«2nd Floor Gallery
December 4 – January 29 2014
Carlos Rojas was a collector and insatiably curious man. His art, based to a large extent on scientific models, aims to show an approximation of the deepest exploration of human beings through reason and feeling. Carlos Rojas’ creative processes formed an abstract artistic project. Now he is considered to be one of the biggest representatives of geometry and abstractionism in Colombia.
With clear influences from Picasso, Klee, Mondrian and Van Doesburg, among others, Rojas collects and shares ideas about reduction of objects through abstraction of the form. His art is the result of technical developments linked to experiences in the places he lived in, passed through and tried to understand.
Carlos Rojas’ artwork began with nature drawings when he was a young student in the Augustinian priest seminary. As he himself would say,
«…I always saw the comprehensive foundations of everything in nature.» Drawings of birds, faces, leaves, flowers and body parts were the start of his exploration of shapes, their internal structures, relations between their parts and geometric proportions.
His first approaches to formal art, as he called it, were at the end of the fifties, with the Papeles Pegados series in which he worked with a conception of space inherited from American Cubism, where he explored the fragmentation and discontinuity of lines. For this period, the artist used materials such as oilcloth, plastic and colored paper. Later, Rojas worked on what was his strangest series throughout his art: Mujeres en Faja, defined by the incorporation of day-to-day objects, which had a big influence from pop art.
Later, in the sixties, Rojas traveled to Europe, an experience that filled him with ideas of the Bauhaus school, which strengthened with rise of minimalism. Here, mathematics and geometry are the pillar of his artwork, in which he shows the Ingeniería de la Visión series comprised of the Signos y Señales and Pueblos series. This was the most rational artwork stage, predominantly geometrical with a large inclination toward the square format, monochrome and architecture.
Around the seventies, in a journey to Mexico, his art was impregnated with questioning related to his vision of the environment, the country and American land, thus starting the Americas period, more specifically the Horizontes and Cruzados series.
The Horizontes series is about the elements that form a landscape. It is the exploration of color based on the cross-cutting nature of the outlook. In it, Rojas talks about the color of the fabrics and weaving of Andean people. This series is more focused on the metaphysical than on the material. While in the Cruzados series, Rojas alludes to the figure of the cross, a sign that appears from his first abstract artwork and that is born out of handling life in two dimensions, vertical and horizontal.
In the eighties, he starts to develop the Dorado series, where the conceptual structure of Pre-Colombian shapes (horizontal and vertical) is the starting point for this development. In Dorado, history is revisited, exploring what the conquest represented and what America meant to the Spanish. In this series, religious understanding continues to be an essential point, exploring the sacred through the use of gold color.
Simultaneously, the material nature that is gradually accumulated in the Dorado series leads to the start of Mater Materia, where Rojas makes reference to destruction and which he chooses and polishes as the artwork is conceived. His interest in formal perfection disappears.
In the middle of the eighties, Rojas‘ interest in world events and particularly his country’s events increases. In this period, the Mutantes series is born, where the artist uses materials associated with poverty and misery to carry out his artwork. Here you can feel the artist’s passion for space and constructive processes.
In the nineties, Rojas makes what would be his last series known, Por Pintar. In this series, the artist reviews the pure painting concept. All of the artist’s creative moments are summarized in this series, with the Cruzados and Mater Materia series having a particular influence. This series talks about pain and tragedy, as well as everything there is to be done. It is his most intimate series, as it expresses the great joys and great pain.
Carlos Rojas‘ artwork is one of the most convincing demonstrations of how art can reveal life and express its meaning, elevating the experience to a new level of abstraction. It is artwork with a creative nature that consists of transforming the biggest experience as possible into consciousness. “… For me, abstraction is the simplification of elements from a completely naturalist complex.” Rojas, “Árbol, palito con bolita” (Tree: A Stick with a Circle) in La Prensa, January 1989.
Carlos Rojas is one of the central figures of abstract artistic creation in Colombia and one of the artists who defined the course of abstract art in Latin America. Although he studied Architecture at the Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá and Arts at the School of Fine Arts in Bogota and Rome, it can be said that he is self-taught in the sense that he preferred freedom over the diplomas to structure his own path and language. Consequently, he travelled around the world in search of nourishment for his very different passions, which include the most diverse expressions of visual arts, music, architecture, handicrafts, design, technology and nature, as well as mystical expressions (which included science and mathematics). For the same reasons, this artist’s proposal cannot be described with more than his name, and to read it, it is necessary to know the language that he built, step by step, in the different stages of his creative history. These series include Papeles Pegados, Mujeres en Faja, Ingeniería de la Visión, Pueblos, Horizontes, Cruzados, Dorado, Mater Materia, Mutantes and his last series Por Pintar. On this occasion, Galería el Museo will continue with the Retrospective that opened in mid-October in a shortened form in the second floor of the gallery, paying tribute to this great artist who left an important legacy with his artwork which definitively contributed to the formation of national art history.
Rojas was chosen to represent Colombia in several international art biennales, highlighting the following: the Venice Biennale, Italy, in 1957 and 1958, the International Biennale of Mexico in 1958, the 1st Biennale of Quito in 1968, and the 13th International Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil in 1975, where he won one of the ten international mentions. He participated in the Venice Biennale again in 1982 and 1990. Later, in 1991, he once again participated in the Sao Paulo Biennale.
These exhibition will be open to the public until January 29, 2015 in the Galería El Museo building: Calle 81 No. 11 – 41. Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and Saturdays from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, all day. Free admission.
At the end of the fifties, Rojas starts his Papeles Pegados series, in which he works with a concept of space inherited from Cubism, ignoring the formal codes of perspective and breaking up the single concept of space. The sense of time in these pieces of art is characteristic of a collage. He works on fragmentation and uses materials such as oilcloth for tablecloths, adhesive plastic and colored paper.
With a marked pop character, Mujeres en Faja is defined by the incorporation of daily objects (women’s underwear), as well as the use of vivid and plain colors, originating in commercial art. “In Mujeres en Faja, what was important to me was not the topic itself, but the relationship between the parts that comprise a whole, that is to say, the projected space of a body. These women, who can be so expressive, they manage geometry….”
“One day, I suddenly discovered that when my mother gets dressed, she uses a corset. Those garments and bras with terrible shapes that in some way, for me evoked horse tack: cinches, horse blankets, buckles […]”
In the sixties, the disappearance of curved lines and the appearance of the squared form start the Ingeniería de la Visión period, which is founded in geometry and mathematics. This period, which is comprised of the Signos y Señales and Pueblos series, shows Rojas’ investigation of space and perfection in the proportion of opposites. This series makes way for monochrome artwork, paying more attention to geometric shapes. «Real art is and has been pure knowledge. It breaks away from science as art and as applied knowledge.
This series talks about generic and mathematical concepts after a process in which visual organization of the surrounding world radically intervenes. Horizontes is an explosion of color, which is nourished by the deepest roots of popular culture in the Americas, its objects and indigenous textiles, as well as its geography, the Andean landscape.
«The colors obey emotional states rather than physical realities. I mean, if I’m talking about landscape – place, I’m proposing a completely personal phenomenon regarding the temperature, the season; a series of variables that comprise the landscape.»
In this series, Rojas alludes to separate topics in themselves, at temporal and conceptual levels. The inclination towards the cross starts to gain strength, a symbol that appears from his first abstract artwork and with a meaning that refers to death, the afterlife and religion. The latter having particular importance in all of his artwork. Throughout this series, you can see his continuous interest in world of textiles and landscape, which is now urban, arising from his trip to New York in the seventies. “Cruzados is partly born from the relation of the vertical and horizontal. That is to say, the horizon of the land and the vertical of man, of the overwhelming spirit of a vertical self. On the other hand, it arose from managing life in two opposite directions: the pursuit and denial of a goal.»
In El Dorado, the religious concept continues to be a central point. The topic of his exploration is sacred, through insistence on color. In this series, Rojas refers to the indigenous world of the South of the continent and the American Baroque through the use of metallic color schemes. In this series, his concept of abstraction changes, straight lines disappear and lines become a remnant, a gesture.
«What I’ve proposed is to establish this search of El Dorado as a cultural event in Latin America. It is no longer Europe that discovers America (the discovery), it consisted of closing the doors on its own culture. The myth of El Dorado was simply an expression of this need to have greater possession of America: the intellectual power, the power of gold, to mark power over the world, but the American man is in search of his roots and differences.»
In Mater Materia, destruction becomes the central concept of the investigation. In this way, the interest in formal perfection disappears and social problems such as the breakdown of cities, AIDS and homosexual persecution are the topics this body of work will revolve around. Marked textures and elements foreign to painting appear in this artwork, giving the notion of process, transformation, destruction and reconstruction.
«I started to work with mud, because it was water, and I approached another matter, which also coincided with the tragedy of Armero, which was so violent it wounded my spirit. With my first mud paintings, the texture started to appear.
From the middle of the eighties, Rojas’ interest in the events of the contemporary world and especially in the country’s events increases. In this stage, you can see his enormous concern with the country’s political and social situation, using materials that evoke problems of violence, exile, abandonment and poverty.
«Being part of the essential element of man’s existence, which is his own inner and physical nature. These two combinations produce abstraction and the concrete in the art of human production. So, I think that in this work, you are going to find more psychological and mental, almost metaphysical, associations with nature, with an essential geometric idea.»
This series is not self-reflexive, it does not incorporate collage, it does not question. Por Pintar is what is called the return to the pure painting concept. It can be said that this series is the synthesis of two periods: Cruzados and Mater Materia. For Rojas, this series talks about the great joys and great pains and signifies everything that needs to be done. It is essentially playing with the extremes, the material and the sublime, the intimate and the public.
«I refer to the act of painting, trying to find values in traditional artwork. But I think that they are not going to be so consistent – nowadays- as the same act of intelligence facing the problems in which it exists.»