New York University: New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts to present Kenneth Kemble and Silvia Torras: The Formative Years, 1956-63

The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University announces Kenneth Kemble and Silvia Torras:The Formative Years, 1956-63, the first dual presentation of the work of Argentine artists Kenneth Kemble (1923-1998) and Silvia Torras (1936-1970) in the United States. Curated by Clara Maria Apostolatos, Martina Lentino, Nicasia Solano, and Juul Van Haver, the exhibition is on view from February 23 – May 27, 2022, at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts’ James B. Duke House.

The exhibition explores a decisive period in the artists’ individual and collaborative careers against the backdrop of their personal relationship. Placing paintings and archival material in dialogue, it emphasizes the artists’ distinct identities while acknowledging their brief, yet profound artistic reciprocity. Torras and Kemble are recognized for their contributions to Informalismo, a gestural abstract style that explored unrestrained expression, embraced spontaneity and accentuated the materiality of the painting’s surface. Through print media, the two-part archival display explores complimentary themes, with one section surveying Kemble’s career and influence on Informalismo, and the other tracing the ways in which their work has been jointly defined.

Thirteen years Kembles’ junior, Torras trained with Kemble in his studio following her fine art studies in Buenos Aires. Their relationship quickly evolved into a creative and romantic partnership and the two married in 1956. Kemble and Torras held joint exhibitions at such notable Buenos Aires galleries as Galería Lirolay and Galería Peuser and participated as artists and promoters of the historic 1961 exhibition Arte Destructivo (Destructive Art) at Galería Lirolay. After their relationship ended in 1963, Torras moved to Mexico City; she did not show her art again publicly. Kemble outlived Torras by three decades, and consequently, her character and creative trajectory have for the most part been recounted by Kemble. In effect, the discourse surrounding their personal and artistic partnership is largely dominated by his perspective. This exhibition presents the unique opportunity to acknowledge Torras’ individual achievements, despite the lack of important monographic publications and exhibitions outside Argentina.

Seeking to emphasize Torras’ artistic autonomy, the exhibition includes four paintings by Torras made between 1960 and 1963, as concrete testimony to her individual practice and legacy. These works demonstrate Torras’ interest in nature and organic form, employing vibrant blocks of color on heavily worked canvases, a technique that distinguishes her from other Informalista artists. Both texturally uneven and chromatically balanced, Torras’ paintings form vital and intuitive expressions of emotion through layered paint, gestural brushstroke, and bold color composition.

The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) provided funding and extensive archival and research support with special assistance from Julieta Kemble. The paintings on view are on generous loan from the ISLAA collection.

Public programming to be announced shortly.

Kenneth Kemble (b. 1923, Buenos Aires, Argentina––d. 1998, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was an Argentine artist, writer, and teacher. He studied painting in Buenos Aires with Raúl Russo in 1950, and beginning in 1951, in Paris, at the Académie André Lhote. Kemble’s career in the fields of painting, collage, assemblage, and relief sculpture spanned several decades. He is most recognized, however, for his contributions to Argentine Informalist abstraction in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was one of the main participants of the exhibition Arte Destructivo (Destructive Art) that set the tone for Argentine Conceptualism. Throughout his career, Kemble exhibited in numerous individual and group presentations and received many awards. Recently, Kemble was accorded a posthumous retrospective at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano Buenos Aires (MALBA), titled Kemble por Kemble (2013).

Silvia Torras (b. 1936, Barcelona, Spain––d. 1970, Cuernavaca, Mexico) was a painter in Argentina’s Informalismo movement from the late 1950s through the mid 1960s. Torras studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano and Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Prilidiano Pueyrredón prior to studying with Kenneth Kemble in 1956. The couple married later that year and worked closely together until they separated in 1963. Torras’ first major solo exhibition took place in 1960 at Galería Peuser in Buenos Aires. Along with Kemble, she participated in the 1961 Arte Destructivo exhibition. In 1962 Torras received an honorable mention for the Premio Ver y Estimar Prize at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires and in 1963 was a finalist for the prestigious Di Tella Award at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella. Following her separation from Kemble, Torras relocated to Mexico and ended her artistic career. Since her death, Torras’s work has been exhibited in several exhibitions along with Kemble.

ISLAA
The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) advances scholarship and public engagement with art from Latin America through its program of exhibitions, publications, lectures, and partnerships with universities and art institutions. Ariel Aisiks founded ISLAA in 2011 to raise the international visibility of art from Latin America. The pursuit of this goal has led to ISLAA’s involvement in more than 400 lectures and conferences, 30 books, and 20 large-scale exhibitions. In addition to these activities, ISLAA is home to the Jaime Davidovich Foundation, which honors the life, work, and inimitable spirit of artistic experimentation carried forth by the late artist.

The Institute of Fine Arts at NYU
Since 1932 the Institute of Fine Arts has been dedicated to graduate teaching and advanced research in the history of art, archaeology, and conservation. The Duke House Exhibition Series brings contemporary art to the walls of the Institute’s landmarked James B. Duke House. The work is displayed in the beaux-arts interior of the former residence of the Duke family, juxtaposing the historic with the contemporary and inviting viewers to engage with both the past and the future of the Institute. Since 2019, the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) is proud to support the Duke House Exhibition Series to showcase the work of Latin American artists.

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