Writer María Ramírez Ribes (1944–2009) discusses the work of a Venezuelan pioneer of abstraction during her 1991 retrospective, Mercedes Pardo: moradas del color, held at the GAN (Galeria de Arte Nacional) in Caracas. It covered half a century of her production through 258 artworks and became the best recognized retrospective of her art making. The exhibition catalogue makes an important contribution to Pardo’s literature. Ramírez Ribes approaches her production from a broad perspective focused on the key influences received.
The article shares the narrative of coexistence of art and life in Mercedes Pardo (1921–2005). While her art is presented as a combination of careful research and freedom, the author pays close attention to the concept of “depuration” applied and connects it to the formal and spiritual influence of Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944). For decades, his painting was considered as the first abstract artwork, although this narrative has more recently been debated; in 1919, Kandinsky claimed that he had painted what is known as the First Abstract Watercolor in 1911, but it’s much more likely to be dated 1912, as a sketch for Composition VII (1913) reveals. In terms of form, Kandinsky can be seen as an influence for Pardo, firstly because they both begin with a lyrical phase that becomes more geometric in later stages of their production, but especially because of their approaches. Just like Pardo, Kandinsky was interested in the emotional impact that color has on viewers (something theorized a century earlier by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). The reference here is to Kandinsky’s 1911 book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art; he—as other pioneers of abstraction such as Hilma af Klint, predating Piet Mondrian—participated in the theosophical movement founded in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, therefore maintaining that a divine knowledge may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy and direct intuition. Pardo’s refusal to imitate nature and her approach to discovery based on the simplification or purification of form mirrors Kandinsky’s spirituality, according to the author who also presents Pardo’s work through the lens of music as another nexus with Kandinsky’s. Despite similarities, her work can be placed in a broader history of abstraction that does not necessarily follow his footsteps, so that all the elements that Ramírez Ribes attributes as an influence are in fact commonplaces for artists in their early approaches to abstraction.
For the essays published in the exhibition catalogue Moradas del color, see, in the ICAA Digital Archive, Gloria Carnevali, “El Espacio en la pintura de Mercedes Pardo” (1102285); María Fernanda Palacios, “Pintura y vida” (1102253); and Elizabeth Schön, “La plenitud más plena” (1102269). With regard to reviews of that show, see Miriam Freilich, “El arte es revelación, no producción” (1325266); and Manuel Manzano, “Mercedes Pardo una creadora de climas” (1331219).