording made in the wild; it is a selection that Fernández has meticulously edited, an amustie montage of sounds made by members of the Slovenian choir Perpetuum jazzile, who snap their fingers, slap the palms of their hands against their legs, and stamp their heels on wooden surfaces. 2iPM009 is designed asan environment that obscures its architec-tural reference points and envelops viewers, drawing them into a suspended space of indeterminate dimensions whose ambiguity suggests the endlessness of the universe. This perception of scale is inexorably linked to humankind's relationship with territory, the beauty and ferocity of the landscape, and the search for a place in the world, which induces cosmic visions. In short, this installation is where communal beliefs, nature, and the legacy of Constructivism intersect. In 2iPM009, Magdalena Fernández presents a hybrid and a playful, geometric installation that is more process than statement and is based on and indeed inspired by geometric experimentation. Her installation in fact is another voice in the dialogue of historie works that she takes as her reference points. An artwork is merely a suggestion, a signpost on the way to further inquiry, to other doors that must be opened. With ingenuity and humor the artist constructs a language that, though concrete and deeply rooted in geometric expressions, challenges and thus transcends the threshold of established parameters. Her visual and conceptual ideas, like her art, are clearly based on the malleability of matter, like a web in which the slightest movement somewhere triggers < reaction somewhere else.

Tahía Rivero
Para la exposición
Contingent Beauty
Contemporary Art from Latin America
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston