Such supportive structure had no fixed physical existence, for it had to be created in the very act of perception; its making performed, every time afresh by each subsequent observer. Rather than being defined as a material structure in concrete or constructivist terms, Otero treats his paintings’ support as a “question of time.” By the same token, Otero argues in his letter, viewers should not grasp the work as the expressive field of the artist’s feelings. Instead, his pictures of this period are meant to convey a “specific conception of painting” that denied expressionist variants of abstraction. Neither expressive nor constructive, and therefore not aligned with either one of the two prevalent modes of abstraction in postwar Paris, Otero’s new work answers to the principal philosophical question of its time. It is existentialist.
Existentialism, as advanced in particular by Jean-Paul Sartre, provided Otero, Mateo Manaure and Luis Guevara Moreno, among other Venezuelan artists, with the theoretical ammunition they required to organize a combative aesthetic platform. Calling themselves Los Disidentes, these artists denied entrenched ideas that constricted cultural progress. Organized in 1950, the group published a journal in which the existentialist notion of absolute freedom served to confront the notion of tradition.  Pictorial abstraction lay at the center of this broad cultural project. Indeed, Líneas coloreadas sobre fondo blanco translates such ideas. As noted, the artist believed that in this series the support is not a static datum one could immediately perceive. To grasp it, viewers had to work through opposing values towards a harmonious solution. The spectator’s gaze would therefore have to proceed outside the framework of a solid structure, similar to the manner in which individuals should act in the social field. According to existentialist ideals, individuals should construct their existence through their actions. Works in this series position the phenomena of action within the aesthetic exercise of vision.
In positioning this relationship, Otero stepped beyond the pictorial field of abstraction to reflect how a “social conscience” can inform a “program of [non-figurative] forms.” That is a question he would keep on revisiting, yet never as poignantly as in the present painting. At this time, the artist had just completed a period of gradual cancellation of objects, divesting coffeepots and other artifacts of their shells so as to arrive at a progressively reductive schema of structural lines (fig. 1). To use the existentialist jargon of his 1950 letters, he subjected the objective world to a process of annihilation: all that was left after that period ended was a white blanket of nothingness, the heavily impastoed stretch of the plane marked by a meager set of broken lines. Here one line enters the plane from its upper left corner, clearly establishing its position in relation to the material, concrete edge of the canvas. The other three, by contrast, appear to float in an indefinite space.
“The true meaning of the work,” to use the artist’s phrase, derives from that tension: the viewer’s gaze must transit between the materiality of the canvas and the uncertain space of abstraction; it must reconcile both sides into the imponderable support that the artist identified as the picture’s actual moment of existence. That moment is, however, evanescent. As Otero put it, “what one experiences never becomes concrete, it disappears with the act of seeing,” and “the perspective with which we look at the work must, then, necessarily change.” So must the position from which we act in our broader social life, which existentialism characterized as a free set of “circumstances that are constantly changing and evolving.”
Juan Ledezma, Ph.D.
Art critic and curator of Latin American Art
 “Correspondence between Alejandro Otero and Alfredo Boulton,” in Ariel Jiménez, ed., Alfredo Boulton and His Contemporaries. Critical Dialogues in Venezuelan Art 1912–1974 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), pp. 185–187. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from the artist refer to this letter.
 This connection has been already discussed by Estrellita B. Brodsky in Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, ed., The Geometry of Hope (Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, 2007), pp. 104–107. On the different trends of abstraction that were practiced in postwar Paris, see the text on Luis Guevara Moreno’s Trama Vertical in this volume.
 Cf. J. R. Guillent Pérez, “On Latin America and the West,” in Alfredo Boulton and His Contemporaries, pp. 175–177. Also a member of Los Disidentes, Guillent Pérez was a philosopher that influenced the group’s theoretical positions.
 Otero, quoted in “Alejandro Otero polemiza con Mario Briceño Iragorry a propósito de arte abstracto” (1952), in Memoria crítica, ed. Douglas Monroy and Luisa Pérez Gil (Caracas: Artesanogroup, 2008), p. 95.
 Otero, Alfredo Boulton and His Contemporaries, p. 184.
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