Raquel Forner (Argentina, Buenos Aires, 1902 – 1988) was a key figure in the development of the avant-gardes in the 1920s and 1930s in Argentina. She also played an important role in these movements in Europe due to her presence in the Paris Group, and later again in her home country in the development of the New Figuration.
From tragedy to optimism
Forner’s work, with some links to cubism and expressionism at the beginning, marks the world’s biggest historical and political events. Forner started her artistic production after spending time in Paris then settling in Buenos Aires as an international artist in 1938. She grouped her works into series in which she explores different themes and disasters related to humanity. Between 1938 and 1957 she worked on series focusing on the political and social crises that were taking place, such as Spain’s Civil War, to which she dedicated the series España (“Spain”, 1938-1939), and World War II, with El Drama (“The Drama”, 1939-1946). Other series such as La Farsa (“The Sham”, 1948-1952) and El Apocalipsis (“The Apocalypse”, 1954-1956) continued to explore the great tragedies of humanity and their consequences using expressionist language loaded with symbolic content, instilling the works with a significant surreal component.
From 1957, Forner changed her theme and her way of looking at the world, and began producing series full of colour and optimism. This change coincided with the space explorations of NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, both of which gave Forner cause for hope for the future. She therefore started work on several series based on space, which she was to work on until the end of her days.
Her works are filled with matter and colour, creating a new symbolic dimension which she fills with anthropomorphic space beings. These beings from outer space are depicted within an imaginary and decontextualised scenario, occupying almost the entire frame.
Monstre spatial avec des mutants, 1975
65 x 50 cm
Her work Monstre spatial avec des mutants (“Space monster with mutants”) is dated 1975, thereby forming part of her Mutants series (produced in around 1974), in which Forner creates a group of paintings and prints specifically dedicated to developing this new universe with semi-human and semi-space beings that are yet to come.
In her work we see figures on a red background without perspective. Framed by a thick black line, we find a series of anthropomorphic beings created from patches of flat colours and thick lines that delimit the shapes. On the right, she depicts one of these beings using bright and warm colours; they seem to be carrying a baby or, as is typical of Forner and appears in other works, she represents it still in the womb.
Alongside beings with strange shapes and in which colour predominates, we see two figures, represented as two large faces and with just two limbs each. The use of black and white tones makes them stand out. Forner uses shades of grey to depict human beings who have not yet discovered the new dimensions of space, while the mutants, beings from the future, are vivid and colourful. However, when we look at these figures in black and white, our eye is caught by an intense red line that unites both figures by the face and what could be the lips. Here we could interpret that a new mutant is going to emerge from this union, under the protection and attentive gaze of the blue cosmonaut who surrounds them and mutually attracts them.
In this work, as well as in all her others within the theme of space, Forner uses a language which refers to informalism both in the use of colour and of textures and the prominence of the subject matter. That said, her work was never defined as abstract, so her work is a clear example of the New Figuration in Argentina.