Book Review: Tomasello

22 June 2009, 20:02

This is not as much a book review as it is an overview of a catalog of the current exhibit on the work of a friend, but most of all a master: Luis Tomasello. The work of Tomasello is now being concurrently shown at the Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires and at Sicardi Gallery in Houston. This is the artist’s third solo show at Sicardi. Tomasello’s work is also part of a current show at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston entitled: North Looks South: Building the Latin American Art Collection.

I find Tomasello’s work very architectural in nature. When he once told me that he wanted to be an architect but thought he was not cut out for it, I simply responded that he was in fact doing architecture. Luis Tomasello was born in La Plata, Argentina, in 1915. He moved to Paris permanently in 1957, two years after construction of the only house designed by Le Corbusier in the entire Americas was completed. Although I never discussed this with Luis, I picture a connection between the poured-in-place concrete bris soleil in front of the Curutchet house and Tomasello’s work. At the time the house was completed, Tomasello was still working on two-dimensional painting, a practice that he would later almost put aside to focus on three-dimensional reliefs.

Luis Tomasello’s’ work is often categorized as kinetic art. Perhaps it is the period in which the bulk of his production is inserted. What is factual, however, is that his work is directly tied to geometry, form, constructability, relief, color, contrast, and the subtle play between light and shadows. Through the simple array of basic forms and elements, Tomasello transforms the negative space of his work into positive. Looking at his work, one understands each piece to be constructed more by what is not made or assembled by him, but rather by what it is provoked in the work’s interstitial spaces as a result of the composition. The elements he uses are placed with millimetrical precision; the colors, meticulously chosen.

At 93 years of age, he has the energy and the spirit of somebody half his age. When I talk with him every time he is in Houston or I see him elsewhere, I think that his incredible hunger for doing what he does is what keeps him fresh and going. And he remains as prolific as ever.

The catalog for the show in Buenos Aires has work spanning from 1956 until 2002. It also briefly illustrates Tomasello’s incursion into the built environment with panels built for building facades and large public interiors. The work of Luis Tomasello is available through Sicardi Gallery.