Lot 24
  • 24

Luis Guevara Moreno (1926-2010)

80,000 - 120,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Luis Guevara Moreno
  • Trama vertical
  • signed, titled and dated Paris 1951 on the reverse
  • painted wood construction
  • 55 by 26 in.
  • 140 by 66 cm


The Estate of the Artist


The painted wooden panel is in good condition and is structurally sound. The paint is bound to the surface with the exception of numerous small spots on the yellow and white where the paint is pushing up from below. No paint loss has occurred as a result of this movement. Two old repairs to the white panel were detected on the top edge and the proper left top corner. The paint used on these areas is different in color and sheen. The multi-colored panel exhibits very good color retention. Tiny accretions were observed on the paint along the central horizontal line. Dimensional changes in the wood were noted which included a horizontal crack that runs the width of the panel near the bottom and that the panel no longer rests flat against the wall. Minor surface soiling was found on the surface as well as a ¼” gouge in the painted white wood panel on the proper left side below the central line. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Wilson Conservation, LLC.)
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

In Paris, the end of the war announced the rebirth of abstraction. Abstract art, however, did not fully regain its cultural strength right after the conclusion of its de facto proscription during the occupation. Nor did it resurface as a cohesive postwar culture. Abstraction returned through either divergent or interconnected paths, each seeking the most effective route to the cultural reconstruction of the country. Therefore, as Latin American artists were lured to Paris by the promise of modernity, they found a ruptured legacy that could be reclaimed only through a process of interpretation and transformation—two tasks that forced them to take programmatic positions. These differing attitudes would eventually produce brand new answers to entrenched questions.

Trama Vertical (Vertical Lattice) is a good case in point. The work—a pictorial object rather than a picture, as it is a trussed set of enameled laths— was assembled by Luis Guevara Moreno in 1951, when he was simultaneously part of two groups: Los Disidentes, made up of artists who had recently arrived in Europe from Guevara’s native Venezuela, and Madí, an offshoot of the Argentine avant-garde transplanted to Paris in 1950. The first association involved Guevara in discussions on the integration of the arts at an urban scale, a prewar question that was beginning to be raised from the changed perspective of postwar France. That program informs Trama Vertical: the segmented arrangement of its bands recalls works in which Alejandro Otero, the group’s spokesman, engaged the gradual dis-articulation of the picture plane with the purpose of reintegrating it on other architectural constructions through rhythm and vibration. 

While Otero projected the work’s expansion towards the city within the orthogonal format, Guevara breaks down and constructs anew. In so doing, Guevara confirmed his connection with the Madí Group, committed to the idea that only new structures, or radically different formats, might allow artists to revolutionize perception. The design of such structures sought to foster a process of “invention,”—the creation of untested connections between the objects that make up reality. Invention might involve viewers, for instance, in the experimental transformation of malleable constructions. Thereby invention, Madí argued, would redirect our dialogue with the constructive logic of the work.   

The entrapment of geometric painting within rational formal protocols had been a central question in critical discussions of modern art in Paris. Whether the legacy of humanism, now ruptured by the events of the war could be reclaimed on the same rational grounds that had previously sustained the Enlightenment, was a highly debated issue. One trend of abstraction answered that question in the affirmative. Seeking to re-institute a lucid intellectual order after the wartime collapse of enlightened principles, it asked painters to favor geometry over gesture, or clarity over expression, and forge balanced geometric compositions within the frame of a “cold abstraction”—une abstraction froide.

This option’s counterpart, abstraction chaude, harbored a deep-rooted doubt that logic and reason could reclaim the humanistic values of prewar France. In its view, only the stain, the pictorial smear, the gestural expression of a wounded subjectivity might register a direly needed liberation from an authoritarian past, after which other modes of sociability would have to be reinvented. Lastly, a third option tempered emotion with reason to arrive at a measured poetics of form, a “lyrical abstraction” seeking to prefigure a Utopian moment of social reconciliation.(1) The Madí works shown at the Salon des Realités Nouvelles between 1949 and 1953 shifted the same terms of this discussion to another ground—that of constructivism, a prewar abstract movement that they revitalized by replacing the logical rationality of geometric constructions with the transgressive reasoning of equally geometric, yet purportedly transformable objects.

Madí artists had begun their transgressive program with the introduction of the cut-out frame, or marco recortado, the broken limits of which allowed the tracing outward of directions, trajectories whose centrifugal force projected the arranged sides of the pictorial object in space. Further elaboration on that “directional concept” led them to the “coplanar.” This second device, which Guevara used since the early 1950s (fig. 2), involved displaying separate cut-out planes together to form a multi-directional field that viewers could chart during the exercise of perception. Guevara, however, recombined the coplanar’s sundered units into a whole, a totality that remains fractured since now the multi-directional field, previously stretched across the space between the planes, is brought within the work. Evident in Trama Vertical, the strategy is one of containment and expansion, unity and rupture, vertical regularity and fluctuation. Thus the object reads as the broken field of a contained rhythm. Enlarged to the scale of murals, as were many of the constructions proposed by Los Disidentes, Trama Vertical would have disrupted both the rational strictures of geometry and the schematic logic of urban design—a double project that expresses the multiple cultural directions that converge in the work.

Juan Ledezma, Ph.D
Art critic and curator of Latin American Art 

[1] For a more extensive account of these developments, see Serge Guilbaut, “Squares and Stains: The Impossible Mix in Cold-War Paris”, in Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, ed., The Geometry of Hope (Austin: Blanton Museum of Art, 2007), pp. 64–73.