Edward J. Sullivan (2020)

Toward the end of his life Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir stated that “black was the queen of all colors.” While there are few if any correlations between the art of Catalina Chervin and Renoir, their mutual dedication to black – the color itself and all it represents in our imaginations - is paramount for these artists. It also links them to a long history of preoccupation with the “expressiveness of black” that we may trace from Greek Black Figure vase painting in antiquity to the often harrowing imagery of German Expressionist monochrome prints or films in the twentieth century and beyond.

Black conjures up ideas of evil, death, nightmares, the night itself and final obliteration. Nonetheless, it also suggests the softness of the evening and the potential comforts of the end of time as we know it. While there are certainly
instances in the art of Catalina Chervin of the graphic line and evocations of worlds beyond our own paltry visión of the cosmos in which color (sometimes red) makes an incursion, it has for decades been her reliance on blackness that has dramatically informed her work. Chervin’s many series in which darkness is either obliquely evoked or directly suggested (such as the series “About the Darkness” from 1999 onward) imply a dedication to philosophical ruminations on the power of contrasts of light and dark (not only as colors but as forces of nature) that rule our collective consciousness. Many times we intuit that darkness itself is the compelling factor in Chervin’s aesthetic. The Works associated with such series as “Hallucinated Realities” and “About the Apocalypse” utilize combinations of calligraphic lines, deeply saturated charcoal or ink segments and patterns of black to carry through what might be called the artist’s “vocabulary of black.”

Catalina Chervin has created masterly suggestions of the aura of disquietude through her extraordinary manipulation of the “queen of colors.”


* Dr Edward J. Sullivan
is Professor of art history at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. His long career has included teaching, curating and writing about the arts of the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the author of some thirty books and book-length exhibition catalogues. The arts and visual cultures of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay are among the subjects that have most captured his attention throughout the years. He has written numerous essays and reviews of the work of Catalina Chervin.


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