The Sculpture of Gonzalo Fonseca

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Noguchi Museum presents a retrospective exhibition of the sculptural work of Gonzalo Fonseca (1922–1997), a major figure in the development of modern Latin American art who created some of the most enchanting, idea-rich sculptures of his day. The exhibition encompasses some 80 objects, primarily works in stone dating from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, complemented by a selection of drawings and sketchbooks.

The Sculpture of Gonzalo Fonseca is organized by The Noguchi Museum in partnership with the Fonseca Estate and curated by Senior Curator Dakin Hart. It is the first museum exhibition of Fonseca’s work in New York since 1971.

Trained as a painter, Fonseca was among a group of exceptional artists who emerged from the theory-rich studio of Uruguayan modernist Joaquín Torres-García in the 1940s. He became a sculptor in the mid-1960s, when the language of forms he had invented in two dimensions seems finally to have demanded development in three. Working first in found limestone, brownstone, and sandstone in New York City, and later, additionally, in a wide variety of marbles in Italy—in the same stone-working community as Isamu Noguchi—he produced wall reliefs, freestanding structures, and sculptures.

A voracious polymath, Fonseca steeped himself in the natural sciences, linguistics, and history, and his sculptures often feel synthesized from, or like an index to, the contents of the lost Library of Alexandria. Like the best imaginative literature, they are complex fictions: at once playful and serious, austere and whimsical, childlike and, above all, archetypal. Fonseca was interested in the commonalities among Earth’s civilizations, past and present, and in how they might be abstracted in a universal vocabulary of forms. In a sense, he spent his entire life reverse engineering the Tower of Babel, that great symbol of human ambition, pluralism, and impermanence. But though the sculptures appear inextricably connected to the ancient world, their intent is more postmodern than archaeological. Playfully aware of their artificiality, they evoke other realities in order to address fissures in the underlying fundamentals of this one. To encounter them is to enter, as one does at The Noguchi Museum, a virtual encyclopedia of ideas about the relationship between space, place, and human understanding.

The Sculpture of Gonzalo Fonseca is part of the Museum’s ongoing efforts to illuminate the many contexts in which Noguchi worked, and to encourage the broadest possible understanding of his vision.

Images, from top: Gonzalo Fonseca in his quarry studio in Seravezza, Italy, c. 1979. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Gonzalo Fonseca. Gonzalo Fonseca, Tebaida, 1973–79. Limestone. 27 9/16 x 16 9/16 x 19 5/16 in. Photo by EPW Studio/Maris Hutchinson. Gonzalo Fonseca, Untitled, 1971. Ink on paper. 18 1/8 x 24 in. Photo by EPW Studio/Maris Hutchinson.

The Sculpture of Gonzalo Fonseca is organized in collaboration with the Estate of Gonzalo Fonseca. The exhibition is supported with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. Additional support for the exhibition and publications has been provided by the J.M. Kaplan Fund.
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