Lot 14
  • 14

Marcelo Bonevardi (1929-1994)

20,000 - 30,000 USD
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  • Marcelo Bonevardi
  • The Architect
  • signed and dated Bonevardi-64 and inscribed with title on the reverse
  • oil and wood on canvas
  • 70 by 49 3/4 in.
  • 177.8 by 126.4 cm


Bonino Gallery, New York
Sale: Christie's, New York, Latin American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 16, 1991, lot 96, illustrated in color


Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Marcelo Bonevardi: Paintings Constructions, March 1-29, 1968
Sao Paolo, Bienal de Sao Paolo, August 1969
Bronx, The Bronx Museum of Arts, The Latin American Spirit: Art and Artists in the United States, 1920-1970, Sept. 1988-Jan. 1989, p. 138, n. 90, illustrated in color. This exhibition later travelled to El Paso Museum of Art, February-April, 1989; San Diego Museum of Art, May-July, 1989; San Juan Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena, August-October, 1989; Vero Beach, Center for the Arts, January-March, 1990


John Canaday, "Three to the Good" The New York Times, October 31, 1965, discussed


This significant construction is complex with many different elements. It is made from joined sections of canvas and seems to be in very healthy condition. The framework on the reverse is supporting the canvases nicely. The wooden applied elements are all strongly attached and the edges are not damaged anywhere. The surface does not appear to be dusty and this work has been kept in very good condition recently. The work does not appear to ever have been restored and it should be very carefully handled and hung as is. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Trained as an architect, the largely self-taught Argentine painter Marcelo Bonevardi arrived in New York in 1958 as a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and soon became immersed in the City's dynamic cultural milieu. Already conversant with the language of geometric abstraction and the teachings of the modernist pioneer Joaquín Torres García whose theories about "universal constructivism" shaped countless generations of artists in the Southern Cone region, it was not until Bonevardi's move to New York that he came into contact with the more gestural and painterly possibilities of abstraction through the works of the abstract expressionists. But, alas it was the seemingly mysterious and lyrical boxes of Joseph Cornell that captured Bonevardi's imagination and wherein he felt a more profound affinity vis à vis his own pursuit of what he defined as "the labyrinths of a mystical geography."1 Other contemporaries with whom Bonevardi's work resonates include Lee Bontecou's mechanistic and organic wall constructions and Gonzalo Fonseca's stone assemblage sculptures that function as metaphorical palimpsests.2 Indeed Bonevardi's painted relief constructions blur the boundaries between painting, sculpture and architecture to reveal geometric topographies informed by an abstract language of symbols that evince ancient and timeless rituals evocative of the mythical secrets of origins and continuity. Rooted in his study of mathematics, astronomy, geography, and ancient cultures, Bonevardi worked like an alchemist gently coaxing from these disparate sources their talismanic properties that he ably transmitted to his paintings.

In keeping with this aesthetic and spiritual vision, the works Bonevardi constructed between 1963 and 1965 reveal architectural elements — frieze-like wooden structures akin to remnants of archeological excavations unearthed from the inner depths of his canvases. These wooden armatures are divided into recessed areas or niches that contain small objects and figurines—tools, geometric shapes, metal hinges, bolts, and other machine-like parts meticulously fashioned or forged by the artist. Unlike Cornell who relied on found or ready-made objects, Bonevardi constructed his own thereby asserting the sense of ritual inherent in the very process of artmaking. In works such as The Architect, the artist's use of spheres, rhomboids, planes, and pyramidal forms coupled with a muted, earthy palette and textured and layered surfaces underscore Bonevardi's desire to evoke the timeless and mystical properties of Amerindian and other ancient cultures. The artist's reliance on a cross cultural symbolic lexicon is not unlike Torres-Garcia's elaboration of a "universal" archetypal language derived from pre-Columbian and other western and non-western cultures. Moreover in works such as this, Bonevardi effectively transgresses the boundaries of painting, creating a work equally informed by architectural and sculptural practices as well as by a profound metaphysical and oneiric sensibility that transform his painted wall constructions into mnemonic landscapes evincing a certain spiritual kinship between distant civilizations and our own contemporary reality.


-Marysol Nieves
Independent curator based in New York


1 As quoted in Dore Ashton, "Introduction," in exhibition catalogue Bonevardi (New York: Center for Inter-American Relations, 1980), p. 10.

2 Although it is not clear whether Bonevardi was aware of the work of Lee Bontecou, he and the Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca coincided in New York and were well acquainted.