The Nimble Modernism of Magdalena Fernández

Currently on view at Sicardi Gallery and the Houston Cistern, “Flexible Structures” offers a rare opportunity to break the geometric bounds of Modernism.

A fitting prequel to Super Bowl weekend here in Houston, we recently found ourselves exploring the Houston Cistern, a historic water reservoir built in 1926 that extends roughly one and a half football fields beneath Buffalo Bayou Park. Yet while it’s an incredible destination in and of itself, we were surprised that the experience led us in another direction entirely—namely Sicardi art gallery in Montrose.

As of January, the Cistern is showing an immersive video installation by contemporary artist Magdalena Fernández. Highlighting the expansive underground architecture and expanse of the historic reservoir, the experience was nothing short of mesmerizing. And as we soon discovered, there was a lot more to be seen beyond the Cistern. In fact, the installation was organized in tandem with the artist’s solo show currently up at Sicardi Gallery. So having seen Fernández’s video bring unique life into the Cistern, we followed the trail back to the gallery to learn more about the artist and her work. As it turns out, her sculptures, drawings, and installations were just as engaging.

Entitled “Flexible Structures,” the entire exhibit spans over ten years of the artist’s work across a variety of different media. Though her practice culminates in a diverse body of work, Fernández maintains an ongoing interest in the rigid, angular forms of her mid-century predecessors such as Piet Mondrian, Sol LeWitt, and Gego. Yet rather than simply reinforce the ordered, hard-lined Modernist aesthetic, Fernández instead opens up these strict geometries to chance, movement, and change, lending a more playful, buoyant light to a relatively rigid artistic tradition.


For Fernández, this departure is far from heavy-handed. On first glance, her work appears undeniably structural, yet maintains a delicate and even tenuous air. There’s an underlying strength and malleability to her work, especially concerning her sculptures. Comprised of flexible steel rods and rubber balls, these large and somewhat intimidating structures are actually rather fluid, effortlessly rippling and oscillating as they dangle in mid-air.

In addition to her sculptures, we were particularly drawn to her large-scale installation located in Sicardi’s main exhibition space. Employing a simple system of iron spheres and elastic chords stretching from floor to ceiling, the artist invites the viewer to shape the experience by repositioning these iron weights across the gallery floor. All in all, we especially enjoyed the opportunity to explore a looser sort of geometry in such a physical and unpredictable way.

“Flexible Structures” is on view at Sicardi Gallery until March 4th. Be sure to check their hours before planning a visit. Additionally, Fernández’s video installation at the Buffalo Bayou Cistern will remain on view until early June. Showings are Wednesdays through Sundays, with free entry on Thursdays. We recommend consulting the Cistern website for hours and ticket information to play it safe.