Left: Carlos Rojas, Untitled 4, “America Cruzados” series, 1988. Mixed media on canvas, 31 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches. Right: Carlos Rojas, Head, “Papeles Pegados” series, ca 1959–60. Collage on wood, 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches. Images courtesy of Nohra Haime Gallery.
A Retrospective Exhibition
April 28–June 20, 2015
Opening: Wednesday, April 29, 6–8pm
Nohra Haime Gallery
730 Fifth Avenue ste 701
New York, NY 10019
T +212 888 3550
“When I see a leaf, I first perceive a living being, a natural organic element. And I need to know the reason for this leaf. It is then when I contain the leaf within the bounds of a circle, and I find the oval, the pentagon, the hexagon…That is why I love plants; because they transmit all the science that they entail, and at the same time, I find in them a certain spiritual order.”
Major Colombian artist Carlos Rojas was born in 1933 in Facatativá, Colombia. The son of a farmer, he was raised in the countryside with an early entry to seminary. Frustrated by the lack of resolution in his philosophical and existential questions, he quickly abandoned the school and left for Bogotá where he finished his high school degree. There his interest in the arts blossomed, and Rojas began drawing birds and other animals he saw during his visits to Bogotá’s Museum of Natural History. Moving on to Art and Architecture, he soon travelled to Rome and specialized in Fine Arts and Design. It was Italy that drew him to History, with the many sights of roman ruins and architectural remains of the great empire. He learned about Avant-Garde, Bauhaus and Minimalism travelling through Europe, and when he reached the United States, he was introduced to American Cubism and Pop Art. By the age of 25, he represented Colombia in both the Venice and Mexico Biennial of 1958. After his travels, Rojas moved back to Bogotá. He died in 1997, leaving behind an artistic legacy that is still acclaimed, studied and collected across the world.
Rojas’ first retrospective exhibition in New York will take place at the Nohra Haime Gallery. Considered one of the most representative Colombian artists of the 20th century, his constructive strength and curiosity in nature’s mechanisms are celebrated in this striking exhibition. Carlos Rojas: A Retrospective Exhibition assembles Rojas’ transcendental artistic essence through a journey of his work, his life, and his spirit.
The exhibition is structured into six major blocks that formulate the road map of Rojas’ artistic career. It opens with the Dibujos de Naturaleza (Nature Drawings), representing the inception of his appreciation for art, starting with a figurative perspective that nears the realms of scientific research and connects to his first studies in Architecture at the University of Bogotá. Throughout his career, he never abandoned the pleasure of pencil lines flying on the white paper, as we can see in Flor (Flower), 1994.
In the late ’50s, we see the results of Synthetic and new American cubism influences. “Papeles Pegados” (Glued Papers) are collages that marked the beginning of his aesthetical and intellectual approach to cubism, with a deep historical outlook that was completed by his personal view. In this series, the use of non-traditional materials was a manifestation of his growing interest in textures, which would be completed in the ’60s and ’70s. The first cut-outs of squared pieces of fabric, oilcloth and plastic are a premonition of what would become the horizontal and vertical lines of his constructive speech.
During his pursuit of knowledge in natural forms and structures, and of things that move one’s spirit, Rojas adopted geometry as his language. By the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ingeniería de la Visión (Vision Engineering) opened the path to a new construction that analyzed the alteration of a normal frontal vision, and acquired a mathematical quality that would be preserved in his work forever. The neoplastic vision of Mondrian and De Stijl that he saw in Europe is in the roots of this pure abstraction. At the same time, and throughout the ’70s, Pueblos (Villages) constituted an advance in the flat orthogonal lines of Ingeniería de la Visión, digging deeper into the natural world’s entities and reducing them to the most protogenic essence of things. In his most rational period, the perpendicularity of his first collages was developed through mathematical functions, calculus and linear algebra.
Finally, “Cruzados” (Crossed) and “Horizontes” (Horizons) followed a similar systematization when Rojas, with a polished conceptual language in his head and a personal modus operandi in his hand, theorized about abstraction and nature on the canvas. In Rojas’s words, “To me, abstraction is part of the very own nature in which it exists…To me, abstraction is the simplification of elements from a complete naturalistic complex.” Both series are part of an American period resulting from a trip to Mexico in the ’60s that changed his vision about the environment, the country and the land. In this period, he analyzed with an audacious perspective the history of South America, specifically the Andean culture. The conjunction of this culture with his interest in the simultaneous path of the past, present and future, finds its depiction in the crossing lines of the canvas projected before our eyes, intertwined in a way that seems infinite. In Sin Título (1988), he uses horizontal and vertical lines to relay his perception of the world as a bi-dimensional structure, an arrangement that defines the “Cruzados” series. “Horizontes” also belongs to the American period, but is centered in the exploration of color through the landscape and fabrics of the Andean region. Works such as Sin Título, Serie Americas, and “Horizontes“ are represented in a purely horizontal vision that metaphorically describe gaps in the world and our system.
If Carlos Rojas’ decades of work have one common nexus, it is the absolute modernity in his prediction of the coming balance of spiritual and worldly elements, and of conceptual and executional worries. A new order in American art is detected in his pursue of perfection, of understanding the extraordinary cosmos. Seeking completeness, he utilized mathematics, art, philosophy, religion, history and landscape to create a spiritual and aesthetical state that gave form to his work. “This is what I call religion: to fight for a purpose, even if the purpose does not exist, even if one knows that it does not exist. What I intend with that absolute perfection is the order par excellence, I don’t care if it exists or not. The sole fact of fighting for it is, in itself, perfection” (Carlos Rojas, 1933–97).