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Biography

MANUEL ESPINOSA  (1912-2006, Argentina)

"The only realist painting is, for me, the one that searches to affirm its material reality before anything else..."

Although known today for his participation in the Asociación de Arte Concreto-Invención, Manuel Espinosa (1912-2006) was an established artist in Buenos Aires several years before the group was formed. His first solo exhibition, held in 1940 at the Teatro del Pueblo, included oil paintings and pastels featuring a mélange of surreal symbols and figures such as mannequins, musical instruments, mechanical appliances, and birds. But Espinosa’s artistic trajectory changed dramatically in 1943. That year, he visited Montevideo and met Joaquín Torres-García, who inscribed a copy of his book La ciudad sin nombre for him. Within a year, Espinosa had moved away from his surrealist compositions, and he began making paintings and works on paper marked by spare outlines of recognizable shapes. Art critic Julio Payró described the works as having a note of “mystery or mocking wit in…fresh and chromatically seductive compositions…”

In the early 1940s, Espinosa befriended artist, designer, and theorist Tomás Maldonado. Tapping into international concrete art movements as well as the non-representational movements centered in Buenos Aires, Espinosa and Maldonado, along with Alfredo Hlito and Raúl Lozza, founded the Asociación de Arte Concreto-Invención in 1945. Their work broke entirely from figurative traditions, focusing instead upon geometry and color studies. “The artistic era of the representational fiction has reached its end,” they proclaimed in a 1946 manifesto. After the group dissolved in 1949, Espinosa traveled often to Europe, where he met members of the De Stijl movement and artists in the Italian groups Movimento di Arte Concreta and Forma. In the 1960s and 1970s, Espinosa arranged squares and circles in serial patterns in his paintings and drawings. These variations investigate subtle effects of space and color, and explore optical sensations of depth and movement. In these works, Espinosa embraced an idea proposed by Swiss architect Max Bill, who believed that the practice of creating variations upon a theme could offer a systematic and precise understanding of a particular form.

Music and literature were important subjects for Espinosa throughout his career, but in the late 1960s and 1970s he titled several of his works in homage to specific composers and writers. Espinosa’s painting titled Gnossionnes III (1973) takes its title from a series of piano pieces by Erik Satie, who coined the term “gnossionne” to describe a new musical form that broke from established structures such as a piano prelude or sonata. Espinosa was fascinated by the rhythmic simplicity and poetic nature of Satie’s work. In other paintings, Espinosa makes more oblique references; for a 1977 exhibition, he titled his paintings after James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. For example, Dublin, 16 de junio de 1904 (1977) refers to the day the novel takes place. Espinosa was drawn to Joyce’s use of language, which resonated with the artist’s method of structuring his complex compositions around seemingly simple pictorial elements. Writing about Espinosa in 1974, art critic Marta Traba described him as “a man who, with no exhibitionism, is capable of making silences have a glowing intensity.”

Quote

"The only realist painting is, for me, the one that searches to affirm its material reality before anything else..."

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2018    
Manuel Espinosa, Black and White: Works on Paper from the 1970s, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK 
Manuel Espinosa, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK

2015    
Manuel Espinosa, Luz, Color y Movimiento, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Salta, Argetina; Museo Emilio Caraffa, Córdoba, Spain 

2014    
Manuel Espinosa: Light, Colour and Vibration, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, UK

2013    
Manuel Espinosa: Geometría en Movimiento, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires (MACBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
Manuel Espinosa: Paintings and Works on Paper, 1960s and 1970s, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA

2010      
Manuel Espinosa: Drawings and Paintings, 1950s–1970s, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA

2009      
Espinosa, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén, Argentina

2003      
Manuel Espinosa: Anthology on Paper, Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina

2001      
Manuel Espinosa: Rosario Prize 2001, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes, Rosario, Argentina

1981      
Manuel Espinosa, Galería del Retiro, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1980    
Manuel Espinosa, National Arts Center, Ottawa, Canada; Robson Square Media Centre, Vancouver, Canada

1979    
Manuel Espinosa, Galería del Retiro, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Manuel Espinosa, Argentine Embassy, Montevideo, Uruguay

1977    
Manuel Espinosa, The National Gallery of Art, Lagos, Nigeria
Manuel Espinosa, Acrylic Paintings, Galería Vermeer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1975    
Manuel Espinosa. Centro de Artes y Letras, Liga de Fomento, Punta del Este, Uruguay

1974    
Manuel Espinosa, Paintings, Centro Venezolano-Argentino de Cooperación Cultural y Científico-Tecnológica, Caracas, Venezuela
Manuel Espinosa, Galería Carmen Waugh, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
Manuel Espinosa, Galería Contemporánea, Montevideo, Uruguay

1972    
Manuel Espinosa. Buenos Aires, Galería Carmen Waugh, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Oils by Manuel Espinosa, Galería Quinta Dimensión, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1971    
Manuel Espinosa, Galería del Plata, Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Manuel Espinosa, Paintings, Galería Austral, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1970    
Manuel Espinosa, Pyopen or 20 variations of the same theme, Galería Arte Nuevo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1969    
Manuel Espinosa, Paintings, Galería El Taller, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Manuel Espinosa, Galería Arte Nuevo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1959    
Espinosa, Galería Van Riel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

1940    
Manuel O. Espinosa, Teatro del Pueblo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Selected Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, USA

Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, Quito, Ecuador

Colección Cisneros, Caracas, Venezuela

Fondo Nacional de los Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber, Caracas, Venezuela

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Latinoamericano, La Plata, Argentina


Museo de Arte Moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Tigre, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Bellas Artes, Damasco, Siria

Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago, Chile

Museo Municipal de Arte Juan C. Castagnino, Mar del Plata, Argentina

Museo Municipal Eduardo Sívori, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Pettoruti, La Plata, Argentina

Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, USA

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Chicago, IL, USA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Houston, TX, USA

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, New York, NY, USA