Intimate Sculpture: Ana Teresa Fierro
The contributions of female architects, painters, sculptors and designers to the creative production of modern Mexico have been the subject of important reviews in recent years. Of recent publication, it is possible to mention titles such as La vida en el arte. Clara Porset's writings, compiled by Ana Elena Mallet; Eclipse of Seven Moons by Dina Comisarenco, research on seven female painters who participated in the origin and development of the mural painting movement; or Blinks, the collaborative text included in the latest installment of Re_vista -digital publication of the Museo Experimental El Eco-, with contributions from historians Rebeca Barquera, Elva Peniche and Natalia de la Rosa.
To these editorial events should be added projects developed in exhibition spaces such as Indications of a feminist artistic revolt at the Museum of Modern Art, Maternar at the University Museum of Contemporary Art and more recently Together! Feminist demonstrations and appropriation of public space in the renowned Maria Luisa Dehesa Gómez Farías Gallery of the UNAM Faculty of Architecture, in honor of the first woman to obtain the title of architect [sic.] in Mexico, in 1930.
In this context it is relevant to comment on the exhibition Ana Teresa Fierro. Organic structure in search of aesthetic freedom, a retrospective that recovers the work developed over more than five decades by a Mexican artist who transited between individual production and teaching, presented at the Terreno Baldío gallery. Made up of different private collections, the exhibition presents a wide selection of decorative arts, painting and sculpture, as well as an important collection of archive materials that allow tracing her formation as her creator.
Motivated to develop as an artist, around 1948 Ana Teresa Fierro would attend painting classes at the Universidad Femenina, an ambitious educational project headed by the writer and pedagogue Adela Formoso de Obregón Santacilia that brought together among her teachers an important group of artists and modern architects. Recognized for her talent, at the end of this experience she would be part of the team for the execution of the murals of the Hospital La Raza (1952) and the Teatro de los Insurgentes (1953), made in collaboration with young painters whose names are just as necessary to remember. : Nicolette Rouy, Estela Treviño, Violeta Bonilla, Graciela Ramírez and Rina Lazo.
With the support of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, the artist would receive a scholarship to attend the Center Éducatif d'Arts Appliqués in France in 1960, where she would discover the medium with which she would work for the rest of her life: enamel on iron. Upon her return in 1962, Fierro exhaustively explored the technique to take it from its commercial and industrial application -the only possibility until then in Mexico- to the territory of plastic arts, an effort that would be boosted by becoming the founder of the Experimental Enamel Workshop. in the Old Academy of San Carlos in 1964, in operation until today in the Faculty of Arts and Design of the UNAM.
Accompanying drawings and paintings made during the fifties - same ones that show a strong influence of what is called the Mexican School of Painting -, a series of sketches is presented that show the compositional rigor not only in his pictorial work, but in its transit towards the sculptural dimension of geometry and abstraction. On this, Ana Teresa would comment: “I began to work volumes with assemblies of enamel on wood and that led me to form, to the third dimension. So I had to integrate monochrome and work on textures.”
These ensembles of carved wood and enameled metal plate occupy a prominent place in the exhibition project. The carvings - blocks of pure forms, fragments of natural objects and geometric ensembles - exist between the sculptural and the pictorial, as volumes and surfaces that could suggest scales different from their own. In a context in which the monumental dimension of what was called "Mexican geometry" monopolized much of the national sculpture production, Liliane Hoth recalled:
“On some occasion, Teresa del Conde asked Ana Teresa if her pieces were models to be converted into monumental sculptures, to which Ana Teresa responded with a certain feeling of incomprehension that her pieces were intimate sculptures, with no desire to be enlarged or turned into something on a larger scale.”
Finally, the most representative space of the gallery presents the most relevant work regarding the theme of this column: a contemporary reproduction of the only mural project commissioned from Ana Teresa Fierro. Built between 1972 and 1975, the old building of the Mexican Institute of Foreign Trade -remodeled in 2018 and current headquarters of the Ministry of Economy- contemplated the plastic integration strategy -by then outdated- as a resource to create a certain plastic appeal in the complex.
The structural solution of the building consisted in the construction of a central core and a series of perimeter columns from which the free floors of each of the 20 levels are supported. Said central nucleus is used to house the main vertical circulation, and these surfaces were the ones assigned for the realization of the artistic project.
A series of blueprints that accompany the contemporary reproduction suggest the creation of three vertically proportioned compositions, which have a direct formal correspondence with the works done in enamel on iron. The piece of greatest interest, however, is a model that allows us to imagine the intervention not only as an abstract piece of a certain monumentality, but as an interesting volumetric exercise that would have been resolved from high and low relief.
Unfortunately, the mural by Ana Teresa Fierro would be canceled -as commented by Luis Equihua, due to institutional pressure to deliver the finished building-, and in its place a work with similar formal characteristics and materials would be carried out, although without any participation by Fierro, joining to the long list of projects not carried out by women artists in different architectural spaces.
Given the large amount of documentary collection presented in the exhibition, as well as the willingness of Ana Teresa Fierro's family and students to share and keep her presence alive, the expectation persists that her work can be subsequently revisited in a research work that review in detail the life and career of an artist and teacher whose figure has ceased to be absent in the history of modern Mexican art.