Born in Buenos Aires in 1933. In 1951 he entered Law School and started attending Horacio Butler’s studio. From 1953 he continued his self-taught education. In 1955 he abandoned his Law studies and began working as a journalist for El Mundo newspaper, where he started writing art criticism the following year. In 1959 he did his first individual exhibition, and in 1961 quits journalism. He lived in Paris between 1961-1962 and between 1976-1987, and in New York in 1964 and between 1965-1968. From 1961 to 1965 integrated, next to Ernesto Deira, Rómulo Macció and Jorge de la Vega the group that was to be known as Nueva Figuración (New Figuration movement), with which he did, among others, two exhibitions at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) (1961-1985), the Museo de Arte Moderno of Río de Janeiro (1965) and the Centro Cultural Recoleta (Buenos Aires) (1991). This group was invited to the Guggenheim International Award (1965) and the Historical section of the Sao Paulo Biennial of Art (1985).
Noé has undergone more than 40 individual exhibitions in Buenos Aires and other argentinian cities, besides Madrid; New York; Paris, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Bogotá; Guayaquil; Quito; Cuenca; Caracas; Montevideo and Asunción. In 1995 and 1996 he did two retrospective exhibitions at the MNBA, Buenos Aires, and at the Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Mexico City, respectively. He has obtained scholarships from the French government (1961), the Guggenheim Foundation (1965-1966), the Di Tella National Award (1963), an honourable mention at the Tokyo International Engraving Biennial (1968), the Awards to the Artistic and Teaching Trajectory, given by the Argentina Art Critics Association (1985-1998), the Fortabat Award (1986). He has been a Konex guest of honor for Painting (1982-1992) and for Art Theory (1994), and Guest of Honor of the National Art Salon of Santa Fé, Argentina (1995) and at the Biennial of Art in Cuenca, Ecuador (1994).
In 1996 he was awarded with the Recorrido Dorado Prize (SDDRA) and the Arlequín de Oro, given by the Petorutti Foundation. In 1997 he received the Chandon Award, the Grand Prix from the National Arts Fund (FNA) and the Award given by Uruguay’s Chamber of Congress and the Mercosur Inter-Parliamentary Biennial of Art.
He has published the following books: «Antiestética» (Van Riel, 1965 — Ed. De la Flor, 1988); «Una sociedad colonial avanzada» (Ed. De la Flor, 1971); «Recontra Poder» (Ed. De la Flor, 1974); «A oriente por occidente» (Ed. Dos Gráficos, 1992); «El otro, la otra y la otredad» (Impsat, 1994). Along with Horacio Zabala: «El arte en cuestión» — Conversaciones (Ed. Adriana Hidalgo, Buenos Aires, 2000); Jorge Glusberg and Luis Felipe Noé, «Lectura conceptual de una trayectoria» (CYAC, 1993). Nowadays he is writing «La pintura desnuda» and gathering essays for the book «No escritos».
Vision of art
1. Choose a work that represents you, describe it in relation to its format and materiality, its relation with time and space, its style and theme; detail its production process.
I choose “Mambo” (mixed media on canvas and wood, 6.23 x 6.30 ft), a painting produced in 1962 at the apartment we shared (myself, my wife Nora and my daughter Paula, two years old at the moment) with Jorge de la Vega in Issy les Moulineaux, in the outskirts of Paris. I have written the following about the painting, in an unpublished testimony about my artistic life:
“I remember that one sleepless night I started painting and at the next day I surprised Jorge by showing him a painting that was repeated in two canvases with their respective stretchers (a diptych), but with one of them turned over. In the higher portion, in greys, there was a big female head, similar to those in parades, and the lower portion was the inverted stretcher: on the wood structure there was a piece of paper (then mounted on a piece of wood that followed the silhouette) which alluded, with vivid colours, to a dwarfed female body. In the lower part, as it usually happens in the back of paintings, there was the title, “Mambo”; the place, Paris 1962; and my signature. Jorge always supported my work, but he said: 'It was about time you painted something worthy!' I wondered what this meant, coming from him, given that he had always encouraged me since my first exhibition? Recognising a new way of setting up a painting, at least for me. It was the first time I produced a divided painting; it was the first time I openly defied unity. From then on I started to say: 'It is enough that anyone endows the association with meaning for two to become one'. Thus, without disregard for painting, I started to discover Duchamp. From his ready-made I preferred those which associated two different things: For instance, a bicycle tire on a stool. But I was particularly interested in developing the violence of breaking the pictoric atmosphere, not in objects. I started to talk about a ‘divided picture’ (cuadro dividido), and later about a ‘broken vision’ (visión quebrada).
Before, when people told me that the works I started from a stain did not have a structure, I usually turned the picture and said, pointing at the stretcher: 'here is the structure'. This irony about front vs. back, in “Mambo” turned into a single evidence.
Years later, I read an article by Mariano Etkin - Clarín newspaper, October 2, 1994 – about mambo as a music, and about its creator, Pérez Prado. The article mentions a fact that helped me understand why I had called the work "Mambo". According to Etkin, in Pérez Prado's music there are practically no transitions, and that its juxtaposition effect ‘is related to Stravinsky but also to Stan Kenton: ‘continuity by means of proximity rather than analogy'. This, I think, was the key to my intuitive affinity with Pérez Prado’s mambo.
But undoubtfuly my “Mambo” was not an easy work. At the time there was a big exhibition organized by Germaine Derbecq, wife of Curatella Manes, the first modern sculptor in the country. Germaine had been, between 1959 and 1961, the curator – to use a current term – for many artists of the new generation at the Lirolay Gallery in Buenos Aires. She enthusiastically supported them also as a critic for the city's French newspaper (Le Quotidien). With the name Curatella Manes and 30 Argentine artists of the new generation, she had conceived that Parisian exhibition at the Galerie Creuze (Balzac Room) and she was also an excellent painter with a great geometrical lyricism. Most of the Argentine artists belonged to the Recherche Visuelle. I was there with three paintings: “Mambo”, The Last Supper (La última cena) and another painting, An Essay about the Incongruence of the mystic body (Un ensayo acerca de la incongruencia del cuerpo místico). I remember that when we where hanging the paintings, an artist close to surrealism came and told me about "Mambo": 'I am not here to talk to you as a participant in the exhibition, but as a person, and I believe that taking into consideration the importance of the exhibition, you should not show that painting'. I did show it, of course. But Jorge and Greco were among the few who supported me in this regard.”
This painting was shown that same year in Buenos Aires, in the exhibition that Deira, Macció, de la Vega and I had at the Bonino Gallery. The last time it could be seen in our city was with Jorge de la Vega’s retrospective at Malba (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art) (2003). The curator, Mecedes Casanegra, believed it was pertinent to show it because she considered it an example of a “break in the structure”.
2. In general terms, how would you suggest to approach your work?
That they look at it. It is enough for me if people stop and look at it. Every person makes the interpretation they want. I cannot advise on that respect. Artworks do not include a "user's guide”.
3. In reference to your work and your position in the national and international art fields, what tradition do you recognize yourself in? Who are your contemporary referents? What artists of previous generations are of interest to you?
Between 1961 and 1965 I participated in a group with Ernesto Deira, Jorge de la Vega and Rómulo Macció. The group only had our names, but its first exhibition, in 1961, did have a name: “Another figuration” (Otra figuración). The following year, French critic Michel Ragon started talking about New Figuration and we were called like that, but that name was never appealing to me. If somebody deserved that name, it would be Picasso. On the other hand, I am not interested in being associated to others "new figurations" that are no more than groupings comprised of new figurative artists. I believe that our group’s originality rested not in the return to figuration but in joining the figurative and abstract aspects; I believe that painting is mainly abstract because its elements are (line, space, colour); what is figurative is the world around us and ourselves. Paintings emerge from the dialogue between nature and the nature that is specific to pictoric language. This does not include any originality in the neofigurative definition. It just wanted to evidence it, without prejudice, with all liberties. Talking now about new figuration does not have any sense either, because all artists are there in some way or another. But it did have sense at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, when figurative and abstract artists fought like Montescos y Capuletos. I participated in a stage that “superseded” (in the dialectic sense of the word) that absurd opposition.
Which were my contemporary referents at the time? Is not Goya a contemporary artist? What about Grünewald and El Greco? Well... At the time I liked Dubuffet a lot, but also Duchamp because he stretched definitions. Other members of my group were attracted to Bacon. I respected him very much, of course, but I never felt he was a referent; he was too figurative for me. I also believe that an artist must look at examples and not at referents. The only referent an artist must have beyond his work is himself.
If the question is about present contemporary artists at the international level, I would say that, after Matta’s death, Kiefer is the live artist I admire the most.
I would like to make clear that the list of past painters I admire is very long and thus I can sum it up in a single one: Rembrandt, but... I like Klee more everyday. Ah! And Hokusai?
4. Choose works or exhibitions from the last ten or fifteen years which in your opinion were very significant and explain why
I was very interested in the retrospective exhibitions of Jorge de la Vega, León Ferrari, Roberto Aizenberg, Alberto Heredia, Roberto Elía. In all of them there was an interior coherence beyond periods, and I believe they had an excellent quality. They were also very well conceived and laid out exhibitions. But many other exhibitions were also exemplary, bearing in mind the difficulties for presenting them, for example Federico Peralta Ramos’ and Azaro’s.
5. What tendencies or groupings from common elements do you see in argentine art of the last ten or fifteen years?
To each his own. That is a question for critics and historians.