Raquel Rabinovich: River Library

The work of Raquel Rabinovich – an Argentinian artist based in the US – has been described as occupying “a radically organic territory of abstract art”. Her work is a mixture of sculpture, drawing and works on paper, using a visual language that evaluates the essence of meaning itself. Rabinovich explores what she calls “the dark” – “that which is concealed beneath the surface of objects, words, thoughts, and the world.”

Her statement from her website describes what drives her interest. “I have been fascinated for a very long time by that which is behind the appearance of things, objects, words, thoughts, and the world. My art has always been informed by an underlying fascination with the concealed aspects of reality, by that which we don’t see or seems to be invisible. Equally, I have been captivated by the process of how something which is concealed emerges into view. Working across mediums, this is the essence of my artwork, now, and for the last 50 years.”

One of her earliest works were a series of paintings looking at the ‘invisible’, The Dark Is Light Enough (1963). “When I say “invisible” I mean to look at something and see what’s behind it and behind it and behind it. Not to stay with the appearance of things but investigate and explore everything that is not visible or apparent seems to me to be a search that is very meaningful


The most relevant of her pieces to my own current work is her ongoing work River Library, a series of hundreds of drawings made on paper with sediment from some of the Earth’s major rivers. “Rivers are repositories of history, the history of the planet, the history of people, the history of culture. Mud embodies the earth’s history, functioning like text to provide a trace, a memory of its existence…The layering of paper and mud onto pages parallels the formation of sediment in the depths of the rivers. Mud embodies the history of the Earth and humankind – it contains life, death, and layers of accumulation. Mud, like the alphabet of a language yet to be deciphered, like a yet unwritten history of nature and culture, functions like a text, providing a trace, a memory of our existence…These drawings are like pages of books from an infinite library.”




The Gateless Gates painting series emphasises the search for signs of meaning, which may be partially concealed even in direct view. The concepts behind her work are directly intertwined with and inspired by the processes of nature. “Gateless gates is one of those paradoxes used in the teachings of Zen in order to help the students realize the nature of things.  It is not about a gate, but about the mind being transformed by confronting the paradox.  For me, making art is also a transformative confrontation.  It leads me to experience no gate or barrier, the work and I become one, there is no more inside and outside.  My process of working -layer upon layer of lines, marks, paint, glass or stones – seems to conceal what is not and reveal what it is, what I call ‘essence.’  To apprehend this essence, which is beyond thought and has no boundaries, the viewer too needs to go through a gateless gate”


I am interested in the process she used for the River Library series, and the thought behind it meshes with my own ideas about marking the essence of place and knowledge through mark making.

*Quotes from artist website and an interesting interview here 

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