January 31, 2009
Fanny Sanín - latincollector
By AGNES BERECZ - During the period covered in “Chromatic Journey, 1965-2007,” Fanny Sanín’s small but densely packed solo exhibition, Sanín moved from her native Colombia to New York, where she has been based since 1971, and made the transition from gestural to geometric abstraction. A large-scale painting of 1966 (Oil No. 8), with solid zones of subdued colors and amorphous areas of washed-out primaries, is evidence of the powerful merging of Abstract Expressionism and European Informal characteristics of Sanín’s early work. In 1968, she began a series of hard-edge canvases, embracing the discipline of geometric abstraction at the moment when its heroic years came to a close in Latin America. In doing so, she refused to renounce this supposedly universalist idiom and the political utopianism associated with it, while also turning her attention to varieties of contemporary hard-edge painting in the U.S.
In Acrylic No. 7 (1970), dynamic vertical stripes painted in greens, chocolate browns, orange and taupe create a sense of monumentality that is enhanced by the painting’s flatness and feeling of lateral extension. Its precise, apparently seamless execution, achieved by using tape and eliminating traces of brushstrokes, recalls works by Ellsworth Kelly and Gene Davis as well as the products of postwar industrial design. Sanín produced canvases increasingly complex in organization, each preceded by scaled-down preliminary studies. In the ‘70s, she began to divide the color planes into overlapping rectangles and lines and, utilizing a central, vertical axis, mirrored the opposing sides of the painting to create bilateral symmetry. Diagonals appeared in her carefully balanced compositions from the late ‘80s on.
Sanín achieves a precarious stability in which an initial perception of order is disrupted by sensorial glitches brought about by the play of color. In Acrylic No. 3 (1993), the structural balance of intersecting planes is broken up by contrasts of charcoal, red and black, as well as by subtle gradations of modulated colors. In Acrylic No. 2 (2005), broad surfaces and vibrating lines in primary colors are set against rectangles of charcoal and black. Both paintings produce flickering retinal sensations, temporarily disorienting the spectator, and eroding and splitting the architectural clarity of the whole. Sanín’s work, a journey and performance of continuously displaces chroma, proves that when color is in play, no command of symmetry can secure a painting’s structural equilibrium.