Buenos Aires native Marcelo Novo (b. 1964) lives in Alexandria, Va., where he moved from Columbia, S.C., in 2010. Since his move, Novo has been in group exhibitions at the Argentine embassy in Washington, D.C., the Argentine consulate in New York City, and the Columbia (S.C.) Museum of Art. His 2014 solo exhibition Here, There, Somewhere was at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus. Marcelo Novo: Materia Gris was organized by Columbia’s if ART Gallery in 2011, as was Marcelo Novo: Buenos Aires/Columbia, SC, 1985-1994 in 2008. Novo, who in 1992 moved from Argentina to Columbia, has been in dozens of exhibitions along the East Coast and elsewhere, including at New York City’s Cinque Gallery; the Fayetteville (N.C.) Museum of Art; the DeLand (Fla.) Museum of Art; the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, N.C.; the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia; and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Calif. Novo’s ten-year retrospective was in 2003 at the Sumter (S.C.) Gallery of Art.
MARCELO NOVO MAKES A MOVE
By Wim Roefs
Marcelo Novo’s 2010 move to the Washington, D.C., area from Columbia, S.C., hasn’t significantly influenced his art. Novo has continued his Gray Series and Contrast Series, which he began a decade ago, and his Maps and Stamps Series, which developed a few years later. Novo is an automatist, working from the subconscious – “from inside out,” as he puts it – and life experiences, therefore, affect him more than simply a change of scenery.
The changed environment likely will influence his work years from now, Novo suspects, when the new things he sees have entered his subconscious. For now it’s “the ultimate life experience,” the birth of his daughter Sofia in 2013, that has influenced his work. “The birth of a child makes you rethink everything,” Novo says. “During my wife’s pregnancy, I created some pieces that were somehow related to the process, such as Reina Madre.”
Flor de vida, a single flower seen from above with male and female figures embedded in the petals and a baby in the center, also clearly is related. “Others are more subtle, such as Doughnuts, painted after Sofia’s birth. The Shar-Pei’s cuddly presence on the canvas probably is related to the fatherhood experience and all the sweetness that comes with it.”
Doughnuts might signal a change in Novo’s Contrast Series. Instead of the series’ typical gray-scale compositions against a bright solid background, the dog in Doughnuts is rendered in shades of brown. “I think I might be veering away from the Contrast Series,” Novo says, “or at least those paintings are evolving.”
The automatist method makes it hard to anticipate, let alone predict, new developments, but Novo thinks that the size of his maps and stamps paintings, in which he paints on stamps and maps mounted on canvas, might increase. He also might start painting the background maps rather than mounting actual maps. The departure in Doughnuts and a recent large, colorful tango painting also suggest, Novo says, that fewer contrast paintings and more colorful ones are on the horizon. His Color Series of more than a decade ago came to a halt after his father died in 2003, and with it the abundant use of color, especially in larger paintings. “It’s interesting that new, precious life brought color back to me.”
The large, complex paintings with involved backgrounds from Novo’s early days are unlikely to return. “I was never terribly keen on my own or anybody else’s art that is too narrative, with lots of elements that told a story. My transition to the Contrast Series was a bit about liberating myself from that. The current larger paintings are as complex, but their complexity is more focused on the subject, in the lights and shadows and blending and details rather than on the background. My work has become more ‘clean’, and I think that the ability to simplify signals advancement in life and art. I think it’s a normal progression of things, and I am pleased with that.”
– Wim Roefs is the owner of if ART Gallery August 2014