One of the leading exponents of the Venezuelan op and kinetic movement, Alejandro Otero developed an exhaustive investigation on the limits of twentieth-century painting; a lifelong experimental search which led him to pivotal formal consequences. Otero’s extraordinary series of seventy-five Colorhythms, or Coloritmos as they are known in Spanish, stands as the artist’s most original contribution to the field of modernist abstraction. Since their inception, Otero’s Colorhythms have succeeded in emphasizing rhythm and color over form, resulting in a suggestive spatial ambiguity—a consummate experience in optical intensity, chromatic vibration, and rhythmic movement.
Consisting of Duco paint [an automotive lacquer developed by the DuPont Company] on compressed wood panels, Alejandro Otero’s Colorhythms are object-paintings meant to activate the eye by pictorial means. Exploring the optical effect of color and the grid, they resemble “fragmented friezes in their narrow width constituting a field of infinite chromatic variations – fractal rythms—whose matrix seems to refer to a form of musical writing: a “pentagramic” model.” (Exh. Cat. The Rhythm of Color, Alejandro Otero and Willys de Castro, Two Modern Masters in the Collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, The Aspen Institute, Aspen 2006, p. 7).
Otero created almost all the sketches and color studies for his Colorhythms between 1955 and 1960. About forty-five of these works were fully executed before 1961, although some, like the present Colorhythm 55, were brought to full size just before or in 1971. Otero had the opportunity to discuss these “later” works with noted art dealer Rachel Adler on the occasion of a group show at her prestigious gallery in Caracas in 1971: “There really is no essential difference between the Colorhythms of 1955-60 and those of 1960-71. They all belong to that initial series of seventy five works. It´s just that I never completed some of them. The maquettes rolled around from drawer to drawer, and every time she would see them Mercedes (Mercedes Pardo, Oteros’ wife and also an accomplished painter) would insist that I finish them. I never paid attention and one day, I just did. It was just before I went to M.I.T. for my Guggenheim [fellowship] and the paintings were like a parenthesis of color among the technological studies for civic/size sculptures. They were more beautiful than the early ones. The color is more color.” (Exh. Cat. Alejandro Otero, A Retrospective, The University of Texas at Austin, Michener Galleries, Austin 1975, p. 22).
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