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Raquel Forner: more than human

An exceptional Argentine artist, unique in its aesthetic and theme, radiographed the horrors and hopes of the twentieth century. “I need my painting to be a dramatic echo of the moment I live,” he said.

Art and Literature
Raquel Forner

Artists react in different ways to the world they live, work, dream. Truth of Perogrullo. Those who move eternity do not react, invent us.  Raquel Forner imagined again in symbols, allegories and expressionist gestures, in the spiritual depths of Humanity, a century of tears that portends our present. A world with a woman's victory. The avant-garde artist, an advanced woman, who manifested a future in community . Even with their terrors, still with light to come “I feel a world of metaphysical realities that escape my intelligence and I want to seize them with my painting, which I cannot express with images,” said the artist in her personal diary -  A world of magic and mystery that terrifies my soul and I want to capture it and free myself by my art.”  

“When I face a blank canvas, I start the wonderful adventure that is for me to create a work; I feel immensely happy and privileged”, appears on , and expresses the vital desire of the painter, who was born in Buenos Aires on April 22, 1902. Daughter of well-off Spanish parents, in adolescence she made her first trip to Spain, and is dazzled by the artists of the Golden Age. There he made his first drawings, which are recognized in the massive magazine El Hogar, and at the age of twenty he obtained the drawing faculty at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires.  He begins to relate to the Florida Group's avant-garde ideas and links with several artists and writers, including  Alberto Prebisc h and  Leopold Marechal .   He adds exhibitions in salons and galleries, such as the rupturist Müller, in a style close to the figurative cubism of Alfredo Guttero, for example “Head” (Forner-Bigatti Foundation. 1922) After an early recognition at the First University Hall of La Plata, the artist leaves to Paris in a aesthetic and experiential journey decisive for his career.  First because she would be part of the Paris Group, the only woman among future great artists, Lino Spilimbergo and Antonio Berni to name, who introduced the “return to order” in the local environment, a modern art that turned her eyes to the past with the teachings of the avant-garde, and valued a anti-academic orientation, which Forner would then translate in 1932 in the Free Courses of Plastic Art with Guttero, Pedro Domínguez Neira and her husband, the sculptor Alfredo Bigatti . He also attends the workshop of the former  Fauvist  Othon Friesz, as does Horacio Butler, who reorients the synthesis from classicism to cubism promoted by André Lothe —another of his first inspirers — in a less pragmatic way; but not forgetting the creation in the plastic fact, and which is not simply an equivalence of real forms.  Raquel lives in an interwar Paris that navigates myth and reality, multifaceted and multifaceted, a space without time, as would be his work.  

A Sanary, a French Mediterranean town where Alberto Morera and Butler live, in 1929 up Forner with his sister Josefina. There he would meet Bigatti and Marechal, who leaves a semblance of the group in their immortal novel “Adam Buenosayres”, and transpires “a state of permanent exaltation” The methodical chromatic contrasts, and the freedom of strokes acquired there by the artist, are reflected in “Tres mujeres de Tangier” (Forner-Bigatti Foundation. 1930), although criticism Maria Elena Babino points out, “Already in the early years in Buenos Aires, Forner's work is positioned within the renewal of the artistic language by assessing strictly plastic aspects such as are the color, the synthetic conception of forms and their independence from the external reference, or the compositional structure of the pictorial space as an autonomous reality in itself  

 On his return to the cultural boiling of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, pulled by authoritarians in power and left-wing intellectual groups that inflame magazines, coffees and gatherings, he exhibits “Presagio” (1931), a key piece in its production for its influence on his work until the end of the 1950s, kick-off of the famous series , “three women are witnesses and lucid protagonists of what will rush: their gestures compose the old icon of the emblem: “neither see, nor hear, nor speak”, which in the traditional knowledge of the East alluded to the secret of the sacred and that Forner transfigured the possibility of all language in the sign of a tragedy stunned. In his own words, Raquel wanted to protest “against the unleashed forces that nullify human expression. And, of course, the artistic one. Those forces which a mother does not even leave the body of her son on a black cloth” (La Nación, 18 —IV-1943) To reinforce the meaning of a prophecy that cannot be revealed, of a hidden catastrophe that is not to be avoided, a snake is tied to the necks of women and becomes the female vision of  Laocoonte  and her children. Towards the bottom, the fish of Salvation are sinking, the sea engulfs horses and temples, the light that envelops them is about to become extinct after the ominous humaredness of the volcano.  Once again the vision of art foreshadows the real with an incomprehensible precision for those who do not share the gift of sybyl, for others other than the senses and eyes of a woman”  said José Emilio Burucúa and Laura Malosetti Costa in the text of the exhibition” Iconography of women and feminine in Raquel Forner's work”, in the Jacques Martínez Contemporary Art Gallery, in the 1990s.

“I was always interested in human tragedy, quoted by Jorge López Anaya, “  The events that have filled our age with shadows became, insensibly, without proposing it, into the very blood of my painting,” said Forner, who participates in various anti-fascist forums of the thirties, including the left-wing magazine Conducta, where one of its greatest icons, death, appears in 1937. In parallel, he collaborates with the actions against the totalitarianisms of the magazine Sur de  Victoria Ocampo . Female figures will put the body to the destruction and fear of World War II.

Raquel Forner


 Of domination and liberation 

With “Women of the World” (Forner-Bigatti Foundation. 1938), presented with great repercussions in the Autumn Hall, “-represents all the desolation of the war -Spanish civil “, Forner would start from the series of Spain (1937-1939) and that of Drama (1939-1946) to Apocalypse (1955) and Pisces (1957), which all focus on  a humanist discourse of flesh and souls defeated by war crimes — and authoritarian regimes and dictatorships from Europe to Latin America . In fact the 1938 painting includes in the central figure our continent, which does not escape world disaster and terror. The five mourning women in a landscape of death, “acquire with amazement that desolating spectacle, because what unfolds before them is incomprehensible. They have lost not only loved ones, but also space and future. In this sense, it would seem that this painting raises an exhortation: it  refers generically to the women of the world, and therefore, to life. From this work, Forner began to paint the unjust and cruel death,”  Rosana Molero said in 2002. The infinite “Why” or “For what” —just so it is called a painting of his 1939-, from both poster and sesentist shirts, emerge urgently from those disfigured mouths of Forner of 1938.

The work “The drama” (MNBA.1942), of great proportions that bring it closer to contemporary muralisms, combines much of the artist's concerns at the time, who had yielded in chromatism for a dramatic intensity of landscapes and torn figures. Bombarded. That year also, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired the oil “Desolación”, belonging to that series of the Drama — in the later decade, the prestigious American museum acquired a painting from the series “Las Lunas” (1960) Likewise, the publishing house Losada published a consecratory monograph of its production.

 Towards the sixties Forner developed new allegories that places the human species in a spatial future and, at the same time, in communion with interstellar nature . It is also successively changing from technique to more material art, fillings, and unconventional perspectives. From the first oils of “Las Lunas” to the last series of the eighties, “Encuentros con astroseres en Ischigualasto”, the artist investigates the collapse of the promises of progress in the face of the unprecedented possibilities of travel abroad — and within human beings” In 1965 Forner painted “The Journey Without Return” (Bigatti Forner Foundation) in tribute to Alfredo Bigatti, who died the previous year. It is a 9-panel polyptych where images of death and life are intermingled, astrofauna and astrobeings, the encrypted message —fight+love=life, fight-love=death-, labyrinth and skull, birds and skeletons. Black strokes persist that now acquire the dynamic movement of the central labyrinth where the color extends decisively. A work of passage, of initiation, of pain that transforms death into the origin of another life, which varies the condition of a love and a destiny shared in another unanswered question”  reflected Marcelo Pacheco in 1993, in the catalogue of a held exhibition at the Banco Patricios Foundation.

 Forner's second post-war iconography speaks of the utopia of a new man . The metamorphic characters, half human, half astral beings, announce “Space Mutations” (since 1970) and a “Future to happen” (1979), “Gestation of the New Man” (1980) perhaps this is the masterpiece of the long set of astroser. To begin with, the group of characters on grayscales synthesizes, with aesthetic precision, the scene of humanity still attached to the miseries of the earth and the tragedy of history. The transition to new and higher life is concentrated in the couple, detached from the dark capsule, whose bowels begin to color, most of all the woman's belly amplified in the polychromatic circle where embryos of the creatures of the future are gestated. Man's gesture and the eyes of both characters are directed high, that is, a sky in which newborn astrobeings evolve, amazed and happy to make pirouettes in the fluid mass of the air. A shadow of the scenes Frida Kahlo painted about her tragic gestations is perceived, but Forner has subjected them to an emotional reversal.  Despair is extinct. The restlessness was confined to the three gray women with sad eyes. The surface of the painting only slips to an apotheosis of color and the joy of a game, of a recovery of the immense Universe by humanity freed from its fall,” Dr. Burucúa analyzed on an emancipated poetics of the artist who permeates plastically, yes quically, and biologically, to their mutants into a  feminine becoming.    Until his death on June 10, 1988 in Buenos Aires, Forner tirelessly painted new beings, the new hybrid, non-binary, community, ecological dimension, which is on the horizon.  

His works are featured in the most important museums in Argentina, USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay. Member of  the Royal Society of Arts of England  received important awards including the Gold Medal at the International Exhibition, Paris 1937; the First National Painting Prize at the National Exhibition, Buenos Aires, 1942; the Palanza Prize, Buenos Aires 1947; the Grand Prix of Honor in the National Hall, Buenos Aires, 1956; the Grand Prix of Honor at the American Biennial of Art IKA, Córdoba, 1962; the Juan B. Castagnino Foundation Prize, Rosario, 1979; and was awarded by the National Arts Fund in 1987.  In 1982 he created the Forner-Bigatti Foundation, Casa Museo in San Telmo, which safeguards the heritage of marriage, counting workshops, works, documents and objects, and proposes educational activities.  


 Says Raquel Forner 

“I always tried to give my paintings more than just a plastic intention. Even some of my still lifes wanted to reflect in the elements that made it a cosmic sense. Then the reality wasn't so suffocating. Then came to me the drama of the world. Hence I needed to renew myself or rather to complete myself... as a woman and as a painter I have tried to unite the subject that most distresses me, the purest of my artist experiences. My language is art, but my heart is that of life... if so, if the artist starts from any point of view, with more reason he can start from the human” said the artist in 1938, transcribed by Diana W. Wechsler in the proceedings of the  Fourth Conference of Studies and Research. Julio Payró Institute of Theory and Art History.  Buenos Aires: FyLuba. 2000


 They say about Raquel Forner 

“Several women star in the foreground — referring to the heritage painting of the National Museum of Fine Arts, “The Drama” - The image itself appears broken in the portrait that is abandoned on the ground with other elements such as the globe, a set of papers and a hand with the sore of Christ. Towards the interior of the plane, the panorama is devastating: consumed bodies, humanity embodied in death, burned trees, wastelands and the atmosphere breathed after a bombing surround the scene. A whole statement of principles raised with the vocation of the “never again” Diana B. Wechsler in the  Reasoned Catalogue of the National Museum of Fine Arts . Buenos Aires: Clarin 2010

Publication Date: 22/04/2021

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