Rojo I, Paintings, 51 x 51

Ivanrod: Beyond Minimalism

Born in Bogota, Columbia, Ivan Rodriguez Saboya, who is known as a painter by the mononym of Ivanrod, demonstrates auspiciously John Powson’s excellent definition of minimalism: “the perfection that an artifact achieves when it is no longer possible to improve it by subtraction.” Yet, at the same time, Ivanrod inscribes some of his ostensibly minimalist compositions with mysterious linear elements and subtle, shadowy phantom forms, only visible up close, that add what can only be called a metaphysical dimension to his work. Certainly, his work goes far beyond the minimalist credo, often attributed to Frank Stella, that “what you see is all there is.” Trained as an architect, a profession he practiced primarily from 1984 to 1996 (when his main emphasis switched to his former avocation, painting), his work shows the discipline that he acquired in that training and practice. Working in acrylic or mixed media on canvas panels or layered wood, Ivanrod creates largely geometric compositions endowed with a stately presence. A great many of his works are created via the superimposition of layers of a single color to which he adds the aforementioned shadows and lines, while subtly altering the two-dimensional bias of the traditional picture plane by applying screws and nuts to the back of the painting support. Whether working with white alone, as in one of his painted wood assemblages simply titled “White” (where rectangles and strips of wood achieve an austere beauty reminiscent of Mondrian sans the color), or employing a brilliant red field as the basis for subtle auras that appear to emanate from a central axis in a work entitled “Rojo I,” Ivanrod invariably engages the thoughtful viewer in an almost zen-like visual dialogue. In the latter work, the sense of limitless space is enhanced by the perfectly square dimensions of the canvas. Just as germane to the overall power of the painting, however, is its inner imagery, which challenges the semiotician in one with what appear to be signs and symbols that elude easy interpretation. In the work titled “Black Negro,” for example, a mysterious half-moon shape within a circle emerges from what appears from a distance to be a dark void, much in the manner of the shadowy geometry in the black paintings of Ad Reinhardt. But while Reinhardt may have made an unreasonable demand on the uninitiated viewer with works that, as one writer put it, “moved toward such a degree of simplicity that it appears almost nonexistent,” Ivanrod’s imagery, while subtle, is singularly engaging, seeming pregnant with elusive meanings. In “Untitled 20,” another mostly monochromatic mixed media work in tones of black and gray, a row of elongated triangles, arranged within rectangular divisions, create a sense of exquisite symmetry. But this viewer was drawn to a small white linear shape near the top of the composition. Logo-like in its simplicity, to him it resembled the collar of a white dress shirt, and became in his own mind a symbol of corporate conformity, perhaps here superimposed somewhat sinisterly over the esoteric geometry of an ancient culture whose magic was about to be co-opted for commercial purposes. That this interpretation is subjective, and that every viewer would obviously have a different take on “Untitled 20,” is part of what, along with their purely formal attributes, makes the paintings of Ivanrod so fascinating.

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