Ignacio L. Moreno 7120 Maple Ave. Takoma Park, Md. 20912 May 22, 1988


The current exhibition of a young Argentinian artist, Mercedes Naveiro, at the City Gallery in Georgetown, comes at a most opportune moment, when two major museums in Washington, The Phillips Collection and the National Gallery, have on display stunning shows on Redon and Gauguin; their works have strong thematic and stylistic ties with the mixed-media paintings by Naveiro and are the lost thread in modern art which was long suppressed by formalist critics who denied the value of symbolic rind allusive content in twentieth-century art.

In the group exhibition at the City Gallery, there are two series of paintings by Naveiro. One takes as its theme the ancient division of all matter into four elements-water, air, fire, and earth-which are animated by a fifth element, light. But this is not the light given off by fire, whether of the Sun or of combustible materials, rather, it is the light of the spirit. In Plato's philosophical system, which was taken up later by Medieval and Renaissance theologians and philosophers, it was spirit interacting with matter which gave rise to life. In Naveiro's E1 Fuego (Fire), a shimmering, golden Phoenix rises from the ashes, overcoming death as well as the limitations of the material world. Yet as if to emphasize that the light of the spirit is not to be confused with visible light, there is a fifth painting in the series entitled La Luz (Light), in which an explosion of light is disassociated from any physical form.

The second series of paintings, called E1 Unico Camino (The Only Way), records an inner journey of self-discovery through several stages of experience. The paintings in this series are reminiscent of Gauguin's passion for primitive and exotic places, oppressively hot and humid jungles, rivers teeming with life like cornucopias, and the dazzling colors of tropical birds and flowers. It should be noted that these are not merely products of her imagination, but are native to South America, where she has lived most of her life. As in the first series of paintings, however, the physical sensations evoked by her imagery become a metaphor for the spiritual process of inner realization. Two other paintings by Naveiro, Cosas Vistas Atras (Things Seen From Be;iind) and La Zona (The Zone), are independent of either series, yet they complement both. Like the hermetic work of Redon, Naveiro's paintings take us simultaneously into a world that is both familiar and disturbing, all the more so because the flora and fauna that inhabit her elusive world are charged with potent psychological associations. Like dream images, they tantalize us with their beauty and sensuality, yet evade us when we try to fix their boundaries.

The title La Zona is taken from a film by Tarkowsky in which there is a place (or "zone") in which all of one's wishes are granted but which is also very difficult to reach. The catch is, when one finally reaches that place, one no longer has any wishes left. Thus, the inner journey that begins in E1 Unico Camino leads to an inner condition that resembles the absence of desire (as well as ignorance and suffering) attainable in Buddhist Enlightenment. Yet that inner condition cannot be attained without an intense desire and without a struggle with one's own doubts and weakness of spirit. These are the venomous snakes and threatening beasts in Naveiro's Garden of Eden.

Naveiro's technique involves a variety of media with no predetermined scheme. In some of her paintings she soaks thin washes of acrylic directly on the canvas, then builds up the forms through the application of acrylic or oil with the brush. She occasionally adds small amounts of sand to the paint, a method often employed by Braque, to add texture to the surface. She then adds color accents with pastels, or emphasizes certain contours with charcoal. In several of her canvases she has very successfully integrated thin strips of cloth with printed patterns that blend into the elaborate visual patterns achieved through her complex technique. These subtle additions accentuate the feeling of actual textures and seem to be a natural outgrowth of the lush jungles and gardens she depicts.

Naveiro's technique and imagery are reminders of how much the self-imposed limitations of recent art .Movements like Op, Pop, Minimalism, and Photo-Realism, impoverished the language of art. In doing so, they also imposed a suffocating mantle on artistic creativity. In other words, they lost the thread, first discovered by modernist pioneers like Redon and Gauguin, that leads "downwards" into the depths of the human psyche, which is the ultimate source of creativity and spiritual rejuvenation. The Surrealists, inspired by Freud and Jung, recognized that this was the only alternative to a repetitive imitation of everyday reality in art. Abstract Expressionism was the direct heir of Surrealism, yet it was gutted of its potential when it was coopted by formalist art critics and the art market. The thread was lost, and it is only now being recovered.

Ignacio Moreno is an art historian. He worked at the Phillips Collection and wrote for the magazine Museum and Arts at the time this review was written.



Paintings "Seeing as Transformation"

February 14- March 4

City Gallery 1083 Wisconsin Ave. NW(Georgetown)

A tiger walks out of a cage, a fierce and searching animal emerging from a mini malist grid. Near him, a long line of people cue up as though going to a movie. They are young and hip, and they are bathed in red. One is reminded of blood. Mercedes Naveiro made this image in 1976 in Argentina at the time of the military coup.

For many years I kept this silkscreen by Naveiro in my house. Now it is in my studio, and I look at it while thinking of Naveiro's recent work. What does this violent image have to do with her work today? Another image comes to mind, a large drawing from 1977. The foreground is the interior of a room with a woman seated on the right. The woman and the room are drawn elaborately in heavy black pencil. The walls of the room are pulsating mask-like shapes which threaten to merge with the distorted face and body of the woman. In the middle of the room is an open door. Through the door, in the deep space of the drawing, is a richly colored landscape. Emerging from this harmonious outside into the inside of the room is a soft gold and black tiger.

Images of desire and sensual pleasure weave the surface skin of Naveiro's current work. Her three-part screen,done in 1988, tells tales from the Thousand and One Nights of Scheherezade. Each image is embedded in a landscape of phosphorescent evanescence, a magic realm where birds speak letters and sperm-like rivulets of water pour gold into a primordial stream; where insects, incunabula, disembodied lips, purple-eyed suns, and zoomorphic leaves catch the windy song of a singing tree. Where is the tiger in such an image?

The tiger lurks beneath the story. Scheherezade was compelled to tell beautiful stories to save her life. Like these stories, Naveiro's paintings are decorations which hide and reveal our greatest desire:to confound death. She writes, "The paintings are stories that I tell in order not to get killed or not to die or not to go mad." By using ancient myths and stories to tell a personal history, Naveiro has found a way for art to reenter history. In this, she revives both herself and the "dead" past. The reemergence of myth as a life-giving element in contemporary painting is made possible by a changed sense of one's relation to history; not I, the subject, gazing at history, the object- but both as subject. I and history in an undivided continuum.

For Naveiro the act of painting is a statement of belief, of the validity of desire and the possibility of recreating a meaningful world. Art can rebuild socially unifying beliefs through showing the personal resonances in universal experience. In her pictures based the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Naveiro identifies with them. She is Acteon. She is Narcissus - and thus she understands the meaning of their actions. In each case, these ancient people suffered and were changed because of looking. Vision led to their death and transformation. Looking and truthfully presenting that which is observed is the painter's business. Naveiro says that "painting is an adventure triggered by desire." The adventure is that of looking. The tiger looks at us and we look at him. In looking at Naveiro's work, we desire the product of our/her vision. This subjective inside and the objective outside merge in the construction of Naveiro's paintings. The metaphor of landscape indicates a symbolic realm where body and mind play out a life story. Naveiro writes, "A painting is a place where I can see all of me." She presents us with a life which her paintings record. Naveiro is an artist whose pain and privilege it has been to live a life directly marked by historical events. The paintings are powerful assertions of a unique looking and seeing through which the t artist transforms her life and therebytheworld.

Contributed by Ruth Bolduan

Eye Wash

February 1989, Washington, DC.



En la obra de Mercedes Naveiro debemos considerar el proceso gráfico hacia un develamiento de la imagen a través del lenguaje plástico. En la serie del "Unico camino", la artista inicia una vía espiritual, aludiendo al sendero de la vida, y con ello a la elección del arte como disciplina cognoscitiva. Es en la naturaleza donde halla su motivación: en los reinos animal, vegetal y mineral. El lugar del hombre en su cosmovisión es buscado en un continuo peregrinar. Sus viajes imaginarios y reales contienen ese deseo de dilucidaci6n, y es en cada estadio del conocer que esa visión se ilumina. Su lenguaje expresa un sentimiento que va estructurando una conciencia. A medida que esa realidad es dibujada, se ordenan las imágenes en un sistema jerárquico. La configuración surge de la proyección automatica de la mancha hacia el dibujo. La calidad textural, y la evanescencia de la misma, se cristalizan en un desarrollo dialéctico; es en ese juego que la imagen se define con mayor precisión. El sistema representativo contiene alusiones qua indican la valorización del signo plástico. La composición arriba?abajo establece la narración visual. La leyenda gráfica está dotada de zonas resguardadas en un ámbito natural: selvas, junglas, en las cuales aparecen construcciones a manera de habitaciones abiertas. El agua, la tierra, el cielo, y el mundo subterráneo, se relacionan entre si. La transparencia no es sólo una técnica pictórica, sino un hecho conceptual. La creencia en un mundo sin interrupciones, donde el alma se traslada a los diversos ámbitos del universo es fruto de un pensamiento mágico. Mercedes Naveiro atribuye a la dimensión plástica el poder de penetración en el espacio ilusorio y este pensamiento transgrede las leyes de la realidad objetiva. La realidad oculta, aquella que no puede presentarse a la mirada, es la que suele advertirse en el uso de las metáforas visuales y las simbolizaciones. Esta predestinación de las imágenes se origina en los contenidos de una realidad interior. Lo real no es lo narrado, sino aquello que se percibe en la relación de los signos gráficos, cuyos referentes están instalados en su interioridad. Odilon Redon y Paul Gauguin representan para el siglo XX un retorno al lenguaje simbólico, que se capitaliza en el Surrealismo, y es en la década de los sesenta que surge con el denominado "arte psicodélico". La influencia de estas escuelas, y la estadía en paises como Estados Unidos, Venezuela y México, enriquecteron la visión de Mercedes Naveiro, aportando a su código expresivo una otra gramática visual, no exenta de estas especificas consideraciones.

Rosa Faccaro, 1990






Dans une peinture hautement baroque à la limite du decoratif, Mercedes NAVEIRO met en scène une série de figures issues de la mythologie.

Par une clef presente au bas de chaque tableau, Mercedes NAVEIRO nous invite à decrypter nous-mêmes le message que l'artiste est 'chargée' de nous transmettre. Sa façon à elle de transformer le monde dans une approche teintée de la connaissance pour elle-même et pour ceux qui la lisent. Ils 'agit d'un "Je" omniprésent qui prend le parti de déblayer la grande zone de mystère que nous transportons.

L'eau en symbolisant le voyage, celui de l'Histoire qui circule n'est-elle pas aussi un miroir qui ne renvoie chez Mercedes NAVEIRO que ce que l'on veut bien y trouver ? Grande présence d'yeux (El Jardin Cerrado).

Peinture symboliste (Nutrición) par exemple, où la nourriture terrestre rejoint la mystique importance de ce que l'on mange pour bien penser. "Nutricion" est à mon sens une charnière pour approcher les dédales des huit tableaux formant la serie "Alchimie". A partir d'un corps donné et nourri selon une certaine éthique, les réactions seront immédiates comme dans tout principe chimique de base, et le grand cycle de la nature biologique est en place avec ses differentes phases : condensation, précipitation, transfiguration qui, chez l'homme, correspond aux paliers de la maturité, puis de la sagesse par l'acceptation de soi. Force de la presence de l'oeuf comme du coquillage symbolisant les marées (ouverture/repli)

Jamais de menace (Tgre/Serpent/Loup) que fa femme dévêtue ne puisse vaincre, car si elle est en Harmonie avec le monde, c'est-à-dire avec elle-même, c'est au moyen de la pensée domptée.

Peintre-Philosophe, Mercedes NAVEIRO se sert d'images et non de mots pour transcrire son univers et sur sa palette sont posées des couleurs qui ont nom Quartz/Rubis/Eméraude, febrilement déployées pour rendre hommage à la Reflexion.

Sylvie REYMOND-LEPINE Paris, le 21 janvier 1992


Mercedes Naveiro

En exposición : Bosques y jardines,

Muchas veces inventados, son fuente de inspiracion para la pintora Mercedes Naveiro. "El tema del jardin es una constante en mis cuadros. No se trata de jardines diseñados y prolijos. Unas veces puede ser un bosque con flores y animales, otras mas ordenado, Pero siempre en crecimiento y modificacion", dice la pintora .

Mercedes Naveiro, egresada de la licenciatura y master en arte de la American University de Washington. Mercedes pasó varios años en México ,donde dio clases de arte y diseño gráfico en la Universidad, y allí recibió influencia de pintoras como Remedios Varo, Frida Rahlo o Leonora Carnington, que se inspi ran en la naturaleza.

"La fuerza de la naturaleza y de la mujer esta siempre presente en mi obra", continúa la artista. Para los aztecas el jardín era un modelo de mundo y Alfonso Reyes cuenta cómo era el de Moctezuma, donde descansaba con sus mujeres y habia pajaros, estanques, animales salvajes y seres deformes o temibles". En los cuadros de Mercedes, el árbol es protagonista. La artista considera que las raices conectan con un submundo, el tronco, con la realidad y la copa con lo celestial. Es un camino en ascenso.

"Mis jardines son inventados no copiados. Reflejan mi interior. Son simbólicos- revela la pintora. Utilizo para mis bocetos miniaturas persas, dibujos chinos y plantas reales. Los cuadros son un espacio-continúa- no un objeto. Los cuelgo como un tapiz a nivel de suelo, para entrar en él".

Ademas de jardines, Mercedes Naveiro pinta talismanes que son objetos mágicos, que brindan protección, suerte, amor, salud, y en ellos aparecen como trasfondo los espacios verdes de la naturaleza. "Tanto para los talismanes como para los jardines use técnicas mixtas ,explica, y les adoso objetos que les aumentan la energía como piedras, tejidos, brillo, llaves y hojas".

No hay duda que en estos cuadros hay distintas influencias de culturas latinoamericanas, de elementos mitológicos y biblicos. "Uno de los temas que me pan inspirado es el libro La tierra sin mal, que habla del paraiso guaraní, que es terrenal y alli la gente no envejece, ni muere", concluye.

Los Talismanes y Jardines, de Mercedes Naveiro, están en exposicidn pasta el miercoles, en la Casa de San Luis, Azcuénaga 1087, de 10.00 a 18.30.

Silvia Elena Garcia


James Mahoney is a critic of Art in America and Professor at the University of Maryland.
De: James Mahoney
Enviado: lunes, 15 de enero de 2007 3:08:25
Para: mercedesnaveiro@hotmail.com

So happy to hear from you, and absolutely, Yemaya... I have the Sun,
Moon, and Mars in Pisces (mutable water), so this is definitely a real
perception, about the Goddess involved here. I can send you sort of
big images of the individual works, if you want. A very good (if
pessimistic) poet friend of mine was sure that this stuff was about the
loss of innocence, and I hope it's more about its vulnerability. Your
new work is such an astonishing meta-union of Max Beckmann and Frida
Kahlo, the wide socio-cultural perspective and your intensive
Deep thanks for your insight about my stuff.... Write
back, I hope.