After a brief stint in architecture school in the late 1940s, a young Roberto Aizenberg dedicated himself to the pursuit of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. In 1950, Aizenberg abandoned his formal studies to erect formidable edifices on flat picture planes. From that year onward, until his death in 1996, the artist continued to explore the subject of architectural structures, most notably in the form of towers. Almost always standing alone in an open expanse of ground and sky, Aizenberg's towers are abstract and anonymous giving no indication of their specific identity or whereabouts. Attempts to locate these monoliths in Aizenberg's native Buenos Aires or other cities of the artist's acquaintance prove fruitless as these geometric blocks are more formal investigations of volume and space than they are mimetic representations of reality.
Aizenberg's Pintura is thus distinct among the artist's half-century of towers referring not only to a particular city but also to its most celebrated landmark--the Eiffel Tower. In his characteristic minimalist style, Aizenberg evokes the shape of the iconic monument with its arched base and soaring spire. Rising into a dusty rose sky, perhaps suggesting dawn or dusk, the sienna and russet brown tower commands our attention. By abstracting the familiar from its surroundings and repositioning it within a peculiar setting, Aizenberg engages in a Surrealist practice. Exposed to the tenets of Surrealism early on in his career, first through the work of his teacher Juan Batlle Planas, a member of the Argentine surrealist group Orión, and then later through the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, Aizenberg embraced the movement's commitment to psychic automatism and dreamlike imagery. The artist's surrealist affinities and overall striking abilities were lauded by the Buenos Aires art world during his day:
Roberto Aizenberg is perhaps the artist of his generation with the best technique; excellent expressive resources. His work is as exact as the miniaturists Aizenberg works in the classical and most orthodox line of Surrealism, if that's possible. The perfection in shading recalls certain Dutch artists. His shapes are reminiscent of the best De Chirico. In these little paintings, true masterpieces, he goes from the figurative to the abstract.(1)
In depicting the Eiffel Tower, Aizenberg joins an international roster of artists who over the years have reworked the famous structure in paint a la pointillism, orphism, cubism and abstraction. Among the Eiffel Tower's many prominent portraitists are Frenchmen Georges Seurat and Robert Delaunay as well as Mexican Diego Rivera and Brazilian Tarsila do Amaral. Unlike Aizenberg, these artists revel in the modernity and grandeur that was the Eiffel Tower in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With its airy iron skeleton reaching higher than any structure in the world at the time of its unveiling at the Exposition Universelle in 1889, the monument embodied progress and the promise of a bright future. While over the years other structures have risen to new heights and become increasingly technically daring, the Eiffel Tower remains one of the most recognized and loved landmarks. Aizenberg reveals nothing of the monument's illustrious history, however, in Pintura. Rather, he transforms the structure into a meditation on pure forms and objects by filling in the Eiffel Tower's open latticework and streamlining its shape.
Aizenberg painted Pintura while living in exile in Paris with his wife Matilde. Argentina's military dictatorship forced the couple from Buenos Aires in 1977 after Matilde's three children became desaparecidos, never to be found again. The couple's time in Paris was therefore a difficult one defined by sorrow and longing for people and places. Consequently, Paris hints at autobiography; the Eiffel Tower thus becomes as much a symbol of Aizenberg's presence in that foreign city as it is a sign of his absence from Argentina.
Years before the military dictatorship, the local press in Buenos Aires seemed to portend the significance of Aizenberg's art as a conduit for escaping reality, "His paintings open up a dream-like and exceptionally serene world for the viewer, a world that efficaciously extracts the viewer from maddening daily life." (2)
1) J. A. García Martínez, "Un mundo como color y miniatura," Histonium, Buenos Aires, April,1958. As quoted in: V. Verlichak, Aizenberg, Buenos Aires: Centro de Estudios para Políticas Públicas Aplicadas, 2007, 33.
2) Unsigned article, "Roberto Aizenberg," La Prensa, Buenos Aires, 7/14/62. As quoted in: Verlichak, 44.