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Back in the Day: Mel Bochner and Marcelo Bonevardi

Marcelo Bonevardi, "Wall with Objects," 1966, Indan ink on paper with plaster form, 14” x 11.” Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Armand Versaci.

Marcelo Bonevardi, "Wall with Objects," 1966, Indan ink on paper with plaster form, 14” x 11.” Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Armand Versaci.

Mel Bochner’s new book, Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007, is a compilation of his writing, both about art and as art. The book opens with thirty-five sharp, pithy reviews he wrote for Arts Magazine in the sixties. The editor paid $2.50 per review whether they were published or not, so Bochner turned in thirty each month, earning enough to pay his rent.

After reading the reviews, I wondered whatever became of the unfamiliar artists he had skewered. Consider a 1965 review of Marcelo Bonevardi’s work:

Competency, craftsmanship, and professionalism lend these large painting-constructions a certain interest. Into shallow spaces constructed behind a heavily surfaced canvas, small wooden abstract shapes are placed in the manner of meticulous Nevelson. The keyed-down color, non-referential shapes, and small esoteric numerals and arrows do not quite achieve an intended aura of mystery. If Bonevardi aspires to enigma, his all-too-familiar international vocabulary is incapable of expressing it.

Marcelo Bonevardi? For many of the artists Bochner reviews, a web search yields few results, but Bonevardi’s son Gustavo created a website for his father. Marcelo died in 1994 of cancer, and therefore won’t have to experience the disappointment of reading this review again. In any case, despite Bochner’s defensible assessment, it turns out Bonevardi fared well. “A native of Argentina, Marcelo Bonevardi spent most of his career in New York City, where he absorbed avant-garde practices and influences such as abstraction and primitivism, using them to invent a pictorial and symbolic language with which to express his deep spirituality and affinity for myth and ritual,” his website reports. “During his lifetime, Bonevardi received many honors, and his work has been collected by the leading North American and Latin American museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.”

A book about his life and work, Bonevardi: Chasing Shadows, Constructing Art, which includes essays by Dore Ashton and Ronald Christ, was awarded Best Arts Book by the International 2008 Latino Book Awards. Gustavo Bonevardi, who has an architecture degree from Princeton, and John Bennett were the editors.

Gustavo and Bennett are co-founders of Proun Studio Space, which was part of the team that created “Tribute in Light” after 9/11.  Their videos have been included in the exhibitions The Un-Private House and Mies in Berlin (including the documentary Mies and Exhibition Design 1926-1945).

Marcelo also had a daughter, Cecilia, who lives in Argentina.

Marcelo Bonevardi, "The Supreme Astrolabe," 1973. Acrylic on stitched linen and wood construction with textured substrate, polished wood assemblage and carvings, 70.25” x 87”. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Gift The Dorothy Beskind Foundation, 1973.

Marcelo Bonevardi, "Trapped Angel III," 1980. Stitched burlap and wood construction with textured substrate, painted wood assemblage, 97.25” x 48”. Museo National des Bellas Artes, B.A. Argentina.

Marcelo Bonevardi, "Study for Head," 1993. Charcoal pastel and acrylic on pigmented stucco over wood construction polished wood carving, 24.75” x 13.5”. Private collection.

Related post: In honor of fathers who like to make things

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