Los Angeles

Manuel Felguerez

Mex-art International

Constructivism, like its International-Style architectural cousin, can easily degenerate into an inert sterility. The utopian dream of sparkling clarity in spatial organization for the creation of liberating environments has emerged, as often as not, as restrictive containment, spit and polish for the eye and brain.

Manuel Felguerez’ sculpture is firmly lodged in the constructivist tradition. Much of the work on view is the result of a collaboration in 1976 at Harvard University with Mayer Sasson, an electrical engineer. They developed a mathematical model from eight basic shapes in the artist’s previous work and then translated it into a computer program. The computer generated drawings “in the style of Felguérez” which the artist then refined as compositional blueprints for paintings and sculpture. Works like The Center of the Shapes are three-dimensional outgrowths of two-dimensional oil paintings, themselves elaborations of the computer drawings. Just as each form in the computer drawing is the point of departure for another form—space generating space in true constructivist manner—the complete form of the drawing generates the form of the painting which generates the form of the sculpture.

The sculptures are characterized by their closed structure, an envelope of space within which the forms conduct an internal dialogue: circle to triangle, plane to volume, arc to point, and so on. Each sculpture, as a whole, likewise relates to its two-dimensional counterpart. The problem with all this is that we are left out of that dialogue, passive listeners to what is by now a conversation we’ve heard a hundred times.

Felguérez’ art developed in the ’50s and ’60s in conscious opposition to the social realism of the Mexican muralists, somewhat the reverse of Russian Constructivism’s banishing of, and eventual replacement by, social realism. The polemics of Orozco and Rivera degenerated into an academic nationalism. Unfortunately, Felguérez has chosen to replace it with an academic internationalism.

Christopher Knight