César Paternosto (Argentinian b. 1931)
César Paternosto (Argentinian b. 1931)


César Paternosto (Argentinian b. 1931)
signed, titled and dated 'CESAR PATERNOSTO, STACCATO: 1965' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
59 x 70¾ in. (150 x 178 cm.)
Painted in 1965.
Private collection, Buenos Aires.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

"Color is the new world," proclaimed the famed American art critic Clement Greenberg to Argentina's young avant-garde in 1964, positively validating the new abstraction then emerging in the work of César Paternosto, Alejandro Puente and Honorio Morales.(1) This new generation of abstract artists departed from the stringent, constructive geometries of the 1940s in favor of the phenomenological exploration of color and its visual dematerialization. "Essentially, painting implies an act of submission of matter to mind," Paternosto explained in 1969. "The givens of color, line and flat surface are turned into weightless matter. The result is another dimension of reality--often referred to as 'illusion'--with its own referential context."(2) In his rapidly maturing work of the early 1960s, Paternosto deftly explored the phenomenon of human perception through the unstable and illusory effects of color, whose dematerialized forms suggested radically new pictorial realities.

Paternosto's work evolved quickly in the years following his first, tentative attempts at abstract painting in 1957. By 1963 he had gained fluency in geometric abstraction; and the following year, stimulated by an exhibition of Josef Albers's Homage to the Square in Buenos Aires, he began to develop the potential of color as an independent compositional element. Following the example of Albers, Paternosto began to apply paint directly from the tube with a palette knife, spreading it with a spatula to attain richly saturated color. By 1965, Paternosto remembers, he "started painting bands exploring the 'atonality' of color: strange chords, such as a brown next to a pink, and the like. Soon the bands became waving and concentrically arranged."(3)

1965 was a critical, transitional year in Paternosto's development, and in Staccato he both displays his facility with the formalist language of flattened color and self-referential shape and anticipates his move beyond it, into the phenomenological experience of real space. Here, wide belts of cacophonous color--avocado green next to sky blue, deep maroon next to royal blue--wind boldly, almost snake-like across the canvas, willfully uncontained by its framing edge. The parallel lines of color nod to earlier precedents in the work of Mondrian and Stella, but in their centrifugal pressure on the sides of the canvas they suggest Paternosto's breakthrough work of 1969, in which the front surface of the canvas is left bare and only the sides painted. Already in Staccato, the essentials of hard-edged geometric abstraction--unitary form, hard-edged color--create a moving gestalt, in which the internal relations between the bands of color and the overall image produce subtle differences in the viewer's perception of the work.

The title of this work may relate to Paternosto's life-long appreciation for music. His introduction to serial music in the late 1950s, in particular through the pregnant silences of Anton Webern, admittedly influenced his approach to abstraction. Indeed, the chromatic atonality that Paternosto explored during the summer of 1965 resonates appreciably with the structural manipulations of serial music, in which the emancipation of dissonance opened new aesthetic possibilities. Staccato's unfurling bands of color may well reference the serial musicality of Webern: its atonal chords articulate new, unexpected visual harmonies, supported by an underlying foundation in the systematic rigor and mathematics of geometric form.

Abby McEwen.

1) C. Greenberg, quoted in White/Red: César Paternosto, New York, Cecilia de Torres Ltd., 2001, 93.
2) César Paternosto, "Painting and the Oblique Vision," Paternosto por Paternosto, Madrid, TF, 2007, 247.
3) Paternosto, White/Red: César Paternosto, 93.

More from Latin American Sale Day Session

View All
View All