Alfredo Blas Castagna (1935 - )


    Puerto Dackar is a work conceived in the spirit of what, in the visual arts, is known as 'constructive'. The language of constructive art is very similar to my own mode of self-expression, especially constructivism from the River Plate, with antecedents as deep as those laid by Joaquín Torres García. In my work I have been unable to follow Torres García faithfully, as has been the case with many (almost all) of those who followed his artistic and philosophical teachings.

    What I share with these others is my proximity to the River Plate. I was born amidst the coolness of its banks and I currently live and work near to the river. From when I was very small until now I have been captivated by its poetic ambience. But within myself I feel equal resonance from the Mediterranean Sea, and Roman art: my poetic origins also lie in Sicily, a mythical place that from a young age I visited through the fabulous stories my parents told me.

    I refer to these themes briefly and rapidly because I recognize that visually they have had a profound impact on this work (Puerto Dackar). In 1959, I traveled by boat to Europe for the first time. As a matter of course it stopped over in Dackar, where I could disembark and, under the pressure of time in such a short stop, look around the area surrounding the port. This walk made a deep impression on me and, many years later, I was able to express it partially in this work

    Blas A. Castagna, Montevideo

    Translated from the original Spanish by Joanne Harwood



    Born and raised in the Barracas district of Buenos Aires (which borders La Boca, the predominantly Italian port area: literally at 'the mouth' of the river) he studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano and the Escuela Nacional Prilidiano Pueyrredon.

    In his youth he took an interest in the works of Bosch and Breughel and he frequented the house of artist Eduardo MacEntyre. Blas Castagna's early works, produced in the 1960s and 1970s during Argentina's military dictatorship, were largely figurative and made use of the grotesque to comment on the violence present in the everyday life of the country.

    At the end of the 1970s his work shifted towards abstraction, following his contact with Chinese calligraphy and Roman art in Catalonia, Spain. At this time, he began to produce prints from engraving plates, adding wood and vegetable fibres in high relief in order to produce embossed monotypes.
    Blas Castagna is perhaps best known for his constructed objects and from the 1980s onwards he has continued on the path of abstraction, producing watercolours, collages and objects often made from found materials, including metal, fabric, cardboard and string. Then as now, Blas Castagna's work shows a strong constructivist tendency, with Joaquín Torres García, the Uruguayan founder of the School of the South, as a local precedent.

    His own family is originally from Sicily and, as a child, his parents told him myths and legends from this homeland. In 1959 Blas Castagna visited Sicily for the first time and began to make personal and formal, artistic connections between the Mediterranean Sea and the Argentine River Plate and the architecture of their respective ports. The artist later explored such resonances through themes of travel and the sea: ships, water and fish. His most recent works use the recurrent motif of a ship's tiller.

    Since his first solo exhibition in 1961, Blas Castagna has exhibited individually and in group shows both in Argentina and abroad. In 2004, he was invited to participate in the jury of Argentina's Salón Nacional de Artes Visuales.

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