3. Cultural Heritages: History as Citation and as Inventory

For Walter Benjamin, praxis (thought that does, doing that is a form of reflection) is historical. It possesses an inescapably political dimension because it is an exercise of emancipation that redeems and completes what has already been, making way for the realization of its truncated potentials, for the appearance of what could have been but never was. Because of this, history is transformation and change, redemption and liberation. Thus, "doing" is always interconnected (by affirmation or negation) with what has already been, with antecedents, a tradition, a sequence of deeds that preceded it, and each new deed summons a constellation of other deeds to which it is related.

Magdalena Fernández's works are "historical" in the sense to which I have alluded, as a visual and semantic exercise, a doing that is also a thinking, a "constellating" in which what has already been, what has already been elaborated, appears in one aspect, in one perspective, in a new, different, inaugural nuance. The historical horizon with which these works "constellate" is made up of works belonging to movements other than the abstract tradition of modern art, especially Latin American art, like kinetic art, concrete art and spatialism. In this sense, the reconfigurations that this artist carries out with the "works" to which she alludes—to which she pays homage—is made concrete in the manner of an actualization of some potential inherent in themselves. Indeed, the works are revitalized from out of their own structural determinations, becoming flows of formal and visual transformations, thanks to which they break their own limits, tracing new systems of relationships both with the abstract tradition itself and with its contexts (original and current).

In 1iHO008 Homenaje a Hélio Oiticica, the universe suggested in Oiticica's Metaesquemas, that potential for movement, that tension that defines them, becomes sensual experience, something lived. Indeed, the projected blue planes develop a sort of formal dance, a counterpoint in which floating and empty planes, or lines and forms, produce each other, and in which the image, by completely appropriating the space and covering the perceptual plane, exceeds its condition as object in order to become a place of experience in which rhythm and movement are presented as an event of immersion. Likewise, in 2valF018 the abolition of the illusory, the breaking of two-dimensionality, as well as the expansion of the picture into space—which follows from Fontana's perforations and slashes on his canvases—are transformed in Magdalena Fernández's videos into the visual testimony of a moving two-dimensionality in which not only does a space inhere, but it is also involved with its spaces—contexts—by giving itself as an allegory of the violence that inundates certain Latin American societies.


Magdalena Fernández’s practice emerges from the context of contemporary Venezuelan and Latin American arts, encompassing a genealogy of minimalist, kinetic and concrete artistic movements, interpreted through the legacy of abstract painting and modernism. Simultaneously, her practice is informed by other disciplines such as spatial and design practices, mathematics and physics, which provide a socio-scientific grounding to her artistic research. The artworks presented in Echo trace the influence of formalist tradition and evoke a number of stylistic references which clearly position Magdalena Fernández’s practice in line with the legacy of modern style, aiming for purity of composition, geometry, rhythm, and abstraction. Nevertheless, the feminine gesture of her approach is driven by an ethics and a poetics of distance that reclaims an affirmative value of nature by rethinking the logic of abstraction ‘by virtue’ of its being true to nature. The employment of new media such as installations, site-specific works, video-installations, and digital animations, is relevant to the inventory of a new code of interpretation that allows the artist to explore the inherent, structural, dynamic, and virtual aspects of artistic experience.

Homenaje a Jesús Soto (2019) resounds with the opening of an ethical space that acts, over the domain of representation and signification, in response to contexts and the viewer's crossing a field of vertical, horizontal and transversal lines. Soto’s proposition of ‘penetrable space’ is translated, in Fernández’s work, into the configuration of an abstract, minimalist sculptural grotto. Not dissimilarly, the diptych 1pmSO11 (2011) – 1pmSO15 (2015) is marked by a feminine gesture that on the one hand leans towards the rhythm and the sedimentation of nature, while on the other hand articulating the entanglements between experience and the sensible to address a new geometry of the virtual that opens up to multiple relations. Fernández intertwines structural, reticular planes to remind us about the catalyzing function of art as a conscious and collective experience.

Her installations, video-installations and mobile paintings establish a genealogical connection to concrete art by rethinking the notions of dynamis, nature and motion. This allows Fernández to reconfigure the language of sculpture through an architecture of the virtual that consists in mirroring a structure that is subject to perpetual repetitions and re-enactments. In particular, 1iHO008, Homenaje a Hélio Oiticica (2010) draws on the legacy of neo-concrete movements as they elaborate on the notion of motion by rethinking the floating surfaces of abstract painting through the intensity of nature and the flux of the virtual. In Fernández’s works, Oiticica’s notion of a ‘meta-schema’ becomes the return of an understanding of meta-art that values the agential quality artworks can have in shaping an experience that is not purely visual but engaging and immersive.

The genealogy underpinning Magdalena Fernández’s practice refers back to the influence of abstract painting on her inventory of a radical practice. Underlying 2iPM009 (2009) is a reflection on the rhythm of composition, derived from Piet Mondrian’s study on the purity of horizontal and vertical lines. Reconfiguring the sonority and geometry of rain, Magdalena Fernández attributes a vitalist function to the rhythm of abstract composition as it emerges from the very essence of nature, configuring a regenerating field for the viewer to experience. Not dissimilarly, the diptych 2pm006 / 4pm006. (2006) pays homage to the Russian painter Malevich by situating an image and a thought within the floating, immersive planes of her installations. Dissolving representation, object, and the depth of an image, Magdalena Fernández's mobile paintings suggest a new ramification in the context of the modern style, addressing an investigation into the virtual and the immersive as radical approaches to artistic experience.


< >