Alejandro Otero (1912-1990)
Alejandro Otero (1921-1990)

Sin título (Estudio para Tablón)

Alejandro Otero (1921-1990)
Sin título (Estudio para Tablón)
indistinctly signed, dated and inscribed ‘para Casas con cariño, (signed) Cuba mayo 1984’ (on the verso)

acrylic on cardboard strips mounted on heavy board
16 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (41.6 x 26.4 cm.)
Executed in Havana in 1984.
Ramón Casas collection, Caracas (gift of the artist in 1984).
Private collection, New York.
Gustavo Gili collection, New York.
Galería del Cisne, Madrid.
Sale room notice
Please note the artist's correct dates are 1921-1990, and the correct title and date of this work are Sin título (Estudio para Tablón), executed in Cuba in 1984.

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Fundación Otero-Pardo under no. AOR-000082, and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné.

We are grateful to the Fundación Otero-Pardo for their assistance cataloguing this work.

“Today’s artist can no longer be a chronicler of occurrences, a folklorist, or simply a narrator,” Otero wrote in a stirring public defense of abstract art in 1957. “He is first and foremost a creator who creates and constructs even from within chaotic circumstances.”[1] At the time a professor at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in Caracas, he had returned to Venezuela following extended sojourns to Paris, where he had embarked upon a singular path to abstraction. From his Cafeteras series (1946-48), in which the transition out of still-life began, to the spare, painterly diagonals of the subsequent series Líneas coloreadas sobre fondo blanco (1950), Otero moved progressively toward pure abstraction. Like his compatriots Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez who followed him to Paris in the 1950s, Otero found stimulation in postwar Europe and the phenomenal rise of geometric abstraction, fostered by the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the Galerie Denise René. Led by Otero, a group of Venezuelan artists formed the group Los Disidentes in 1950, seeking to upend the official conservatism of their country’s cultural milieu—not least, the outcry over abstraction. Otero returned to Caracas in 1952, contributing a mural (1956) to the Ciudad Universitaria, designed by the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva as a utopian and progressive model of arts integration, and he emerged as a leading advocate for abstract art.

During this time, Otero began work on his celebrated Coloritmos series (1955-60), in which the rhythms and vibrations of color move across elongated vertical panels, expanding optically against black bands. This series anticipated his later turn to sculpture, collage, and assemblage and remains his signal contribution to Op and Kinetic art. The present work references the Coloritmos as well as Mondrian, an early and enduring influence, in its syncopated pattern of primary colors arranged in dynamic, asymmetrical rows. These vertical displacements produce a lively chromatic resonance, activated by the optical stimulation of the viewer, whose experience of looking becomes inseparable from the work itself. The phenomenological embodiment of Otero’s work, beginning with the Coloritmos and continuing through his large-scale kinetic structures—among them Delta solar (1977; Washington, D.C.) and Torre solar (1986; Guri Dam, Venezuela)—marked a further evolution of the values of abstraction that he had long upheld. “Abstract art is subject to the strictest elements of painting, not just in the formal rigor or aesthetic exigencies,” Otero declared. “The fundamental elements are recuperated—line, value, color—from within a position that regenerates what is most vital in all its force and breadth. Abstract art’s subject matter is life, but life as a totality, not reduced to anecdote or allegory, nor even to its symbol.”[2] Among the principal figures of Venezuelan Cinetismo, Otero represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 1966, with a solo exhibition, and again in 1982.

The present work is dedicated to the Cuban sculptor Ramón Casas, whom Otero befriended during numerous trips to Havana during the 1980s, including on the occasion of the second Havana Bienal (1986).

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

1 Alejandro Otero, “Réplica a Miguel Otero Silva” (part 1), El Nacional (Caracas), April 9, 1957, trans. in Alfredo Boulton and his Contemporaries: Critical Dialogues in Venezuelan Art, 1912-1974, ed. Ariel Jiménez (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 211.
2 Ibid., 211-12.

More from Latin American Art

View All
View All