After graduating from fine arts school in Caracas in 1945, Otero was awarded a scholarship to live in Paris, where he remained until 1952. It was there that the artist transitioned from figuration to abstraction, and he would go on to become one of the central figures in the development of abstraction in Venezuela. His Colorhythm series, which comprises seventy-five paintings, is an in-depth exploration of abstract motifs, balancing repetition with irregularity, color, and shape. In this work, the artist creates a dynamic composition from two basic elements: brightly colored shapes and alternating light and dark bands.
Gallery label from 2022
In his Colorhythm series, Otero, an artist central to the development of abstraction in Venezuela, marked the first in-depth exploration of a repeating and abstract serial motif by a Latin American artist. Over the course of seventy-five paintings, he manipulated the same basic elements: brightly colored shapes and alternating light and dark bands. In Colorhythm, 1, irregularly shaped planes of color seem to float out toward the edges of the painting and beyond, making the white bands read as a deep, continuous void, even as they alternate with the dark ones to generate a visual surface flicker. To see the colored shapes glide, float, and sink against the regular repetitions of the bands requires active looking.
The series came out of Otero’s interest in architecture, which had informed his previous works. The glossy enamel paint creates dynamic surfaces that seem to expand outward, pulsating into their surroundings in what the artist called “an open directional rhythm.” With this effect, Otero hoped to create his own architectural space. Through their relationship to real space and their perceptual play, Colorhythm, 1 and the subsequent works in the series extend abstraction beyond aesthetics and into the social realm.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)