Optical games in a universe of wood and polished surfaces

Son of carpenters, a resident of La Paternal and later of Parque Patricios, the Argentine sculptor Naum Knop (Buenos Aires, 1917-1993) loved wood. This was his main working material, his daily company throughout 76 years of life, although he also worked with terracotta, bronze, cement and marble. At the Knop Foundation, the presence of wood is clearly observed: the old stable that the artist converted into a home and workshop in 1970 houses more than 300 sculptures in petiribí, algarrobo, palo santo, guatambú and sophora. They make up rounded, sanded, shiny pieces, figurative and abstract forms close to the Surrealisminfluenced by the work of Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Ossipe Zadkine, Constantine BrancusiUmberto Boccioni, Marc ChagallLocal version of dreams with flight capabilities.

Contrary to the movements carried out by most local artists until the mid-20th century, Knop did not design his initiatory trip to Europe but to the United States. Los Angeles was, in 1947, the first stop on a long professional and study tour. He then toured Chicago, New York, and later, yes, his interest took him to Switzerland, France, Italy, and Great Britain. When Knop returned to Argentina in 1949, he began to work in ornamental carving.


Room view of the Knop Foundation.

A few years later, in 1962, he won the International Sculpture Prize from the Torcuato Di Tella Institute and in 1964 the Palanza Prize: they would lead the way.

Optical and kinetic works

Within this framework, the permanent exhibition of Knop’s sculptures at the foundation that bears his name, coexist today with vibrant geometrythe temporary exhibition of bi- and three-dimensional kinetic and optical works by Roger MacEntyre.

Self-taught, MacEntyre-son —his father was the renowned optical artist Eduardo MacEntyre, 1929-2014— decided, precisely when his father passed away, to give a 360 degree turn to life. He put aside the audiovisual world in which he had always worked and decided to dedicate himself to plastic creation. “Part of the work that is exhibited at the Knop Foundation I have been doing since then,” MacEntyre details. “To make them, I use overlapping layers of different materials. The distances between these layers play a transcendental mathematical role, since the final shape of the figures that are formed depends on them and, therefore, the movement that the observer will later perceive”.

"Portal"work of Roger MacEntyre.

“Gateway” by Roger MacEntyre.

MacEntyre comments that after many tests he managed to get the effect he was looking for: depends on the distance of the overlapping plates and the thickness of the lines that intersect them. In this way, he invents a moiré effect, that is, an optical effect that occurs when we perceive two patterns of close and parallel lines, which overlap under certain conditions.

In the set of pieces that make up the exhibition, subgroups of diverse productions can be seen. On the one hand, the two-dimensional and optical works are observed; on the other, kinetic works with a motor; then the three-dimensional works, and finally the paintings made with colored resins. About the latter, the artist comments: “The use of resin in multiple layers forms simple and organic figures that, superimposed, give rise to watery images and unexpected colors, as a result of the superposition.” MacEntyre explains that the resin, when applied on a flat surface, tends to expand. Each layer takes about 24 hours to dry. “A painting can have up to 30 layers of superimposed resin,” she details, “not to mention the difficulty that the surprise of finding an insect or a particle that lands on it can cause.”

"Raindrops"by Roger MacEntyre.

Raindrops by Roger MacEntyre.

The works displayed in the three rooms covered by the exhibition Geometriescoexist with Knop’s sculptures permanently installed in the garden of the Foundation. This artistic dialogue includes an expanded expography, but above all the wonderful pregnancy of the architectural space and the important presence of nature (a careful, exquisite nature, which Pablo, Knop’s son, attends to with dedication).

Where does the meridian that defines tension, night, truth and hours pass through in this house-museum? That is, the edge (permanent or fleeting) of the existence of the works. It is not the samples that define its life and its possible circulation here, but the uncertain limits between the universes of wood: they are drawn between the sculptures, in the trunk and the tall crown of the jacaranda, in the sap of the mburucuyá and in the passage that designates the immense old red iron door: ascension. The works coexist in this house falling into space, preceding it or postponing it. “I first felt the need to print in space,” Knop recalled in the 1960s, “to trace and build forms that would invade or contain it, that would attempt the adventure of being myself on a support plane.” Here the wind constitutes the works: forward, it summons.

To visit the exhibition and the foundation, make an appointment at info@naum-knop.org

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