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Los nuevos materiales” is the third chapter in a long book by Galaor Carbonell entitled Negret. Las etapas creativas. The book is one of the most thorough and sound studies of the life and work of Colombian sculptor Édgar Negret. In this chapter, Carbonell discusses the effects that Negret’s stay in New York from 1948 to 1950 had on his life and work. Until that time, Negret had used traditional sculptural techniques like modeling and carving, mostly in plaster and stone. Due to his stay in New York and his contact with the Clay Club Sculpture Center, the course of Negret’s production changed as he began working with materials such as clay, wire, and sheets of aluminum and of stainless steel.


This text by Cuban artist and writer Galaor Carbonell (1938?92) is important to understanding the work of Colombian sculptor Édgar Negret (1920?2012). It addresses Negret’s stay in New York from 1948 to 1950, a moment that would prove essential to his work. While in that city, Negret discovered the possibility of working with non-traditional materials, among them wire, industrial waste, sheets of aluminum and of stainless steel. The text emphasizes how important the chance circumstance of his time in New York would prove to be. In Carbonell’s view, “the dominant Colombian artistic mentality of that time could not conceive of making sculpture beyond the strict limits of the two traditional techniques: modeling and carving.”  


Negret’s connection to the Clay Club Sculpture Center—a place conducive to artistic experimentation—and the experience of living in a city where speed, machinery, industry, and modernization were daily realities entailed immersion in materials directly linked to a world new to him. Carbonell asserts that “the aesthetic ideas underlying the revolution in contemporary sculpture demanded a system where cause-effect relations were more direct, allowing sculpture to benefit from certain industrial techniques and to make use of materials with great expressive potential.” Negret is indisputably one of the first artists from Latin America whose work partook of this new system. 


This text not only addresses Negret’s encounter with those new materials, but also how they required the artist to tackle new aesthetic ideas and to seek new theories. In order to use materials that, from the perspective of traditional sculpture, were lacking in “nobility,” Negret had to assign artistic functions to any object he happened to choose. In this process lies the origin of Negret’s determination to strike a balance between concept and form, between what the artist was experiencing as an individual and how he embodied it in his work. This text, then, demonstrates how the New York period changed not only Negret’s way of working and material production, but also his thought process and way of formulating his relationship to art and the world.

Nicolás Bonilla Maldonado
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia