Eduardo Mac Entyre's 'Dinámica cromática', 2013, reflects light from its surroundings.

Eduardo Mac Entyre (1929- 2014) was an artist of Scottish, Belgian and Argentine heritage who, after working as a draftsman, and experimenting with many artistic styles, made pioneering geometric abstract artworks throughout his long career. His work is on display at MACBA until March 11, 2018.

On arrival at the gallery, viewers walk first into a room of Mac Entyre’s earlier works, in which his experimentation with forms – including an exquisitely detailed drawing of a nose – shows a brilliant attentiveness to how objects sit in the space that surrounds them. In his use of lines, whose precision may owe something to Mac Entyre’s training as a draftsman, he flirts with mathematics and the golden ratio, and plays with our own sense of perspective.

Eduardo Mac Entyre's earlier explorations of form are inspired by Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer, and include this wonderful depiction of a nose.
Eduardo Mac Entyre’s earlier explorations of form are inspired by Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer, and include this wonderful depiction of a nose.

Upstairs are some of Mac Entyre’s later works in acrylic, which are less compelling than the works in the first room. The work on the ground floor seem like intricate architectural plans for the simpler 3D works up here. However, the reflective surface of some of these works means that the gallery itself seems to become of the work.

Pieces like this untitled work from 1959 flirt with the golden ratio and seem like architectural plans for the 3D works upstairs.
Pieces like this untitled work from 1959 flirt with the golden ratio and seem like architectural plans for the 3D works upstairs.

The meeting of the works and their surroundings through reflection is beautiful. The mathematics and art of every image seem universal (as Cady in Mean Girls says, Maths is the same in every country). Yet these images also convey the importance of their specific context.

The focus on lines in Mac Entyre’s work turns the viewer’s attention, too, to the concrete walls of the gallery, where the lines of construction are exposed and clear. The gallery is sympathetically lit, giving even weighting to the images displayed horizontally in geometrically-shaped cases, and the works displayed on the walls. Natural light lifts the space, so that even the space two floors below ground the gallery is a light, pleasant place to enjoy art in.

The work on the two floors below ground treads the same lovely line: forms brush up against one another creating unpredictable – but seemingly inevitable – images. In his images Mac Entyre uses line and light to weave shapes which are plausible yet impossible.

But some of the work on the lowest floor jars in its heavy-handedness. In comparison with the light touch of both gallery and artist in their approach to line and form, the approach to cultures outside the artists’ own is insensitive. The words which accompany these works tell us that this ‘series of works […] reinterpreted the objects from African cultures’ and that ‘[t]his set of works allowed him to resume his interest in African statuary and the iconography of the East, which he had explored in his formative stage.’

The vagueness in the approach to 'African-inspired' works bears the troubling hallmarks of cultural appropriation.
The vagueness in the approach to ‘African-inspired’ works bears the troubling hallmarks of cultural appropriation.

The lack of specificity when referring to ‘Africa’ and ‘the East’ comes across as ill-informed and unspecific. The work would be far more interesting and valuable if there was a greater engagement with specific countries and styles of work, as well as their contexts and histories. But this instead suggests cultural appropriation, not cultural appreciation, and gives a troubling perspective to the work.

The gallery is beautiful, as is much of Eduardo Mac Entyre’s work. But this problematic series of works exposes a troubling side to his art, which must also be acknowledged.

Eduardo Mac Entyre’s work is on show until March 11, 2018 at MACBA. The Museum is open Mon & Wed-Fri from 12pm-7pm, and from Sat-Sun from 11am-7.30pm.