We are grateful to the Proyecto Armando Reverón for their assistance in confirming the authenticity of this work-- to be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist.
Seeking a reprieve from an increasingly repressive political climate in Caracas, Reverón decamped to the coastal fishing village of Macuto in 1921, precipitating a major shift in his work and the evolution of a radically original, modern style. The early, iconic landscapes of the 1920s and early '30s document a progressive reduction in color and form toward pure abstraction, challenging the limits of perception and painterly materiality. Astonishingly nuanced in their tonalities of washed-out pigment and exquisite surface quality, these landscapes suggest the intensity of Reverón's experience in Macuto and his extraordinary responsiveness to the natural world. "I am painting the life of nature," he once explained, and in Macuto he found "a world of light, of incredible vegetation, of sea." The immediate surroundings of his rancho, named "El Castillete" ("The Little Castle"), became principal subjects of his mature landscapes, which sparingly describe the area's exposed beaches and coastlines, densely foliated trees, and by the 1940s the modern industrial activity at the nearby port of La Guaira. "For the painter, the reality he sees every day is enough," Reverón believed, and his landscapes portray with profound subjectivity the withering, secluded reality of the three decades he spent at El Castillete.(1)
Reverón's early landscapes mostly petered out by 1935, supplanted by an increasing preoccupation with portraiture, but a schizophrenic episode in 1940 sparked a return to landscape and a re-engagement with the natural world. He would abandon the practice of landscape painting altogether in 1945, but the final landscapes reprised during these years mark a new, heightened interrogation into the horizons of visibility and the edges of pictorial space. The present Playa de Macuto is a less common example of a pure, isolated landscape from this later period, its hazy ocean vista betraying nothing of the industrial subjects that Reverón elsewhere described. Here, layered washes of sepia tones softly cloud the landscape, obscuring the natural elements through organic contours and dissolving shadows. The rhythmic layering of the painting extends from the sweeping curve of the coastline through the far horizon, with its intimation of mountains in the distance, and the nebulous, atmospheric sky.
According to John Elderfield, curator of the major Reverón retrospective held at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007, the late landscapes may evoke "the melancholy of old, faded photographs and mid-nineteenth-century études, especially the landscape studies in a brownish essence by artists of the Barbizon School such as Théodore Rousseau."(2) Yet the recurrent sea grape trees and coconut palms also site works such as Playa de Macuto specifically within the local, coastal environment, imparting a powerful, telluric quality to the landscape; Miguel Otero Silva has further suggested an essential correlation between the Venezuelan earth and the sepia colors Reverón preferred. In that sense, the intimacy of the artist's identification with the natural world--viz., the archetypal embodiment of the artist within the landscape--is everywhere present in these works, from the visible traces of the brushstrokes to the tactile deposits of pigment left on the canvas surface. "The Reveronian place didn't respond to any form of lamentation or nostalgia," curator Luis Pérez-Oramas has explained, but "neither did it give form to any utopia: it was the present site to make the 'here' possible, an age-old combat of the manifestations of presence."(3)
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.
1) A. Reverón, "Through his Own Eyes," in Armando Reverón, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, 227.
2) J. Elderfield, "The Natural History of Armando Reverón," in Armando Reverón, 57.
3) L. Pérez-Oramas, quoted in Luis Camnitzer, "Martín Ramírez-- Armando Reverón," Art Nexus 6, no. 66, September-November 2007, 76.