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Art critic Virginia Pérez-Ratton comments on the exhibition of work by Colombian artist Johanna Calle at the Fundación Teor/Ética in San Jose (Costa Rica), her first solo exhibition outside Colombia. Pérez-Ratton specifically addresses the importance of the event in relation to the language of drawing. She asserts that Calle’s work goes beyond the limits of drawing as theme and representation, and hence merits a formal and conceptual analysis on the basis of the notion of “limitless drawing.” Her analysis begins with a quote from Brazilian art critic and curator Paulo Herkenhoff in which he speaks of drawing as free of any limitation whatsoever. Pérez-Ratton grounds her impressive analysis of the formal and thematic elements that underlie Calle’s production on specific works produced in the last seven years, some of which were included in the exhibition at Teor/Ética. Pérez-Ratton emphasizes that Calle’s production privileges an edgy political stance over the traditional language of drawing. She asserts that, as Calle’s work shows, the medium of drawing “insinuates” an array of possibilities.
This text by Costa Rican art critic, curator, and cultural manager Virginia Pérez-Ratton (1950-2010) is featured in the catalogue to the first solo exhibition outside Colombia of artist Johanna Calle (b. 1965). It was published by the Fundación Teor/Ética in San Jose, Costa Rica, where the show was held. The catalogue also includes a text by Colombian art critic and curator José Ignacio Roca (b. 1962).
Pérez-Ratton cites Calle’s work as a clear example of drawing as a diverse and autonomous medium; the language of drawing, as Pérez-Ratton emphasizes throughout the text, is intimate, expressive, subversive, secret, political and, most importantly, limitless. Though drawing consists of line, the range of Calle’s stroke—when, for instance, she turns text into line—constitutes a signifier that goes beyond the simple trace of a pencil. In Pérez-Ratton’s view, the line takes shape in a formal process closely bound to the artist’s singular reading of her environment.
Pérez-Ratton provides a clear description of Calle’s creative process, which is based on the close connection between form, material, and theme. Indeed, the powerful themes she addresses ultimately yield alterations in the structure chosen for each series. Pérez-Ratton places Calle and her practice in the framework of Latin American art, emphasizing her relevance to the current context as well as the rich contents of her representation and meaning that, in the author’s view, go beyond the regional to enter the universal realm of contemporary art.
Although Johanna Calle began her artistic career as a painter, since the late nineties her work has involved a unique reformulation of the traditional medium of drawing. It evidences valorization of craft by means of a steadfast and exhaustive immersion in slow and careful production. Her process is geared to emphasizing specific aspects of themes addressed with great subtlety and power, allowing her work to live on in collective memory.