Martha Boto (1925-2004)
Martha Boto (1925-2004)
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Martha Boto (1925-2004)


Martha Boto (1925-2004)
inscribed and dated 'martha boto, paris 1979' (on the base)
lacquered wood
57 1/8 x 84 5/8 x 31 ½ in. (145.1 x 214.9 x 80 cm.) including base
Executed in 1979.
Acquired directly from the Boto/Vardánega studio, Paris. 
Matha Boto, Paris, Galerie Argentine, 1996 (detail illustrated in color).
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Élysée, Grands et jeunes d'aujourd'hui, 17 September-18 October 1981 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the artist's estate, signed by María Rosa Guilbert.

“In the last two or three years, the movement has erupted with all its power,” wrote the influential critic Aldo Pellegrini in his introduction to the first Salón Arte Nuevo, held in Buenos Aires in November 1955. “Now is the moment in Argentina in which about one hundred non-figurative artists of the most diverse tendencies can be easily recruited.”[1] Boto numbered among the artists who attended the meetings of the Asociación Arte Nuevo, formed by Pellegrini and the artist Carmelo Arden Quin who, as co-founder of the Madí movement, had first advanced geometric abstraction in Buenos Aires a decade earlier. Arte Nuevo consolidated many of Argentina’s abstract artists, among them Juan Melé, Luis Tomasello, and Gregorio Vardánega; many of its members also belonged to the Agrupación Arte No Figurativo (ANFA), which Boto joined in 1957. A promising graduate of the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes, she had begun to orient her practice around geometric abstraction in the mid-1950s, making plexiglas mobiles and exhibiting in local galleries. Her engagement with Arte Nuevo and ANFA anticipated her embrace of light-based and kinetic art in Paris, where she and Vardánega settled permanently in 1959.

Coining the term “chromocinétisme” for a joint exhibition at the Maison des Beaux-Arts in 1964, Boto and Vardánega embraced the aesthetics and new technologies of optical and kinetic art, making mechanical the movement of light, color, and sound and exploring the cosmic dimensions of their practice. Among the so-called “Paris Argentineans,” they fell easily within the orbit of postwar geometric abstraction centered at the Galerie Denise René, exhibiting alongside such artists as Victor Vasarely, Julio Le Parc, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Jesús Rafael Soto. “I am optimistic about the future of kinetics as an art that will really be able to reach large numbers of people,” Boto wrote in 1970. “I seek an art capable of arousing different emotions, psychological reactions of joy or tension, an art that can become a medicine for the spirit. My particular means of movement, colour and light can give the illusion of contraction, diminishment or multiplication, so that by optical means the spectator undergoes a series of reactions: tension, relaxation, etc.”[2]

Boto returned to more traditional sculptural media in the early 1970s, even as she continued to explore questions of perception and phenomenology. In Ecumé, she evokes the sensorial experience of waves dancing and frothing white at sea, their motion undulating and rhythmic. “Water and infinity as the two themes that haunt me,” she allowed, and here the reflecting blue base—a kind of infinity pool—supports a flock of foamy whitecaps that rise vertically, their forms sinuous and sensual. Ecumé may relate to her earlier project for the Hôtel de Ville in Nouméa (New Caledonia), which “involve[d] the optical multiplication of water reflected to infinity.” Yet its abstraction of water as surface and oscillation—color and form—is vibrant and universal. “Above all my ambition is to help to improve the human aesthetic condition visually and psychologically,” Boto declared, “through invention, evasion and reality.”[3]

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

1 Aldo Pellegrini, “Prefacio,” Arte Nuevo (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Arte Nuevo, 1955), n.p.
2 Martha Boto, “Statements by kineticists working in Paris,” Studio International 180, no. 926 (October 1970): 140.
3 Ibid., 140-41.

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