Exploring both internal and external worlds, Catalina Chervin renders spaces of coalescence and dissolution, growth and decay, and chaos and refinement. The artist evokes these oppositional forces with forms and marks that oscillate between abstraction and figuration. In some of her compositions, extremely precise, delicate lines reveal interwoven organic forms; and in others, tangled nets of rapid marks seem to obscure phantomlike presences. Whether the image that emerges is a fleeting, ashen atmosphere or the swirling depths of the female body, Chervin represents what the human mind intuits rather than what the eyes see.
Drawings: 2012 - 2019
Drifting closer toward abstraction, her compositions began to evince a sketchy, spontaneous quality that produced compelling tensions with areas of painstaking detail. Despite these new formal occurrences, Chervin did not fully abandon her twisted, humanoid forms, nor did she relinquish the themes of existential struggle central to her earlier works. Indeed, the artist’s more recent drawings demonstrate her continued preoccupation with beginnings, endings, and hauntings, as well as psychological and physical tensions.
Chervin’s drawings from the late 1980s and early 1990s contain surreal, chaotic scenes that evoke origin myths; her compositions gesture toward cataclysmic events that prompt the suffering of both humanity and the spirit world. This imagery is at once universal and highly personal: Chervin is the descendant of Russian Jews who immigrated to Argentina - uprooting their lives to escape the Holocaust. Chervin herself endured the oppression and violence of Argentina’s civic-military dictatorship. The visual lexicon that Chervin developed within her early works seems to draw from these histories of trauma and distress to create emotionally charged, symbolic narratives around human mortality.
Catalina Chervin in her studio, Buenos AiresPortraits by Sebastián Szyd, 2012
"Black conjures up ideas of evil, death, nightmares, the night itself and final obliteration. Nonetheless, it also suggests the softness of the evening and the potential comforts of the end of time as we know it. While there are certainly instances in the art of Catalina Chervin of the graphic line and evocations of worlds beyond our own paltry vision of the cosmos in which color (sometimes red) makes an incursion, it has for decades been her reliance on blackness that has dramatically informed her work."
Edward J. Sullivan, Ph.D, excerpt from "Catalina Chervin and the Urgency of Black," Atmósferas & Entropía, 2020
Catalina Chervin: CatharsisHutchinson Modern & Contemporary
Details of Chervin's studioPhotographed by Sebastián Szyd
"So what does Chervin bring out of the dark? Multitudes of figures, towers, fissures, clouds, storm-bursts, tangled roots, all drawn with exquisite precision. Explosions of matter comparable to Leonardo da Vinci’s late drawings of catastrophic natural disasters. Landscapes both delicate and terrifying. She gives visual form to states of mind, dramatizing the meeting between the personal and the cosmic.
Chervin’s drawings retain their mysteries. Part of it is scale: are the forms we see unimaginably immense? Or are we looking through a microscope? Similarly, trying to grasp their subjects fully is like attempting to recall a dream, the events of which unravel and slip out of our grasp. But these works hold us under their spell with the remarkable power of their atmosphere, and with the truths they insistently whisper about the nature of the human spirit. The ghosts that haunt Catalina Chervin’s drawings compel us to keep looking."
Susan Owens, excerpt from Atmósferas & Entropía, 2020
MACBA I Retrato en movimiento: Catalina Chervin
Interview of Catalina Chervin by Ángel Navarro, Curator at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Buenos Aires, about her exhibition "Atmósferas & Entropía" for their "Retrato en movimiento" series, 2020
"[Catalina Chervin's] pictures are neither entirely abstract nor anywhere near representational; her imagery at once allusive and elusive. Her works are appositional no-man’s lands, disturbed by destructive techniques which have offered artists aesthetic strategies fused with emotional coping mechanisms in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust.
Clearly the worlds Chervin invents in her graphic art are as strong as they are vulnerable, as obsessive as poignant. Perhaps the juxtapositions and contradictions that have attached themselves to her work begin to explain the curious duality between artist and the subjects of her art...."Norman L. Kleeblatt, excerpt from "Catharsis," Atmósferas & Entropía, 2020
The formal shifts that occurred in Chervin’s drawings after 2000 can be found in her prints, as well. The artist’s mark making—both meticulous and fluid—produces a new kind of density, and shadows seems to emerge as presences, rather than voids. Her prints often invoke higher powers and dark forces that coalesce, dissolve, and drift— shifting populations and landscapes around them as they rise and fall. Chervin has also created “portfolios” from specific groups of prints: Apocalypsis (2004), Canto (2010-2011), and IT (2015). These portfolios combine the artist’s etchings with the poetry and writings of Fernando Arrabal, Itzhak Katzenelson, and Clarice Lispector. In this context, Chervin’s prints transcend the realm of visual art to become texts—pages in a larger narrative—weaving through, expanding, and illuminating the written language with which they are juxtaposed.
In New York, Chervin worked at Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop (now a part of The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts) and with printmaker Takuji Hamanaka. She has also collaborated at the workshops of master printers Lothar Osterburg (2004, 2010, 2015), Kathy Caraccio (2003) and recently with master printer Devraj Dakoji, at Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop (2015 to 2018).
"Chervin describes her practice as an effort 'to understand the graphic chaos which is my interlocutor when I begin a dialogue with a blank sheet.' This balance between chaos and the blank sheet, entropy and order, is revealed in the precise lines, careful shading, and “accidental” imprints – drips and smudges carefully calibrated into the composition – that extend across the paper, drawing viewers into seemingly timeless spaces, inviting careful and considered examination. Indeed, Chervin’s artworks evoke a sensation of deep perspectival space that alternately conjures forth landscapes, emotional states, or haunting presences."
Susanna V. Temkin, Ph.D, excerpt from Catalina Chervin, Atmospheres and Entropy: Works on Paper, Cecilia De Torres, LTD., 2016
While Chervin’s oeuvre primarily comprises drawings and prints, she has also created a number of large-scale collage works. This medium is a logical, rich extension of her drawing and printmaking practices; collage allows Chervin to deepen the physicality inherent in her work. Employing etching techniques to excavate printing plates or erasing with such force that paper supports disintegrate, her surfaces often possess a geological quality. In Chervin’s collaged works, the heightened contrasts between smooth and rough, uniform and heterogeneous, endow each composition with a sculptural quality. The tactility of these works recalls the layered notices and advertisements found on the walls of urban settings. Here, however, the message is transcendent— rather than diverting our attention to commodities or entertainment, we are redirected inward. Chervin encourages us to seek our own answers in the protrusions and shadows of her mysterious, ambiguous spaces.
On Discarded SkinBy Marta Merajver Kurlat, January 2022
ON DISCARDED SKIN
Wrapped in skin
Not mine, and yet
As mine as bones
And blood and cells
That shaped my being
In the wondrous world
I trod the path
I carved the signs
I hummed the song
Of life and love
And tears and woe.
I did not hear
The skin rebel,
Its oozing pores
Cracking in pain,
Screaming “no more”,
Claiming for truth
In vain, for deaf and blind
I clung to it year out year in.
That skin not mine
First scaled, then wilted,
Then shed and turned
Into specks of dust
Afloat in an alien sea.
An empty, not-me sea.
I did not know
A cleansing force
Had been at work
To free me of delusion
While weaving my me-skin,
The one I wear now
No longer deaf,
No longer blind.
Catalina ChervinOnline Catalogue
You can view our Online Catalogue of Catalina Chervin here.
"There is a void in my work, the expression of a void that is filled with forms.
Forms that seem to be organs, birds, fragments of a human body cut into a thousand pieces, monsters of their own mythology, landscapes, towers from which the horde falls and disperses, creating a world and flooding space. Forms that make up a sinuous fabric assembled by gagging on themselves, where each figure begets itself and engenders another simultaneously to infinity.
My drawings are also cut strokes, torn papers, cracked, wounded, with subtle lines that scream from the depths of the story itself, from my own story. For I was told one story and lived another. The story told by my grandparents and my mother, persecuted and exiled Russian Jews. A story, perhaps not so different from the one I lived myself, very close by, living in Buenos Aires during the military dictatorship in my country, in the seventies, a story that brought me too close to cruelty and terror forcing me into hiding and self-exile. Strokes that are woven and mark my work/a labyrinth in which I am reflected.
The fabric of infinite details present in my work is the terrain upon which I draw and construct these images of the world that emerge from the secret belief in hope and beauty."
Catalina Chervin on her practice, 2020
Atmósferas & EntropíaCatalina Chervin: 1998 - 2020
View additional works and read complete texts by scholars such as Catalina Chervin, Joshua Halberstam, Norman L. Kleeblatt, Robert C. Morgan, Marietta Mautner Markhof, Ángel Navarro, Susan Owens and Edward J. Sullivan. View here.
MACBA | ATMÓSFERAS Y ENTROPÍA I CATALINA CHERVINThe Museum of Contemporary Art Buenos Aires | Atmospheres and Entropy | Catalina Chervin
"The Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires | Fundación Aldo Rubino and the Asociación Amigos del MACBA are pleased to present 'Atmósferas y Entropía', a solo exhibition by the Argentine artist, Catalina Chervin, curated by Ángel Navarro. The exhibition brings together large-format works belonging to series such as "Of Written Landscapes" or "Of Small Brands", and includes a selection of 2 x 3 meter diptychs from his "Street Art" series. In them, Chervin uses pen, pencil, ink and charcoal to capture shapes, lines, stains on paper that juxtapose and weave textures, lights and shadows."
About Catalina Chervin
Catalina Chervin (b. 1953, Argentina) studied at the Escuela Nacional Superior Ernesto de la Cárcova in Buenos Aires from 1973 to 1979, trained by Argentine artists including Kenneth Kemble and Emilio Renart amongst others. In New York, Chervin worked at Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop and with printmaker Takuji Hamanaka. She has also collaborated at the workshops of master printers Lothar Osterburg (2004, 2010, 2015), Kathy Caraccio (2003) and recently with master printer Devraj Dakoji, at Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop (2015 to 2018).
Chervin has received numerous fellowships, including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship (2004 and 2015); the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship (2010); and the Fondo Nacional de las Artes Fellowship (Argentina, 2001). Chervin has exhibited widely, with group and individual exhibitions across Latin America, the United States, and Europe; including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Buenos Aires (2020-2021); El Museo del Barrio in New York (2017); the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. (2016); the Museo Judío in Buenos Aires (2016); and the Drawing Center in New York (2014). Chervin’s works can be found in the collections of numerous institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the New York Public Library; El Museo del Barrio, New York; The Jewish Museum, New York; Achembach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Blanton Museum of Art (University of Texas), Austin; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The British Museum, London; and The Graphische Sammlung, Albertina, Vienna.