Lot 190
  • 190

MARIO CARREÑO | Composición geométrica

150,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Mario Carreño
  • Composición geométrica
  • signed on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 34 1/2 by 60 1/4 in. 87.6 by 153 cm.
  • Executed in 1957.


Collection of Andrés Rivero, Caracas
Private Collection, South America
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas,  Mario Carreño, Exposición de óleos y caseínas, September 1957
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Pintura panamericana 1915-1945, January 1986


Isaac Chocron, "Viewpoint," The Daily Journal, 29 September 1957, n.p., illustrated 
Beatriz Gago, Más que 10 pintores concretos, Madrid 2015, p. 71, illustrated


This work is still stretched on an old if not original stretcher. Although the thickly applied paint layer has developed some cracking, there is no instability. Under ultraviolet light, most of the colors do not show any retouching. There are a few isolated tiny spots of retouching in the black section in the upper left quadrant, and three or four tiny dots in the black triangle in the lower right quadrant. The work should be 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

Composición geométrica, one of Mario Carreño’s most successful and largest concrete paintings from the 1950s presents what art historian Abigail McEwen defines as: "a strong linear sensibility, meaning the line is dominant." First shown in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, in 1957 on the occasion of Mario Carreno’s seminal exhibition in this city, Composición geométrica embodies the artist’s geometrical period in all its plentitude. Declaring an original and ambitious structural clarity, as seen in the crisp delineations and balanced pattern of its restricted shapes and clearly defined outlines, Composición geométrica is an artifact of the utopian ideal that enveloped a young generation of artists in prerevolutionary Cuba.  Characterized by a rigorous mathematical construction and unified equilibrium, the present works illustrates the forms and precise outlines that made Carreño a foundational figure in the development of geometric abstraction in Latin America.   Emerging from a figurative tradition deeply rooted on Cubanidad, a commitment to infuse Cuban realities and popular myths into new forms of representation, Carreño’s interest in abstract painting increased in the early 1950s. As a member of Los Diez Pintores Concretos, Carreño and others converged to articulate historical “concrete art within a Cuban context,” as Abigail McEwen notes in the catalogue of the 2016 exhibition Concrete Cuba at David Zwirner in New York. By 1953, convinced figuration was no longer capable of expressing the reality of the times, Carreño founded, alongside Sandú Darié and Luis Martinez Pedro, a theoretical art magazine, Noticias de Arte. Writing articles such as “Morality in Abstract Painting,” he introduced Cuban Concretism as “an aesthetic corollary of the historical and spiritual needs of our time.” Although short-lived, Noticias de Arte successfully reported the latest news on abstract-geometric art to a country increasingly aware of these developments in other Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Brazil. 

Artist Pedro de Oraá, once wrote in a history of the group that they felt an intense romanticism in the project: the spirit of the concretos simmered in hope and imagination. The Cuba of the 1950s was full of pre-revolutionary tumult and vigor—Batista was still in power and upheaval was a growing presence in the national conversation. Instead of merely decrying the regime, Carreño and his contemporaries wanted to offer “a new form of political and social engagement” through their work; but rather than create visions for a new system, their paintings abstracted the very idea of utopia itself, through color and line.  Despite its brief existence, Los Diez had a profound impact, not only on the history of Cuban art, but on the trajectory of twentieth-century abstraction internationally.