Mariano FerranteSeptember 12, 2019
Essay by Isabella Hutchinson and Susan Breyer from the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition Mariano Ferrante: New Work at Art Projects International in New York, 2019.
By Isabella Hutchinson and Susan Breyer
Geometrical figures…are not limited by the relations of scale that exist between man and the various objects and beings in nature. A house, a tree, have more or less defined dimensions…whereas a geometric shape can be infinitely small or infinitely large…and thus completely escapes the anthropocentrism of Western art. –Jesús Soto1
Mariano Ferrante’s dynamic, immersive oeuvre evokes histories of geometric abstraction, while proffering contemporary phenomenological experiences. Ferrante’s paintings, drawings, and murals, incorporate permutations on themes of symmetry, repetition, form, and color, which evidence his studies in architecture and industrial design. To create these works, Ferrante employs a range of carefully-considered media, including oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, and chalk. His sensitivity to the defining qualities of these media enhances the effects of his compositions, especially when they are rendered upon non-traditional supports such as concrete, tiled sidewalks, or drywall. Indeed, beyond his work on canvas, Ferrante has carried out numerous site-specific commissions: in transit hubs, landmark buildings, and private residences. In each setting, his characteristically vibrant palette and abstract, geometric visual language encourage multisensorial participation. By granting viewers a role in determining color, scale, and orientation, Ferrante embeds his work within our current information age, which relies on the perceptions and actions of its inhabitants.
Abstract, geometric tendencies from Europe reached artists in Latin America through cross-continental travel and residency. In Argentina, Emilio Pettoruti and Xul Solar — both of whom lived in Europe in the 1910s and 20s — were among the first artists to explore components of geometric abstraction while addressing their own conceptual and stylistic concerns. In 1944, the Arte Concreto-Invención and Madí groups emerged in Buenos Aires, and devoted their respective practices to artistic expression through non-figurative, geometric art. The 1960s brought further innovations, with geometric abstraction serving as the underlying principal for new practices, including Julio Le Parc’s Op art, and Noemí Escandell’s Minimalist work. As evidenced by Ferrante, contemporary pictorial languages tied to the movement continue to flourish in Argentina, and on an international level.
Ferrante’s body of work can be located within Argentina’s rich lineage of geometric abstraction; yet his philosophical concerns and stylistic expressions are unique. While his work conveys rigorous construction — comprising meticulously-rendered lines and forms — his bold colors transmit warmth and playfulness. And while his compositions incorporate simple geometries, they can also involve intricate, layered shapes that suggest multidimensionality. When created on walls, ceilings, or floors, Ferrante’s compositions blend nonillusionistic and three-dimensional space — both reverberating throughout and activating the architectures they occupy. In these settings, his work inspires us to reconsider our interactions with the built world.
In fact, the creation of an engaging phenomenological experience for viewers is a constant in Ferrante’s work. His Composiciones (Compositions, begun in 2007), for example — which explore the interplay between graceful curves and straight edges, transparency and opacity — emit mesmerizing visual vibrations that seem to change the frequency of the environments they inhabit. Ferrante’s Monocromos (Monochromes, begun in 2017) give viewers agency over their optical experience by provoking bodily movement. These paintings contain four separate colors organized within vertical, horizontal, and diagonal stripes; however, from a distance of two meters, the canvases appear to be painted one, uniform color. Thus, viewers can create or deconstruct color by moving away from or closer to a Monocromo painting. In yet another activation of human perception, Ferrante’s Construcciones Dinámicas (Dynamic Constructions, begun in 2010), play with ideas of balance, orientation, and space. These large wall drawings comprise multicolored concentric ovals or lozenges — some of which tilt diagonally — that overlap one another. Together, the forms appear to dance across their surfaces. Or perhaps we are the dancers, moving through an environment that is simultaneously shrinking and growing — carefully measured by the artist, but somehow unmeasurable in our own experience.
Beyond producing captivating sensorial encounters, Ferrante’s art encourages us to reassess our quotidian optical (and physical) engagements. Ferrante’s immersive works revive sensorial awareness, and underscore the significance of seeing with curiosity and intention.
Isabella Hutchinson is the founder of Hutchinson Modern, and a collector of Latin American art.
Susan Breyer is an art historian living in New York City.
1 Jesús Soto, Jesús Soto in Conversation with/en conversación con Ariel Jiménez (New York: Fundación Cisneros, 2011), 45.