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RAQUEL FORNER
When considering 20th Century painting in Argentina, the name of Raquel Forner unequivocally comes to mind. A pioneer in the art of painting, Forner transforms from figurative into abstract, giving new impetus and significance to both the formal and thematic content of her work, throughout her entire life. Born in Buenos Aires in 1902, she studied at the National Fine Arts Academy where Forner graduated as an Art teacher in 1922. She then traveled to Europe towards the end of the 1920s to continue with her education in the arts visiting different places and museums and when in Paris, she began taking lessons with Othon Friesz. Forner’s first paintings pursue the search for an identity of her own, driving her to experiment in the artistic vanguards of her time. They reveal the influence –inevitable in any American artist in those days- of expressionist drawing, the color of the fauves, certain guidelines inherent in Cezanne’s cubism and subsequently, the aura of the surrealist imagery, something that will impregnate her work throughout most part of her career. The intrinsic, undeniably personal fantasy in Raquel Forner’s painting is strongly based on the expression of color, inexhaustible in a theme uncompromising with her day and age. Her artistic conscience is constantly pounded by the horror of war –world wars, the Spanish civil war- which have left their mark in works such as “Destino” (Destiny), “La Victoria” (Victory), or “Exodo” (Exodus) belonging to her “De España” (From Spain) series (1937/1939) and “El Drama” (Drama) (1937/1949), where the use of allegory blends in with her own translation of the nightmares that spring from her particular surrealist conception. In the early 1950s, Forner’s visual creation engages in the language of informalism and the neo-figurative, gradually leaving behind the expressive drama of her previous work which is replaced by a synthesis where color maintains its vivid qualities without the dramatic approach of her earlier composition. Paintings like “Dialogo” (Dialogue) 1951 and “La Marcha” (The March) 1954 mark the changes taking place in her figurative work, stripped more and more of its attributes to the point where they become works like “Fin-Principio” (End-Beginning) 1957, “Satelites” (Satellites) 1958 or “Conjuncion” (Conjunction) 1959 where the human figure becomes an almost abstract structure, suggested in techniques that stem from informalism and an expressionism tempered by the artist’s natural subtlety. After 1957, the artist takes a special interest in space, the cosmos and astral creatures, to become the leit motiv of her paintings until the end of her life. In those days, the world was witnessing the beginning of the space age, satellites and rockets and although Forner’s pictorial vision literally transcended the earthly matters, she herself had embarked on a personal conquest of a poetic space, so fantastic and the vehicle for a more humanist message. Titles like “Luna” (The Moon) 1960, ‘Torre de astroseres’ (Tower of Astral Beings) 1960, “Lucha de astroseres” (Struggle of Astral Beings) 1960, “Rapto de luna” (Fit of the Moon) 1962, ‘Astronauta con piedra lunar’ ( Astronaut with lunar stone) (1966), ‘Astronauta laberinto’ (Astronaut Laberynth) (1968) o ‘Lunautas homenaje’ (Homage Lunarauts), welcome the arrival a new approach reflected not only by the theme it addresses but by her disposition of space and her use of color. The artist proposes a new pictorial code using blacks, grays and whites to represent what is relative to the earth and blue, red and yellow to illustrate astral creatures and the space beyond. Forner’s idea of the cosmos does not limit itself, as we said, to its merely formal aspects. In her ethical argumentation, these astral beings undergo a constant process of mutation that she understands as the evolution of a new type of man. We cannot deny that by addressing this matter, the artist sheds light on a new genre that science fiction will exploit on a more popular level in cinematographic and TV formats therefore it is comprehensible to imagine the bewilderment amongst the critics generated by work that was as innovative in its art form as I was in its theme. When referring to this particular aspect of her painting, in 1967, Raquel Forner wrote: “The work that I have created marks a new boost, a liberation, a definition as far as the image is concerned. It makes me happy to feel the need to redefine form, to work with the figurative in a new light and with a different concept once more. If I am able to work for a few more years, I believe that my art will remain, I feel that there is still much for me to say, that I can move forward, that I am still not there yet.” In fact, in her later work, to her death in 1988, she portrays the unceasing explosion of prolific galaxies mutating in color and matter. Such is the case of “El Encuentro” (The Encounter) 1975, ‘Terráqueos en marcha‘ (1977), “Gestacion del hombre nuevo’ ‘Gestation of the New Man (1980), or ‘Astroser de la revelación’ (Astral Being of the Revelation” (1984). We could conclude by saying that the ethic and esthetic path covered in the work of Raquel Forner stems from her experience here on earth and that, in the face of the disappointment it provokes, it moves and searches for a subjective mythology which she captures in a cosmos inhabited by mutating astral beings that bear the stigma of evolution and change.