(Argentinean, b. 1931)
Retrato a Mano/Discurso
Oil on canvas
78-1/4 x 54-3/4 inches (198.8 x 139.1 cm)
Signed lower left: Macció
Acquired by the present owner from the artist on September 20, 1975.
Museo Nacional de Bella Artes, Buenos Aires, 1974;
Galeria Victor Najmias, Buenos Aires, 1974;
Galeria Bonino, Buenos Aires, September 1975;
Museo de Arte Moderno/Bosque de Chapultepec/Instituto National de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, "El Gran Pintor Argentino Neofigurativismo," October-November 1976;
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, January 20 - February 27, 1977.
A self-taught, existentialist painter from Buenos Aires, Rómulo Macció helped pioneer the Nueva Figuración (New Figuration) movement popular in 1960s Argentina. His early career as a graphic designer and set decorator changed course in the mid 1950s, when he began experimenting with abstract painting, and again in 1959, after he viewed at the local Galería Witcomb gestural figure paintings by Luis Felipe Noé. Together with fellow Argentineans Jorge de la Vega and Ernesto Deira, Macció and Noé founded Otra Figuración (Another Figuration) which, influenced by the European CoBrA (Copenhagen-Brussels-Amsterdam) group, rejected pure abstraction in favor of distorted human and animal forms. Often compared to the post-World War II expressionists Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, and Antonio Saura, the Otra Figuración artists employed brilliant color, violent brushwork, and fragmented shapes in order to evoke man's psychological duress in a modern world. Indeed, central to Otra Figuración was the belief that chaos reigned supreme, particularly in a 1960s Argentina facing civil war after the deposing of President Juan Perón. As part of Otra Figuración, Macció participated in the Paris and Venice biennials of 1962 and in the 1964 Guggenheim International Exhibition in New York, and he won in 1963 the coveted First International Prize of Buenos Aires' Instituto Torcuato Di Tella.
Retrato a Mano/Discurso (Portrait by Hand/Discourse) exemplifies the Otra Figuración practice of underscoring existentialist content through technique and form. Here, Macció builds upon his Faces series, where totemic heads float on monochromatic fields, to image a full male figure seated frontally in a chair. Vigorous brushwork -- for example, in the scumbled blue background and in the black lines defining musculature -- connotes unrest or anxiety, while the omission of the figure's arms and the erasure of part of his face hint at disempowerment. Equally symbolic, the parallel black circles emanating from the figure's mouth -- a parody of the text-filled cartoon bubble -- emphasize the emptiness and futility of conversation, a primary mode of human connection. Macció's paintings, however, are not entirely bleak: with their vivid coloration and interlocking kinetic shapes, they encourage a reveling in both formal and social chaos.
Museums in Europe and in South and North America feature works by Macció, notably the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires; the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
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