Adriana Varejão’s slashes after Lucio Fontana have a more gruesome story to tell than her predecessor’s punctures, making it a fitting inclusion in a groundbreaking new show on female abstract painters at Victoria Miro gallery in London. By Charlotte Jansen
Lucio Fontana’s best-known works to this day are without a doubt his Concetti Spaziale, the simple, aggressive slashes into monochrome canvases that he began to make in the late 1940s. In the Argentinian-born artist’s mind, he was cutting into the cosmos, bringing another dimension to the flat planes of painting. The highly recognizable slash works have been ridiculed and lauded—and in the early 2000s, reappropriated by a younger South American artist, Adriana Varejão.
Varejão’s series of Parede con Incisao a la Fontana (Walls with Incisions a La Fontana), is a direct response to Fontana’s jagged Tagli and their definitive vertical cuts down the canvas. Number three in the series is currently hanging in Victoria Miro’s Mayfair gallery, as part of a deep dive into the women artists in contemporary abstract painting who art history has ignored—in the form of an exhibition titled Surface Work. Its incision slices through a pristine tiled background—tiles being a motif in Varejão’s work—to reveal fleshy, deep red underneath the cold, clean bathroom blue. It deliberately creates a visual metaphor—it resembles a wound or a surgical incision. The tear that reminds us we’re vulnerable. Varejão’s slash also has a morbid eroticism that reframes the older male artist’s work. “There are so many images in the world and I like to recreate history,” as Varejão put it in a 2016 interview with Elephant.
Image: Adriana Varejão, Parede con Incisão a la Fontana 3, 2002