Curated by: Luisa Duarte
Requested by the gallery Bergamin & Gomide to conceive a show based on the work Quebra da moldura (1954), by Lygia Clark, I soon became aware that it would be a mistake to try to emulate the work of this key figure in the history of art of the second half of the 20th century. This should be a starting point for a free-ranging journey, nothing more than this. The discoveries included in the work in question, such as the breaking of the plane and the organic line, are part of a complex poetic program that eventually led to developments in the clinical field. We know that at the last moments of her production Lygia Clark proposed situations that ranged beyond the objectual dimension, being rather experiences and processes intimately linked with life. The scope of the current group show, however, does not include this area of the artist’s investigation.
Assuming this premise, I began the research for the exhibition by way of the primary aspects dealt with in the 1954 artwork – including the frame, the plane, the line and the space between them, which especially caught my interest whenever they were subverted. What I wound up finding was a body of manifestations by artists who are very different from each other (various generations and latitudes), but with aspects in common which can be summarized in the title In Between. This English expression is used in a double sense: that of the interval, hiatus, poetic pause and void; and that of an in-between place that can harbor mutually contrary ideas. Therefore, on the one hand a discreet visuality which runs against the grain of the current art scene marked by the regime of the spectacle and of hypervisibility, underscoring the void as a producer of meaning and requiring a patient gaze from the viewer. And, on the other, artworks that link opposites together, presenting indices that are dear to modernity, such as constructivism and geometric abstraction, only to then deconstruct them with signs of the world of life and its inevitably noisy background.
The artwork 7 (da série volátil) (2016), by André Komatsu, is made up of two elements transfigured in a subtle way. A length of rebar – a sort of iron rod used inside concrete in building construction to make beams and pillars stronger – was shaped by the artist, gaining curved forms. The bar supports a weight that is more imaginary than literal, in this case an ethereal grid, delicately drawn with incisions on the wall. The relation with the exhibition space, important in the work of this artist as a whole, takes place tenuously. It could have been only a drawing on the wall, but no, Komatsu chose to make very fine grooves in it. The constructive aspect undergoes deviations, making the work stand precisely in the tension between the opacity of the iron and the malleability of the curve, between the order of the grid and the porosity of the grooves.
The presence of geometric parameters with tendencies toward subversion likewise appears in the works featured here by Marcius Galan, Imprecisão geométrica (2016) and Intervalo (2016). In the former, a rectangular wooden board was painted with automotive paint – an industrial material that leaves no trace of the artist’s presence. Before the paint was applied, two iron bars were inserted into the surface of the wood, horizontally and parallel to each other. On each side, one of the bars extends through the edge of the painting.
The aseptic atmosphere is constructed with the industrial paint and two differently colored sections – a larger one in white and a smaller one in faded yellow. The automotive paint that gave rise to the impersonality, the degree zero of vestige, is shot through by an energetic but controlled gesture which seems to have involved a force that pulled the bars forward, imparting tridimensionality to the painting. With a firm and dry gesture, the artist disturbs the asceticism, generating imprecision and noise in what seems to have been sleeping the serene sleep of the geometric certainties.
Intervalo (2016) possesses characteristics present in Galan’s work as a whole. The artist appropriated an ordinary material – four broom handles – and painted white bands of different widths near their upper ends. They are all leaning against the wall, the three to the left spaced out from each other equally, with the fourth one a larger distance away. The simple insertion of the white bands and their arrangement in a series lends these ordinary objects a visuality that removes them from the world of life and makes them fall within a code of art.
But it is necessary to think fundamentally in order to consider this artwork. In the world of life, brooms are used to sweep the floor, a gesture practiced in silence and often under the watchful eye of a boss for whom the sweeper has sold his or her work effort. In Galan’s gesture, the broom handles can function as themselves, denoting the action of sweeping, or they may also be flag masts to be raised up in hypothetical protests by those who formerly used them for the daily chore of cleaning the floor. There is once again a tension: the first case involves silence – the second, the shout.
Marcelo Cidade is presenting the work Quando a liberdade não é definida por segurança (2016). There is a clashing here between the public and private space and the ability to make use of elements from the city to imagine other possible modes of social life – aspects that recur in the artist’s oeuvre.
Four corners from garden planters taken from the streets of São Paulo, which originally must have been part of a small construction and symbolize the drive to privatize what is public, are now arranged in the exhibition space. Rather than forming a cohesive body able to hold a volume of earth, the 90-degree angles now emulate the possibility of new ways of sharing what is common. Each planter is now set free, open to passage and to exchange.
The works by Komatsu Galan and Cidade all involve, in different ways, displacements of a geometric matrix. For its part, Os dançarinos (geometria das relações) (2013), by Paloma Bosque, likewise presents a rupture with the order where we witness a sort of simultaneity in divergence. In a good part of the artist’s production we find geometric parameters and sensitive ones side-by-side, forming a delicate balance. At the core of the constructive aspect of Paloma’s work there occurs an intense effect of cross-influence that “upsets the absolute rigor.”
In Os dançarinos (geometria das relações) we are standing before two small translucent canvases which, instead of serving as the support for some representation, exhibit themselves: their weaves, their materials, the know-how that went into their making. From each, there extend two ends of a long black cord that was used to sew their frames together. The cords take over the space, forming a drawing in the air, imparting tridimensionality, making a sinuosity exist in what was previously purely geometric. The weights of a balance scale that hold each end of the black lines on the floor in no wise subtract from the lightness of the movement – they only reiterate the interplay of contrasts characteristic of the artist’s poetics.
In a recent text about Paloma’s work, we read about the importance of the idea of ma for the construction of her work: “ma is a Japanese word that takes on multiple meanings in different contexts, but which can be approximately translated as the experience of space that includes temporal and subjective elements. (…) Therefore, ma can be defined as a space of experience whose emphasis is on the gap.”
The meaning contained in the Japanese word ma, in what concerns the importance of the gap and of the void for the construction of the meaning of an experience or artwork can be unfolded for countless works present in In Between. We think of the Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Horizontal Corner Construction) (1972/2007), by Fred Sandback. The artist, one of the great names of North American minimalism, constructed an artwork over a span of 40 years that makes use of minimum elements to gain immense power of activating the surrounding space and the viewer’s perception.
In Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Horizontal Corner Construction), we see a sculpture composed of four lengths of acrylic yarn – two blue ones and two green ones – stretched across the right angle of a corner of the exhibition room. Through this procedure of extreme simplicity, Sandback convokes the surrounding space into his work: the walls on which the lengths of yarn are tensioned, the floor, the 90-degree angle in the background. Everything which would go unnoticed in the absence of the work is highlighted and underscored by the artist’s subtle and sharp gestures. Sandback allows us to see volume and depth, though without making use of any opacity typical of sculptural gestures or methods of perspective typically used in painting. It is precisely the notion of depth that is strongly altered through the use of four fragments of blue and green acrylic yarn stretched across the corner of a room.
This ability to bring about intense displacements of perception and sensitivity, making use of a “minimal expressivity” is a characteristic present in the work of Mira Schendel. Quietness, the choice of a discreet presence in the world, the incorporation of the void not as a representation of nothing, but as what exists and affects the viewer, are all fundamental aspects of the artist’s work. The exhibition features two of her well-known monotypes. Suspended in the air, without front or back, making use of the delicateness of the line whose presence relies on nothing more than the barely sufficient, the monotypes are simultaneously ethereal and corporeal, very fragile and yet with an unsuspected power. While the Japanese rice paper bears the eminence of falling apart, the acrylic paint gives thickness to the space, making it tangible, yet retaining its intrinsic lightness.
By now it is clear that silence is important for the works featured here. They incorporate silence in a deliberate way. There is a refusal of the noisy bustle of the world that winds up being transformed into the raw material of the artworks. Without a deliberate intention, this foray into discretion, into murmuring, takes on a subtle political charge amidst the generalized cacophony we are immersed in. This can be seen in the importance of the void, in the economy of the forms, but also in the absence of narratives that evoke a datum external to the work. Even though some of the artworks do this, their evocation takes place in a discreet and nonexcessive way.
The presence of Leonilson with the artwork José (1991) likewise occurs in the same key. The name of the artist embroidered on voile in the upper left of the painting gives rise to a sort of island that is fragilely sustained amidst the translucent and otherwise completely empty canvas. This work involves constant characteristics of the artist’s poetics, such as his use of the word followed by long blank intervals, the ability to make himself understood by taking into consideration what is unsaid, and the discreetness that runs opposite to the spectacle.
The work by Fernanda Gomes, in its own way, also runs counter to the typical noise of contemporaneity. We know that her method consists of interrupting the flow of a world marked by excess in a stance that unites ethics and aesthetics. It is on this basis of a supporting actor, of scraps, of fragments from everyday life that the artist builds her work. The three works featured in In Between, all “untitled” and from 2015, present part of a recent series in which this ethical/aesthetic program is focused precisely on foundational elements of the grammar of visual arts such as the line, plane, volume, space and color found in the most prosaic materials.
These raw, minimal elements are also the focus of Alexandre Canonico’s work. But these works gain their body with the paper, elastic, acrylic and rubber from which they are constructed rather than only being appropriated and rearticulated (as what takes place in most of the work by Fernanda Gomes). Influenced by the logic of architecture and by geometric abstraction, the artist offers us what, at first sight, may appear to be objects. But if we take a second look, they are also drawings; and when we look for a third time, who knows, they may be very small sculptures. They share in common a scale of handiwork reduced to what is necessary and which takes place through a discreet presence in the world. These subversions carried out by the artist in each of these banal elements seek to remove them as far as possible from their possibilities for perception, inscribing them in an unexpected place. That which is pure rigor in architecture or in geometric abstraction gains here a playful dimension that perturbs the order and provides fleeting and delicate surprises for the viewer.
Rodrigo Cass is an artist for whom the constructive heritage is fundamental. The artist’s pictorial production is clearly informed by lessons that begin with the triad Lygia Clark/Lygia Pape/Hélio Oiticica, and extend to recent examples such as Rivane Neuenschwander and José Damasceno.
In Latina (fora e dentro em mim) (2016), the artist allows us to see two strips of linen painted in English green (the same hue used by Lygia Clark in Quebra da moldura) which form two overlapping circles hanging on the wall. The deconstruction of the grid present in Cass’s previous works takes place here in a more subtle way. The raw linen that forms the basis of the canvas is cut in two lines; these are painted and, finally. folded What would be the fragment of a grid gains thickness and spatiality, summoning the whiteness of the wall to become part of the artwork. The inside and outside of the piece cross through each other, making it impossible to distinguish which is which.
The relation between inner and outer is likewise found in the work by Kishio Suga, one of the main artists of the Mono-ha (School of Things) group, an important movement of Japanese art at the turn of the 1960s to the 1970s. In Spatial Components (1976), presented in In Between, we see only the outside of a rectangle, forming a dark wooden frame. Its left side has a small curvature, as though material had been carved off from its outside edge. This small subtraction makes all the space outside the artwork become an integral part of it. A similar operation takes place on the lower edge of the work, where a subtle carving of the wood enlarges what we understand as the interior of the painting. The slight absences in each fragment are what allow us to see the presence of the white space that forms the artwork.
Raw Canvas # 3 (2014), by Pedro Cabrita Reis, is configured as a study into questions of painting, without there being any pictorial gesture at play. What we see is a canvas of raw linen sitting atop an aluminum shelf, leaning against the wall. In front of it, and in contact with the canvas, there is a pane of glass of a size in keeping with that of theshelf, as it is a bit narrower than the canvas. In the lower part of this triad, an unfinished brushstroke of white acrylic paint spreads horizontally along the bottom of the canvas – which should serve to contain some representation, but remains in a raw state, bereft of its function. The world itself is likewise represented, in the reflections of the glass. A cloudy, monochromatic world, without contrasts, made of shadows. Raw Canvas # 3 is an artwork in which one element arises as a trap for the other. The linen canvas indicates a nobility that the ordinary character of the aluminum seeks to dispel. The brushstroke of acrylic paint likewise refers to the presence of the artist in an artwork which is totally constructed through a perspicacious articulation of elements in their original states, like a ready-made.
The trap in the work by Emmanuel Nassar seeks to ensnare our gaze. In TrapView (2014), the artist, known for his ability to detect indices of the constructive tradition in discarded objects, appropriates a sheet of white metal, which shows the effects of time, and has along its top and left edges thin iron rods which seem to complement the drawing on the painting’s surface, yet actually leap out from the painting, being attached only at its corners. We do not know if the painting on the metal plate, in the shape of a cube that we see in the lower part and on the left side, was already there or was made by the artist. The fact is that we are standing before the illusory impression of the entire cube, in perspective, with depth. TrapView bears the rare wisdom of knowing how to capture – in the limbo of the world, on the flip side of the sheen of consumer society – the possibility of a phenomenon that awakens the poetic capacity of the gaze, through a trap that is as sophisticated as it is simple.
In the work by Lygia Clark, Quebra da moldura (1954), there is a single painting, in which we see a white part, in the middle, and, around it, on a support that surrounds it, a wide band of dark green. In the upper part of the painting, at the left, there are two vertical black rectangles, which are overlaid to the canvas: one of them occupies only the green band, the other the white area. The same thing takes place in the lower right portion of the canvas. Except that those rectangles are horizontal, and they each extend over both the green band and part of the white area of the canvas. It is precisely this indifference of color, when the blacks unite and cross through the line that exists between them, which gives us the possibility of seeing what the artist calls the organic line. Only when the colors are the same does the line disappear, acting as a kind of “lung” of the work, making it breath. In the words of the artist “all of this research of mine [concerning the organic line], which I consider the primary formulation of a vocabulary to express a new space, began in 1954 with the observation of a line that appeared between a collage and a passe-partout, when the color was the same, and disappeared when there were two contrasting colors.”
This fundamental discovery for the developments of Lygia Clark’s research is coupled, in this work, to the notion of the breaking of the frame, the lack of which is just the beginning of an extraordinary adventure by the artist in search of a contiguity between the artwork and the world, which wound up questioning the very notion of the work in art.
In Between is therefore a group show whose gaze, in its own way, rests on the two coordinates posed by Lygia Clark’s work: the space between, like a void and a silence that produce meaning; and the breaking of the structural categories of the modernity in art – like the frame, the plane, and the grid, able to insert a noise, even if it is only a murmur, which instates a balance between opposites.
Following these clues given by the work of Lygia Clark, what we finally see, updating the gaze to our current time, is a body of artworks that forms a counterpoint in relation to a contemporaneity marked by the regime of the spectacle and by hypervisibility. Amidst accelerated times, in which we seem to be living a “frenetic immobility,” and in which the excess of imagetic impulses slowly instates a blindness in each of us, the exhibition In Between arises as a small compendium of experiments to remind us of the importance of the patience of the gaze, in order that we might, at least once, dwell in the present and observe what lies between the lines, in the blank spaces between one line of a poem and the next. A hiatus in which resides the meaning of that which is said.