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Baudelairespoke of the role played by surprisein the creationof aestheticemotion. What then when a surpriseleads to a total artistic revelation? In Augustof 1977-not long beforeI met Cecilia Mcufla-l traveledto the Andean region (northern Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru). It was a momentous trip. For a mainstream abstractionistlike myself, the undiluted surprise of this encounter with the sculptural works of the Inca, which I later coupled

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of alphabeticwriting, textileshad, at the very least, a certain signifting function. The Greeceof the Dark Agesalso lackedwriting, which had disappearedafter the Dorian invasions. Thus it is possible to think that the geometric designs painted on the large Athenian funerary vasesof the Greek Geometric Art period also concentrated a spectrum of the symbolic or semantic functions, substitutingfor the absenceof the writ-

with extensivereadingsin art history anthropology, ten word. The appearanceof schematic,cipher-like and mythology, provided just such a revelation. human and animal figuresillustratinginterment ritSuddenly,I understoodthat the abstract,seeming- uals in the last phasesof this Geometric style lends ly meaninglessshapesfound in the ancient non- strongsupportto this assumption. Europeanarts were in fact deeply symbolic. It was not just a historical notion. Think of what is involvedin an apparentlytrivial act like doodling. Underlying the great majority of these archetypal While the consciousmind is involvedin something forms, there is a grid: the matrix generatedby some else-most likely a telephone conversation-out form of weaving, such as basketry matting, or from the pencil comes a flow of geometricshapes: cloth-making. According to Anni Albers (On spirals, concentric squares, triangles, diamonds. Are they sheer meaninglessnonsense?Or could they be the vestigial outpouring of a lost, archaic "alphabet"whose imprint has remainedburied as a subconsciousmemory? If we go back in time we find the first examples of this abstract work in the engravedbones and stones,in the painted and pecked cliffs, of the late Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. These practices

Designing,1943), "lWeaving is] the intricate interlocking of two setsof threadsat right angles."In my view, this interlocking of threads constituted a momentousachievementin human evolution,for it alsoentaileda mental matrix (or pattern) that influ-

enced the art practices in other media. Painted, eLched, or sculpted fbrms became geometric or angular,as if faithfully responding to an orthogonal model. If this can be ascertainedmost readilyin the region,where textilesacquiredthe status Andean the transperfor the symbolic, early urges answered sonal,the conceptual.Then the evolution of ope.- of the major art, it is ultimately no less discernible ational grids, in the form of such things as basketry in other cultures, as I suggestedabove. It only and textiles, helped with the generationand repli- requires some sleuthing, because that crucial cation of the basic,archetypalgeometricforms that matrix, the weavings,have for the most part disare now increasinglyconsideredforerunnersof full aPpeareo. The grid, therefore,as the departingstage:the writing. The samecould be said of the geometricdesigns zerodegreeof abstraction. appearingin a particular group of ancient Peruvian textiles of the Inca period, the t'oqapu,which are deemedto be logographicsigns,like Chinese char- My work is based in part on the idea that these acters.And although researchon the Andean signs primal forms-much like Jungian archetypeshas stopped short of a full decoding,recent ethno- have stuck with us. That we recognize(subcongraphic work in the region attests to the semantic sciously) the archaic symbolic power or protoor symbolic function of color stripesand geometric script functions of these forms. In other words, designsin contemporaryweavings,a strong indica- just as in our modern, de-sacralizedsocieties, tion that, in the pre-Europeanpast, in the absence ancient myths still persistunder different guises,


a morphology,or an "archaeologyof forms," would ' uncover the sedimented strata of meanings asso-i ciated with primal, archetypalforms. I mean to offer, in a sense, a contribution to this search. In 197l,l startedworking with watercolorpencils, marking the verticals (the warp) of the . orthogonal grid-whlch was enough to suggest, by implication, the missing weft. As I went over each one of the lines with the wet brush, they became wiggling, brushy-an ironic response to the "hard edge" dominant in those days. Much later,in 1996,I went back to theselines. This time, they found their material/conceptual , counterpart in Cecilia Vicufla's wool threads, the spaceweavingsshe created long before we met. Cecilia immediately defined my lines as hilos . de agua ("water threads"). Thus the line dialogue between paper and wool began, a conversationin color and space that links and extends our separate threads of investigation. C 6 s a r P a te rnosto


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lines undone by rvater threadsundone by air undoing completesthe doing an encorulterthrough dissolution... Theservords, cornposedby CeciliaVicufra,apdy describeC6sarPaternosto'sartistic processin creatinghis rvater-threadseriesof drawings,"hilos de Lgot', as well as her first-time collaboratjve effort with him here in The Drawing Room. Although working in diverse media, their collaboration revolves around a sharedimperative: to affect a neadyimperceptible alteration of perceivedrealiry. This visual conversationbeginsrvith Paternosto'sdrawingsand the construction of \ricufra'sspace weavings--a seriesof threads that hang ftom the cdling----<reatedin response to them. For the past decades,C6sarPatemostohas focusedhis attention on the edgeof the picture plane. In 1969, he began to explore the idea of leaving the frontal surfaceblank by pai"ti"g vir.-idbands of color on the marginsof the paper. Tuming his attentionto the cauvas,Paternostopainted these lines on the edges,invitng the viewer to move around its supports in order to see"obliquelt'' ^d thereby to question the static ftontal view of a painting. His exploration of the viewels dynamic relationship to the work intersectedwith his discoveryof Andean geometric forms during a trip to Pem in the late 70s.!7hat emergedu/asan dtemative set of ideasabout abstraction. His belts of burnt sienna, sandy gray, and yellow ochre frame the frontal plane, yet serveas referencesto ancient textile structures-forming symbolic and spiritul connectionswith the earth and ft1gse5g1e5rather than as rnere compositional elements. Organizedaround significant bodies of work from 1963 to the present, the exhibition presentsdrawrngsin which Paternosto challengesthe tenets of modern art in relation to the picture plane, the geometricvocabularyof abstraction, and the concqrt of the gnd. The grid strucnues both Paternosto's motded lines and Vicufra's frayed threads. Vicuffa's deft handling of unspun wool, yarn, and thread has resultedin ethereal installations that transform a corner, a roorn, and an exhibition. In her work, the rurspwr wool, "a river of hair held togetherby an invisible glue, its own fat, lanolin" becomesa metaphor for the life force, for transformation and dissolution. Vicuffa's politics and artistic practicearegrounded in unsetding the etymologicalroots of words by dissectingand then re-forming them in order to alter seemingly f,red linguistic and visual orders. Her ambient-colored threadsintersectwith Paternosto's lines to give a silent shoug creating a ripple-like effect that dissolvesentrenchednotions of modem and Latin American arr Follorving the fluid process of reversingthings (al rev6s),doing and undoing Paternosto and Vicufra have conceived of their exhibition as a performative one insofar as it rvill transform and grow beyond its initial appe,rance. Through the gradualremoval of Paternosto's drawings, the placementof Vicuia's threadswill sen'e as rerrurant traces,sirnilar to how, "in the rainbow, one color disappears to let the other be." Their visuallymulti-layeredconversationrvill manifest itself as an evanescent grid that invites the viewer to witness its becoming its "dissolving into union." Susettelv{in AssistantCurator of ContemporaryErhibitions *Quotesfrom CeciliaVcuffa


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Works by Cecilia Vicufla K'isa #2, SpaceWeauing,2002; unspun wool; dimensions variable.

Works by C6sar Paternosto The Earth/Nature - Untitled., 1963; gouache on paper, ll

l/2 x7 1/4 in.

- Untitled. (from "Adobe" series),1979;acrylic emulsion/marble powder on paper; 9 l/2 x9 \/2 in. - Untitled, 1997; acrylic emulsion and tempera on paper; I I 1/4 x 11 in. - Untitled (from "Surcos" series), 1996; acrylic emulsion on paper; 11 ll2 x 1l l/4 in. Chromatic Constellation - M"rry Go Round, 1965; tempera and collage on paper; 7 x7 l/4 in. - Untitled (from "Magic Balloons" series), 1964; collage and tempera on paper; 12 x 7 3/4 in. - Untitled (from "Magic Balloons" series), 1964; collage and tempera on paperi 9 x 6 I /2 in. - l n f i n i t o , 1 9 6 5 ; te m p e r ao n p a p e r ; 7 5 1 8x9 1 /2 in . C ol l ecti on C eci l i a Mcufra. Untitled. (Orph;c), I 965; tempera on paper; 7 3/4 x 3 718 in. Lateral/Oblique Vision - U n t i t l e d ( s k etch fo r " Ob liq u e Visio n " se r ie s) , 1 9 6 9; crayononpaper; 8112x95/8i n. - U n t i t l e d ( s k etch fo r " Ob liq u e Visio n " se r ie s) , 1 9 6 9; crayononpaper; 81l 2x95l 8i n. - U n t i t l e d ( s k etch fo r " Ob liq u e Visio n " se r ie s) , 1 9 6 9; crayononpaper; 8l /2x9518i n. - Feliz Naridad, 1974; acrylic emulsion on folded paper; 10 ll2 x 4 1/2 in. Lateral Vision/The Systemic - 1.2.1.2, 1972; acrylic emulsion on paper; 18 7/8 x24 in. - Double Sequence Spectrum; 1972; acrylic emulsion on paper; 18 7/8 x 24 in. - Sequential, 1972; acrylic emulsion on paper; 18 718 x 24 in. Hilos de agua New York: Fold Back.Series,I97l; colored pencil, ink, and collage on paper;22 x 30 in. Collection Jack S. Blanton Museum, University of Texas,Austin. B u e n o sA i r e s Hilos de agua #9, 1997; watercolor pencil on paper; I I 1/8 x I I in. Hilos de agua #l l, 1997; watercolor pencil on paper; I I 1/8 x I I in. The Music Hilos de agua (98.18), 1998; watercolor pencil on paper; 22 x 22 in. Hilos de agua (98.24), 1998; watercolor pencil on paper; 22 x 22 3/8 in. The Rainbow/MojScar Murxis Acra Rainbow, #2, 2OOO;watercolor pencil and gessoon paper; 22 3/8 x 22 in. Murxis Acra Rainbow, Variation l, 2000; watercolor pencil on paper; 8 x 8 in. Murxis Acra Rainbow, Variation 2,2000; watercolor pencil on paper; 8 x 8 in. M u r x i s A c r a B a in b o w,Va ia tio n 3 ,2 0 0 0 ;wa te r co lorpenci l onpaper; 8 l /8x7

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M u r x i s A c r a R a in b a r ,Va r ia tio n 4 ,2 0 0 0 ;wa te r co lorpenci l onpaper; 8l /8x7718i n. Murxis Acra Rainbow, Variation 5, 2000; watercolor pencil on paper; 8 x 8 in. MurxisAcra Rainbow,Variation 8, 2000; watercolor pencil on paper; 8 l/4 x 8 in. Murxis Acra Bainbaw, Variation 9,2000; watercolor pencil on paper; 8 l/4 x7 7/8 in The Rainbow/Springs Variationon Spectrum Colors, #1,2002; watercolor pencil on paper; I I x I I in Variationon Spectrutn Colors, #2,2002; watercolor pencil on paper; I I l/4 x I I in. Variation on Spectrum Colors, #3,2002; watercolor pencil on paper; I I x I I in. Wall Installation Wall lnstallation (Elband o ne6n),2002; watercolor pencil on folded paper mounted on the wall; 80 x 56 in.


DIS SOLVING : threads of uater and light and its accompanying publication were made possible, in part, through the support of the LEF Foundation and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Additional support was provided through public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Challenge Program. The 20O2-2003 season of the Drawing Papersis made possible, in part, by a contribution from Ellen Gallagher. This is number 34 of the Drawing Papers,a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center's exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. The Drauing Papers publications series is printed on Monadnock Dulcet 100# Smooth Text and 80# Dulcet Smooth Cover

Catherine deZngher Executite Director George Negroponte President Board of Directors Dita Amory Chair Frances Beatty Adler - Melva Bucksbaum - James M. Clark - Frances Dittmer Colin Eisler - Elizabeth Factor - Bruce W. Ferguson - Abby Leigh William S. Lieberman - Michael Lynne - Iris Marden - Elizabeth Rohatyn* Eric C . Rudin - Dr. Allen Lee Sessoms - Jeanne C. Thayert - Andrea Woodner

*Emeita

Drawing Center Publications Adam Lehner, Executive Editor Luc Derycke, Designer Ann Tarantino, Coordinatot The Drawing Center 35 Wooster Street N e w Y o rk, NY 1 0 0 1 3 Tel: 212-219-2166 F a x : 2 1 2- 9 6 6 - 2 9 76 www. drawingcenter. org @ 2002 The Drawing Center


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DIS SOLVING: threads of water and light