Isn’t life a continuous game of tactics and strategies? Isn’t it cautiously thinking every move? Aren’t sacrifices made in order to gain grounds? It would seem that life itself develops on the chessboard. For this reason, the chess game is a frequent theme in iconic artworks worldwide. The game and its pieces constitute an endless leitmotiv for artists.
In 2004, the Museum of Visual Arts (MAVI) of Santiago de Chile presented Mario Carreño, retrospective exhibition 1939-1993. After four years of his decease, the country of poets rendered homage to the one that gave them so much. During his long stay in the Southeast end of the America, the Cuban artist created important works and was pioneer in the development of the cultural life of this grateful people who, with wise justice, bestowed him the Chilean citizenship and the National Prize of Art of Chile, among other awards.
The MAVI exhibition included paintings, drawings, collage and sculptures. Some of the works were presented for the first time to the public, since they belonged to different private collectors. This time, the museum was offering a unique opportunity. Of the 120 pieces included in the meticulous curatorship, the bronze sculpture Ajedrez (1974) stood out.
The beauty of this sculpture lays on several aspects, and even when this text isn’t enough to examine them all, it is possible to highlight some of them. Within the extensive creative career of Carreño, painting and drawing are the most common, and his sculpture production is scarce. Hence, this latest fact constitutes an added value to Ajedrez. Moreover, its look is essentially abstract in its geometric perspective. Mario Carreño is known to be one of the first and main predecessors of this style in Cuba, who along with Martínez Pedro and Sandú Darié, shape up the trilogy of Cuban painters that first added abstractionism to their works. Carreño bet for this highly attacked and rejected style at the moment, after he had developed a successful portfolio in modern art.
In Ajedrez, as in other abstract works of Carreño, it is possible to perceive an aesthetic elation in the relations between the forms, making the elements to integrate in a harmonic and balanced composition that gives pleasure to the eye. Once again, he shows perfection in the termination of the shapes and the material. As it is characteristic of his concrete art canvases, he uses the triangles, the rectangles, and the squares, which now turn tridimensional to metaphorically allude to the strategy board game. The elegance and stylization of the shapes suggest the contours of the bishop, the queen, and the rook, which are arranged to resemble a castle or a fortress. Hence, we find the glory and the strength of this realm in its union, coherence and perfect links, which is ready to checkmate whoever dares to attack its domain. Here is then the essence of masterpieces: they hide a strong significance in their apparent simplicity, and they have the power to evoke eloquent interpretations from the spectator.