Catalina Chervin
Hutchinson Modern & Contemporary

Alberto Barral

ArtNexus 2022

Catalina Chervin´s exhibition at Hutchinson Modern & Contemporary is a refreshing and new addition to the numerous exhibitions of high quality contemporary art that have been opening up at an accelerated rate since the beginning of the summer, which was the time when New York city was finally able to make a comeback in opening more spaces to art viewing after the pandemic restrictions.

As if were a coordinated effort, New York galleries have been exhibiting important and exciting work to lure back the regular traffic of the art world which had been missing from the cultural landscape since last year, when most of the important collectors disappeared from the city and created a relocation pattern. Divided between the summer in the Hamptons and Palm Beach in the Winter, the art scene underwent a high degree of migration and the most important galleries in the city were literally obliged to open temporary spaces in both places to be in contact with their clientele during what can best be described as the pandemic diaspora.

The artist´s work could not have been more poignant within the context of the elegiac mood of the pandemic itself; this Argentinian artist has a unique relationship to drawing and printmaking that recalls the best efforts of traditional Chinese and Japanese black and White landscape painting, though most of the work in the exhibit were abstractions, the treatment of details and the inclusion of a landscape series revealed the attention paid to shadowing and texture that make the Works remarkable. It was particularly present in the large drawing in the first viewing room at the gallery, where Untitled (Street Art Series), 2014-16 makes a striking impression of the viewer. The layers of black ink and charcoal spread over two panels, each one looking like a photo taken from a plane at great distance of terrain that uncovers the ruins still buried underground of a past civilization. The layering of links and charcoal in some pieces also recall the unearthing of shapes that takes place in archeological excavation sites.
Another piece in the exhibit, Portrait II, displays a figure emerging from the shadows, not quite revealed, while the one designated as Portrait I can be interpreted as a whirl wing of desert sand about to take from, both portraits pertain to the subject of what´s left behind, the remains of another object, or design, that is a particular signifier that informs Chervin´s work. Her creations give the impression of some tracks/tracings that have been left engraved o drawn, traces of what was once and is now no more or indications of something coming into the possible formulation of a shape from a background of perfectly controlled chaotic energy.

Her use of ink is masterly, and the delicacy of the work is comparable to the most intricate and detailed 19th century Japanese woodcuts. The artist has used these techniques to demonstrate her struggles to come to terms with her memories of migration and displacement. Her work reflects the idea of  incompleteness and the unfinished, as well fissured and broken materials, are key components of her practice. Also, the resemblance of some markings and stains in her drawings are reminiscent of the evanescence of memory, and that even if recorded, memories can be faulty of incomplete, due to the circumstances of forced displacement which can be traumatizing and less likely to be accurately evoked or recorded.

Chervin´s work, though largely abstract, nevertheless addresses the issues of an unsecured sense of history that so strongly refers to the memory loss of entire cultures in the pat turbulent century, a process which has continued worsening in the present one, as more nations were affected by emigration, repatriation, and displacement nations were affected by emigration, repatriation, and displacement due to wars, famine, and economic collapse. A work on paper, Untitled (Apocalypse series), 2003 is a good example of this, as a rendition of an abstracted explosion/implosion process. Another piece reflecting the elegiac atmosphere that is characteristic of this series is Untitled (Portfolio Apocalipsis), 2004.

In yet another series. Untitled IV (Series of Blots), 2018 the composition features a series of walnut ink blots, that look blurred and cream colored, and which appear off center on hand made paper, on top of charcoal designs that reminded me of Marlene Dumas gray tones of some of her Works on paper, and how in both cases it translates as melancholic yet expressive desolation and alienation.

In more lyrical mode, her Canto Portfolio, which are prints in editions of 20, was exhibited with three pieces: Song 1 (Portfolio Canto), 2010 had the striking effect of a geyser or fountain emerging from the ground, Song 2 (Portfolio Canto), 2010 which looked like a sea scape from the shore and Song 3, 2010 depicting a series of islands scattered in a lake/sea. The three prints show the artist´s incredible attention to her shading and highlighting techniques. Her successful meandering between abstraction and every evocative realities affirm in the viewer new impressions on impermanence, reminiscence and the making of art for our time.






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