Sep 6th 2016

Beauty From Chaos

by David Galenson

David W. Galenson is Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago; Academic Director of the Center for Creativity Economics at Universidad del CEMA, Buenos Aires; and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His publications include Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity (Princeton University Press, 2006) and Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2009).

Luis Felipe Noé is one of the giants of contemporary Latin American art. He is a protean conceptual innovator, whose art has never ceased to change: today at the age of 83, he is making some of the most powerful works of his long career.

2016-08-31-1472657791-532609-Noe083016.jpg
El estricto orden de las cosas (2006), mixed media on paper.
All images courtesy of Luis Felipe Noé.

Noé first gained fame in 1962, when he organized a group that united four young painters - Ernesto Deira, Romulo Maccio, Jorge de la Vega, and himself - into what became known as Nueva Figuracion (New Figuration). These four talented painters together had an explosive impact on Argentine art, working on the border between gestural abstraction and figuration. Their work was distinct from that of their peers elsewhere, but there were parallels between their art and that of Karel Appel in Europe and Willem de Kooning in the US.

2016-08-31-1472657390-2592770-NuevaFiguracion.jpg
The four artists of Nueva Figuracion (ca. 1962)

Always restless, in 1964 Noé began the first of what would become numerous extended stays outside Argentina. In New York, he began to work in three dimensions, building from a base of oil on canvas by adding metal and wood elements, often at acute angles to the canvas. Although these works were related to Rauschenberg's combine-paintings, they differed from them in that Noé did not add found objects to his paintings, but instead sculpted the collage elements to reinforce and complement the two-dimensional painted forms on the canvases. These three-dimensional works effectively created a new genre, though this has generally been overlooked, in part because Noé, consistently concerned less with form than subject, did not bother naming his innovation.

2016-08-31-1472658590-5266441-noe1964.jpg
¿A donde vamos? o Presente (1964).

Noé's career has taken many unexpected turnings. In 1966, an artistic crisis led him to give up painting. He opened a bar, Bárbaro, that soon became a meeting place for Argentine artists and intellectuals, and was quickly decorated with murals and paintings. Noé published a novel, and several texts of theoretical writings that considered the role of art in relation to modern technology and politics. Like Pollock, Noé began making drawings for his psychoanalysis, and in the mid-'70s this drew him back to painting.

2016-08-31-1472659096-5330666-noe1971.jpg
Guerra (1971).

Noé loves Argentina, art, and Argentine artists ("and life," he added, when I asked his opinion of this statement). And Argentine artists clearly reciprocate his love. To see Noé in a group of artists and critics is to see deep affection, that speaks eloquently of Noé's warm personality. He is among the most generous of artists: for decades, he has been a teacher and mentor to dozens of aspiring Argentine artists, and in 2006 he and Eduardo Stupia founded La Linea Piensa - The Line Thinks - which has provided a showcase for more than 50 young artists in Buenos Aires' Borges Cultural Center. Noé has received countless awards and prizes. Among scores of exhibitions at galleries and museums, he has been honored with retrospective exhibitions at Argentina's National Museum of Fine Arts, Mexico's National Palace of Fine Arts, and Brazil's Museum of Modern Art; the Argentine National Museum has also honored the New Figuration with an exhibition.

2016-08-31-1472659826-5310145-noevoto.jpg
El uso del derecho a voto (ca. 2010).

Noé is a conceptual innovator, whose art expresses his love for Argentina and its people, and his anger at the governments that have harmed them. He has made a series of innovations in form, but he does not consider these important, for to him form is merely a means to his real goal: in conversations about his work, he gently but consistently deflects attention from his technique to the meanings of his paintings.

2016-08-31-1472660229-2250541-noe1990b.jpg
Paisaje para armar (1990).

In recent decades, Noé's art has ranged over a series of subjects, including notably the natural landscape of South America, and the history of its countries. His art has never ceased to change, following his belief that "chaos is not disorder but the actual order of things in a permanent state of mobility." His recent paintings are often very large, they are often cut into irregular shapes, and individual works are often made up of multiple pieces. The style of painting varies not only across works, but within individual works. But there are nonetheless consistencies that unite Noé's works. Prominent among these are bright and vivid colors, vigorous brushstrokes, and powerful forms. And above all, in spite of their diversity in many dimensions, the works all share a visual resolution that comes from Noé's strong and unfailing visual sensibility.

2016-08-31-1472663574-1245832-noe2016.jpg
Luis Felipe Noé in his studio, 2016.

Noé today continues to work tirelessly in his Buenos Aires studio, producing paintings and sculptures not only for his annual exhibition this November at Buenos Aires' renowned Rubbers Gallery, but also for a major exhibition of his work in 2017 at Argentina's National Museum of Fine Arts. It is abundantly clear that his work will never lose its excitement and dynamism, and that Noé will never cease to make beauty from chaos.

2016-08-31-1472660840-4677384-Noe1989.jpg
El espacio pictórico (1989).



     

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "Planting more forests is a potent tool for mitigating the climate crisis, but forests are like complex machines with millions of parts. Tree planting can cause ecological damage when carried out poorly, particularly if there is no commitment to diversity of planting. Following Darwin’s thinking, there is growing awareness that the best, healthiest forests are ones with the greatest variety of trees - and trees of various ages."
Nov 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "At a time when the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is so intense, if not fateful for the future of democracies, NATO and the EU must warn these countries [Editor's note: Poland and Hungary, EU and NATO, Turkey NATO] that they are on the precipice of being kicked out if they do not change their governing practice. They must be required to restore the principles of democracy by upholding universal human rights and abiding the rule of law, or else they will forfeit their membership and suffer from the consequences of their crimes." ------ "A narcissistic leader, such as Trump, whose hunger for power seems to know no limit, has happily sacrificed the good of the country on the altar of his twisted ego. America’s democracy cannot be repaired unless he and those who helped him are held accountable and face the weight of the law."
Nov 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many people who go through intense trauma, for example, become deeper and stronger than they were before. They may even undergo a sudden and radical transformation that makes life more meaningful and fulfilling. Indeed, research shows that between half and one-third of all people experience significant personal development after traumatic events, such as bereavement, serious illness, accidents or divorce. Over time, they may feel a new sense of inner strength and confidence and gratitude for life and other people. They may develop more intimate and authentic relationships and have a wider perspective, with a clear sense of what is important in life and what isn’t. In psychology, this is referred to as “post-traumatic growth”. "
Nov 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Notably, Murdoch thinks that really knowing or understanding another person is a difficult task: “It is a task to come to see the world as it is”. According to the Freudian psychology Murdoch subscribes to in The Sovereignty of Good, humans are prone to “fantasy” – refusing to face the truth because it can damage our fragile egos."
Nov 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "People do not believe false information because they are ignorant. There are many factors at work, but most researchers would agree that the belief in misinformation has little to do with the amount of knowledge a person possesses. Misinformation is a prime example of motivated reasoning. People tend to arrive at the conclusions they want to reach as long as they can construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these outcomes."
Oct 28th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Brood with me on the latest delay of the full release of the records pertaining to the murder of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. That was 58 years ago." -----"Mark my words: ...... No one who remembers 1963 will live to see the US government admit the full truth about Kennedy’s murder. And the American people’s faith in democracy will continue to fade. There is only one way to prevent this, and that is to release every record, withholding nothing – and to do it now."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "..... we may defy the warnings of modern medicine, convinced of our own superiority. Researchers at the University of Chicago Divinity School reported half of their participants, all of whom indicated some religious affiliation, agreed with the statement “God will protect me from being infected”. To cope with our dread of death, we delude ourselves into thinking we are invincible: death might happen to other people, but not to me."
Oct 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch is about the final issue of a magazine that specialises in long-form articles about the goings-on in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The film is an anthology of shorts representing three of the articles. A piece by the magazine’s art critic (Tilda Swinton) explores the life and late success of the abstract artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro). Talented from a young age, Rosenthaler pursued art with a dogged determination that drove him to slowly lose his mind." ---- "Like everything else, mental illness is understood within the context of its time. In their study of melancholy and genius Born Under Saturn, the art historians Margot and Rudolf Wittkower show how Renaissance artists embraced mental alienation. This was shown by a withdrawn, slothful gloom. Such heavy sadness was considered both the symptom and the price of divine inspiration." ---- "Today, the association of creativity and mental illness often implies regression from an adult and orderly state of mind to one that is primal, impulsive, or infantile. The artist in Anderson’s film is such an example: he is noisy, impetuous, and extravagantly mad. And it is while he is at his “maddest” that he paints his best work." ---- "Here I explore the work of four painters whose work has been shaped by various mental illnesses, highlighting how the idea of the “mad artist” need not be tied up with a loss of control but rather a bid to gain it."
Oct 21st 2021
EXTRACT: "So much of Succession holds a mirror to real life, and the way that Logan Roy’s hand-picked board members allowed these abuses to continue by turning a blind eye to them is a good example. We have just published research that shows that public companies whose directors are chosen by their CEOs are statistically more likely to be involved in corporate misconduct, along with various other shortcomings. So why does this happen, and what should be done about it? "
Oct 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah came to Britain in the 1960s as a refugee. Being of Arab origin, he was forced to flee his birthplace during the revolution of 1964 and only returned in 1984 in time to visit his dying father. Until his retirement, he was a full-time professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury."
Oct 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "As the 25th James Bond film No Time to Die hits the cinemas, we are once again reminded of the way that disability is depicted negatively in Hollywood films. The new James Bond film features three villains, all of who have facial disfigurements (Blofeld, Safin and Primo). If you take a closer look at James Bond villains throughout history, the majority have facial disfigurements or physical impairments. This is in sharp contrast to the other characters, including James Bond, who are able-bodied and presented with no physical bodily differences. Indeed, many films still rely on outdated disability tropes, including Star Wars and various Disney classics. Rather than simply being part of a character’s identity, the physical difference is exploited and exaggerated to become a plot point and visual metaphor for villains" ----- "The British Film Institute (BFI) was the first organisation to sign up and has committed to stop funding films that feature negative representations depicted through scars or facial differences – a step in the right direction."
Oct 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "The trillions of microbes inside of our gut play many very important roles in our body. Not only does this “microbiome” regulate our metabolism and help us absorb nutrients from food into the body, it can also influence whether we are lean or obese."
Sep 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurised chamber. In the chamber, the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal air pressure. It is commonly used to treat decompression sickness (a condition scuba divers can suffer from), carbon monoxide poisoning,......" ---- "Blood flow to the brain is reduced in people with Alzheimer’s. This study showed increased blood flow to the brain in the mice receiving oxygen therapy, which helps with the clearance of plaques from the brain, and reduces inflammation – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s." ----- "The researchers then used these findings to assess the effectiveness of oxygen therapy in six people over the age of 65 with cognitive decline. They found that 60 sessions of oxygen therapy, over 90 days, increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain and significantly improved the patients’ cognitive abilities – improved memory, attention and information processing speed."
Sep 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Hollywood for years called on Charles Boyer to typify one French look –  bedroom eyes, sly maneuverings, the dismissive look. A face of another type, the massive mug and narrow eyes of Charles de Gaulle, provides the same disdain of the foreigner but also a superiority based on his belief in his own destiny."
Sep 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "The burden of loneliness for older people is intimately connected to what they are alone with. As we reach the end of our lives, we frequently carry heavy burdens that have accumulated along the way, such as feelings of regret, betrayal and rejection. And the wounds from past relationships can haunt people all their lives."
Sep 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Gardens help restore the ability to concentrate on demanding tasks, providing the perfect space for a break when working from home in a pandemic. Natural things – such as trees, plants and water – are particularly easy on the eye and demand little mental effort to look at. Simply sitting in a garden is therefore relaxing and beneficial to mental wellbeing."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "Whether or not a person achieves remission, reducing blood sugar levels is important in managing the negative effects of type 2 diabetes and reducing risk of complications. But when it comes to choosing a diet, the most important thing is to pick one that suits you – one that you’re likely to stick to long term."
Aug 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "In our latest study, we show that by taking the microbiome from young mice and transplanting them into old mice, many of the effects of ageing on learning and memory and immune impairments can be reversed. Using a maze, we showed that this faecal microbiota transplant from young to old mice led to the old mice finding a hidden platform faster."
Aug 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Fukuyama argued that political struggle causes history. This struggle tries to solve the problem of thymos – an ancient Greek term referring to our desire to have our worth recognised. This desire can involve wanting to be recognised as equal to others. But it can also involve wanting to be recognised as superior to others. A stable political system needs to accommodate both desires." .... "Counter-dominant spite can weaken liberal democracies. During the 2016 Brexit referendum, some people in the UK voted Leave to spite elites, knowing this could damage the country’s economy. Similarly, during the 2016 US presidential election some voters supported Donald Trump to spite Hillary Clinton, knowing his election could harm the US. "
Jul 31st 2021
EXTRACT: "If we want to live in a world that is good for pollinators, as well as the rest of us, big changes are needed in our environment, and our food system. This is why many beekeepers change their diet and their shopping, eating more locally grown vegetables that aren’t treated with pesticides. ...... Being willing to buy fruit and vegetables that may have the occasional insect living in it is better for us and for nature. To live more harmoniously with the natural world, we need to relax about larvae in the lettuce and slugs in the spinach."