Luis Tomasello

Chromoplastic Atmosphere No.383


Acrylic paint on wood
Support: 905 x 905 x 80 mm
Presented by the artist 2013


Chromoplastic Atmosphere No.383 1975 is an almost monochromatic relief painting in acrylic paint on wood by the Argentinian artist Luis Tomasello. It consists of a raised square relief situated within a slightly larger square backboard that extends for approximately 20 mm around the inner relief. Between the backboard and the raised square there is a void so that the relief projects visibly approximately 10 mm out from the backboard. The raised section has a small square aperture (10 x 10 mm) at its centre. Around the perimeter of the raised square and in the small aperture a neon yellow glow is visible. This is created by paint that has been applied to the back of the relief board and is reflected off the white backboard. It contrasts with the areas of light and shadow that also define the raised section. This effect of reflected colour, light and shade is characteristic of Tomasello’s work.

From the late 1950s Tomasello’s work explored the nuances of geometric abstraction through colour, relief and visual effects. It was only after 1960, when he moved to Paris, that he began to concentrate on the effects of light, shadow and reflected colour, resulting in his prolific series of Chromoplastic Atmospheres. This work belongs to the series, as does the considerably later circular black relief Chromoplastic Atmosphere No.710 1992 (Tate T14000). Earlier works in the group – primarily white reliefs – take the form of a series of regularly repeated modular forms: orthogonals or cubes with bevelled edges designed to receive and reflect light. Although painted white on the front, the reliefs have chromatic paint applied to the reverse, which produces a reflective halo of colour on the surface. These works exploit optical effects through a simplicity of means: without recourse to technological apparatus, the artist employed abstract forms and colour alone to harness light. Tomasello also translated this investigation into architectural projects on a monumental scale. Beginning in the 1980s Tomasello began to make black monochrome reliefs, such as Chomoplastic Atmosphere No.710 1992, which have been called ‘Lumières noires’ (black lights), suggesting their relationship to the exploration of the effects of light in the earlier works.

During the 1940s Tomasello was associated with the Buenos Aires-based group Arte Concreto-Invención – a group of artists working with geometric abstraction who had themselves broken away from the more ludic Arte Madí group. Tomasello was later influenced by Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), particularly his New York period for its combination of colour and dynamic line. Yet Tomasello’s work from the 1950s also bears the influence of Max Bill (1908–1994) and Georges Vantongerloo (1886–1965). In 1960 Tomasello was invited by Max Bill to participate in the Konkrete Kunst exhibition that Bill staged in Zurich. He also participated in many of the important exhibitions of op and kinetic art including Bewogen Beweging (Moving Movement) at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1961, Nouvelle Tendance II at the Galería de Arte Moderno in Zagreb in 1963 and The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965.

Further reading
Luis Tomasello: Una Mano Enamorada, exhibition catalogue, Centro Cultural Borges, Buenos Aires 1997.
Osbel Suarez, Cold America: Geometric Abstraction in Latin America (1934–1973), exhibition catalogue, Fundación Juan March, Madrid 2011.
Serge Lemoine, Tomasello: Visible Structure and Reflected Color, exhibition catalogue, Ascaso Gallery, Miami 2012.

Tanya Barson
April 2013

Display caption

Argentinian Tomasello was one of the many South American artists who moved to Paris in the late 1950s and became very active within the international New Tendencies circles. From the 1960s, he concentrated on the subtle effects of light, shadow and depth with a series of reliefs titled Chromoplastic Atmosphere. These usually consisted of white floating panels with coloured paint applied to the back, so as to reflect a halo of colour on the surface behind. This work radiates a subtle neon yellow glow from its edges, while the cut-out square at the centre suggests its depth.

Gallery label, October 2016