Oil on Wood
Painting, for Colón, has always involved honoring the medium’s plasticity; this is true of the earliest oil on wood compositions she completed under her mother’s supervision, sculpting layers of impasto with a palette knife. Over the first decade of the 21st century, she would pivot away from the atmospheric abstractions that defined her 1990s style, attacking paint and surface with a passion tempered by methodology. These compositions in oil on wood are fundamentally structural; the addition of resin augments the sculptural properties of the paint, which Colón enhanced by putting down layers of color and subsequently uncovering them, scraping away the pigment with metal spatulas to produce a terrain of ridges and depressions. This technique recalls the excavation methods of Willem de Koonig, for whom painting was as much a subtractive process as it was additive.
Sueńo del Yunque, 2005, Oil on Wood, 40x72x2 inches
Works such as Sueño Del Yunque (2005), however, also evoke the warp and weft of a woven textile, in which organic materials are combined, but not wholly subjugated within a geometric framework. Shades of red earth and deep blue-green overflow the spaces enclosed by overlapping vertical and horizontal lines. In this and other paintings of the same period, the modernist grid appears overgrown by forces too vital to be contained.
Infraestructura Horizontal, 2008, Oil on Wood with Resin, 40x84x2.5 inches
In Infraestructura Horizontal (2008) irregular cubic units of both bold and muted colors jostle for position and clean lines are forced to adopt jagged trajectories, recalling terraced structures built into mountainous slopes. The jigsaw forms of the Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s woodcut series of the 1950s, Tecelares (Weavings) seem a natural antecedent to Colón’s paintings, combining the rustic properties of woodcut with geometric abstraction to render indistinct the differences between form and void. As a member of the Neo-Concrete movement, Pape was engaged with the production of a syncretic visual vocabulary, productively adapting European modernist styles such as Neo-plasticism and Constructivism within a Latin American context. She shared this preoccupation with a number of artists who directly influenced Colón’s work of this period, including the German-born and -educated artist Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt), who fled to Caracas, Venezuela to escape Nazi persecution and established herself as a leading figure of 20th century Latin American modernism through her geometric and kinetic sculptures. Her contemporaries, the Venezuelan artists Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez, likewise produced pioneering works of kinetic sculpture, installation, and op art that responded to Suprematist and Constructivist principles.
Russian Constructivism provided a font of inspiration for Minimalist sculptors of the 1970s, who consequentially also sought to collapse the differences between art and industry. Colón’s path to adapting the forms of Minimalism and the Light and Space movement would likewise wind through these ideas, but in a different direction than that of her first-generation Minimalist peers; the early modernist Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-Garcia’s concepts of Universal Constructivism, which twined Russian Constructivist ideas with an elemental pre-Columbian iconography, would prove especially influential on Colón’s own mediations between modern and ancestral forms.
Text by Lauren DeLand, Ph.D. 2023