Think 20th century abstract art and the mind automatically conjures up images of Jackson Pollock’s expressionist drip paintings or Mark Rothko’s cool intensity. But the North wasn’t the only America forging a new path in the abstract; South America was also undergoing a shift in their art world and this exhibition showcases some of its leading luminaries.
Though the art largely limits itself to simple geometric forms, they are imbued with an edge and an aggression that you won’t find in a Mondrian painting or an Alexander Calder mobile. Hermelindo Fiaminghi’s elongated diamonds interlock like a set of jagged teeth and Juan Mele’s sharp and uneven edges to his work gives it a sense of dynamism.
There are also works with a sense of delicacy as Jesus Soto’s cube made of nylon threads shimmers like an optical illusion as you walk past it, and Gego’s interlocking squares balance precariously on top of each other in a haphazard sculpture.
The minimalist labelling allows for viewers to drift naturally through the exhibition and the relatively small size of the gallery space ensures that the work and themes never become repetitive.
We’ll be the first to admit that abstract modernism is not to everyone’s taste and not all of the works here are as effective as the aforementioned highlights. But if modernism is your genre then this exhibition offers something new to the usual examples we see from European and North American artists.
Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros collection is on at Royal Academy until 28 September. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at the Royal Academy are the photographs of Dennis Hopper and the ever popular Summer Exhibition.
For more great art to see in London, check out our July listings.