"Give me a place to stand and I will show you the universe," Roberto Aizenberg liked to say, smoothly appropriating the legendarily defiant words of Archimedes as his own. The visionary grandeur of Aizenberg's metaphysical cities, their endless towers rising infinitely to the skies, does indeed transport his viewer verily to the brink of eternity, the glowing space forever just beyond the fading horizon line. "The stiff tower and the enveloping sky have become, for me, archetypal images that symbolize the human being standing before the divine," he once explained. "For quite some time I have been aware that my painting is a spiritual investigation, a sort of exercise or Zen archery or alchemist's search for gold." Aizenberg would long persevere in his positivist humanism, never losing his abiding "faith in a harmonious, rational humanity held upright on an axis." The sublime order of his iconic cityscapes is unfailingly positive--expression of life itself, the artist often mused. "It is not that all of my renderings are idyllic (there are stormy skies)," he cautioned, "but I paint affirmative representations like the ones children make from cubes."(1)
The image of a small child, solemnly clasping the hand of a father figure, appears in a series of paintings that Aizenberg created beginning in the later 1950s and to which the present Pintura belongs. The relationship between the two is left deliberately ambiguous--they might be father and son, or teacher and student--but in each painting they stand in still solidarity, their backs to the viewer and their figures all but overwhelmed by the enormity of the horizon into which they gaze. The prominent Argentine director Cecilio Madanes wrote evocatively of the depth of emotion that a painting from this series awoke within him, its profundity such that it struck him to the core: "I saw it and it made a strange impression on me. A combination of admiration and fear. That canvas had wounded me. That father and that son, that sky and that earth, were a warning, a signal of what could happen without love, without tolerance, without solidarity, without human understanding."(2)
The overpowering sense of the sublime that he invokes casts a foreboding shadow over Pintura, whose monumental twin towers converge before the diminutive figures in a haunting, almost agoraphobic image. The awesome austerity of the scene is stirringly poignant in its meditative desolation; its mystical geometries and immense, hazy void evoke a feeling both of imminence and of deeply enveloping calm. The solitude and numinous spirituality of Aizenberg's painting suggests an important debt to the metaphysical painting of early De Chirico, but his sources ranged widely across art history. His resonant quality of light and impeccable surface nod to fellow Argentine Emilio Pettoruti and, moreover, to the Flemish school, whose perfection in shading and delicately modulated chromaticism Aizenberg adapted to his world of bleak and silent magnitudes. "Aizenberg's paintings set before us a true cluster of silence," the critic Aldo Pellegrini wrote on the occasion of the artist's mid-career retrospective at the Di Tella Institute in 1969. "An immense field for exploring the unknown opened before the artist: the psychic universe that holds everything, the outer world and the inner world. In his paintings, he tries to reveal those dreamt and sensed worlds, those worlds covered in fog that the painter wrests away and then offers with exacting precision. These worlds lie in a zone that belongs to neither life nor death, but rather to a dark aspiration that, for want of another term, we call immortality."(3)
1) R. Aizenberg, quoted in Victoria Verlichak, Aizenberg, Buenos Aires: Centro de Estudios Para Políticas Públicas Aplicadas, 2007, 3, 26, 70.
2) C. Madanes, quoted in Verlichak, Aizenberg, 32.
3) A. Pellegrini, Aizenberg: Obras 1947/1968, Buenos Aires, Centro de Artes Visuales del Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, 1969.