Sometimes Monica Ridruejo paints her ropes, setting them on an oceanic field of luminous blue, sometimes she presents them as autonomous sculptures, variously colored—usually golden yellow or dazzling orange, or, on the other side of the spectrum, dark or light blue—but, from a purely abstract point of view, they are extravagant variations of what Kandinsky characterized as “spontaneous emphases within a free curve.” They remind us that there is still “expressive power and expressive depth in abstract forms,” to use Kandinsky’s words, despite the argument of numerous theorists that after a century of development abstract art has become rather shopworn, at best a formal exercise, at worst sterile redundancy. As Ridruejo’s art shows, the freedom of spontaneity remain possible, if within the form of a curve, that is, a geometrical structure. It has been said that art affords a “margin of freedom” within society, spontaneity being freedom and geometry being the margin. Both transcend society, the former relatively, the latter absolutely.

For Kandinsky “spontaneous emphases within a free curve” is the most complexly dynamic of all abstract forms: it is at once a free moving and structured line, that is, inextricably geometrical and impulsive. Ridruejo’s spontaneously line, curving this way and that, turning in on and over itself, is in effect an unraveled Gordian knot—the kind of knot that we see pictured in The Tie and Gordian. When she cuts the Gordian knot, the rope spills into space, seemingly proliferating endlessly—but it remains contained in a finite space, whether it be the planar space of the canvas or, three-dimensionalized into a sculpture, the flat plane of the platform on which it rests. Sometimes, unexpectedly, Ridruejo constructs deceptively simple structures, some like spontaneous squiggles, others geometrically structured, with a circular base mounted by an oblong form, sometimes bent in the center, suggesting it is a sort of abstract form, but the point I want to make is that, like her “free-standing” ropes, they also are composed of lines, less thick and more controlled, but also moving curves. They are transparent—structured emptiness, as it were—whereas many of the ropes pile up, occupying space, but in the paintings they are invariably set in empty space, however oceanic and rich with emotional associations, as the titlesindicate. Somesuggestthatwe’redealingwiththecurves of the female body, and the Gordian knots suggest that it has become a “problem,” broadly feminist as well as psychological— it suggests inner conflict—but the curves are abstracted into aesthetic autonomy, indicating that they are “sublimated” instincts, as aggressive as they are erotic. 

Many of the ropes are also intensely colored, adding to the drama of the painting or sculpture. While the colors are undoubtedly evocative, more to the abstract point are their tonality and luminosity. Again, Kandinsky reminds us that colors, like lines, are inherently dynamic, and made more dynamic through their contrasts with one another. There is a difference between an “optical” and “mechanical mixture” of colors, the former enlivening, the latter deadening. According to Kandinsky, the optical movement from yellow to orange is “eccentric,” the optical movement from blue to violet is “concentric.” What is noteworthy about Ridruejo’s paintings is that they tend to stay at the extremes—blue, sometimes fading into hesitant luminosity, or yellow and orange, sometimes shadowy, more or often bright. But in one painting yellow and orange ropes twist together, with a light blue rope between them, all set in a dark blue field, with a luminous band above the ropes. Suddenly we realize we have an ingenious variation of a Rothko-like field painting, with its luminously nuanced planes of color, with some of the planes ironically three-dimensionalized into ropes. Representation and abstraction are tied together, as it were, in another Gordian knot. Ridruejo’s innovative rope paintings suggest the unresolvable problem of the relationship between representation and abstraction. But her rope sculptures seem to resolve it, because the ropes are painted, but then again they tighten the knot, for the ropes are in effect grand painterly gestures, sculptural representations of abstract expressionist paintings, confirming that a representation is always simultaneously an abstraction and vice versa. Ridruejo’s paintings are a new statement of the dilemma implicit in modernist art, not to say the doubleness of all things. Ridruejo’s message is that the Gordian knot can never be cut. Even when it is it becomes a tangle of contradictions.