“Fragmentism searches for the integration of a part into a whole, transformed by its multiple readings, into an unfinished and unlimited object.” So declares Argentinian artist Marie Orensanz’s Manifesto Fragmentismo, which appears on a 1978 print in her current exhibition at Alejandra von Hartz Gallery in Miami. The print exists both as a work itself and as a framework in which to view the various artworks on display. The context is one of incompleteness, a word the artist has reiterated throughout her career, and the idea of fragmentism stands as a focal point for the pieces that loosely refer to some larger—but unknowable—truth. Installed in a modest-sized room within the gallery, Marie Orensanz: Works from the ‘70s features drawings—on paper and on broken remnants of marble—as well as photography, prints, and video.
The drawings and prints are conceptually and aesthetically related. Each drawing is sparse and diagrammatic, consisting of minimalistic compositions that include scattered arrays of perpendicular lines, electric schematic symbols, neatly scripted words, and blocks of shaded color. They possess contextually ambiguous names such as Transmitir la Energía Pensamiento [To Transmit the Power of Thoughts] and La Acción es la Consecuencia del Pensamiento [The Action Is the Result of the Thought] (both 1974). Likewise, two drawings on marble fragments feature mysterious combinations of mechanical symbols and scattered words.
Bearing the idea of fragmentism in mind, the indecipherable schematic diagrams in these drawings point to an overarching, connective idea, and the other works within the exhibition continue this process. Notably, a print titled Eros Marie Orensanz (1974/2007/2008) reads as an exhibition flyer—in fact, it states that visitors can take one home, despite its for-sale status here—and features a list of twelve aphorisms that all appear to be titles of drawings, three of which are included in this current show. By creating an exhibition poster with only the titles of her works, Orensanz effectively reduces the exhibition to a list of its parts. Using titles that are all similarly ambiguous maxims, the artist once again points to her desire to search for an unattainable, overarching truth by looking at aggregated fragments.
The works in the show carry on this unachievable quest in a gallery that focuses on abstraction. While Orensanz’s works do not immediately resonate as typical abstract works, they investigate conceptual concerns pertaining to abstraction. Writing about contemporary nonfigurative work, Sven Lütticken characterizes abstraction as a move “away from objects and to information.” More opaquely, abstraction also signifies the transformation of the specific to the generalized—an attempt to force definitive ideas into a more ambiguous structure that can perhaps speak for the totality.
In Orensanz’s work, she points to a larger abstraction without trying to elaborate what it really is. Her incomplete works consistently and knowingly allude to overarching ideas about epistemology and ontology without asserting any conclusions. By shunning such generalizations and instead reveling in their own skepticism, her works are paradoxically abstract without being formless. Lütticken continues his provocative discussion of abstraction by examining diagrammatic art, arguing that such work “reverses the [abstract] machine in order to decode […] cryptic structures.” Orensanz’s works in this exhibition translate constructions of knowledge and being into diagrammatic schemata and symbols. Thriving on their incompleteness, her works demand that viewers see them as multiple—even incongruous—parts of an overarching whole, an absoluteness that is secondary in terms of understanding essential questions posed by art. In doing so, Orensanz stresses that in order to find any semblances of such a whole, one must begin with parts and fragments of it.
Marie Orensanz: Works from the ’70s is on view at Alejandra von Hartz Gallery, Miami, through August 16, 2014.