Bridging the Divide: Architecture Becomes Art
Written for Art, Antiques and Design (By Gail Green)
Hauser & Wirth’s recent exhibition “Sensitive Geometries,” in exploring three decades of post war art in Brazil, highlights the strong influence of architecture upon art of this period. With such artists as Charoux, Maiolino, Serpa, and Schendel, the observer sees more than ?sensitive’ proclivities towards planar relationships; we see architectural theory played out within the framework of painting.
Based within the aura of a healthy economy, Brazil in the 1950’s witnessed great economic prosperity and cultural growth. Urban renewal prospered, with buildings and new museums springing up in both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. This urban evolution, with architecture as it’s foundation, gave these artists a jettison point from which to glean new and invigorating inspiration. What they saw on the outside, they visualized within. “Sensitive Geometries” explores the relationship architecture had on their work.
Heavily influenced by the Constructivist Movement in Europe, these Brazilian artists found an affinity towards the geometric planes of the De Stijl and Concrete art movements. Together with the presiding sway of a building boom, artists like Maiolino and Serpa found a vocabulary near to their roots. Looking at their drawings, one would think them floor plans or flow diagrams for a newly proposed house. They could, indeed, be Bauhausian designers.
Were one to project, Serpa’s drawing illustrates a very solid structure, a Brazilian Seagram’s building with public space and landscaping about. This artist’s drawing “creates visual rhythms through elaborate symmetries and arrangements,”?a vocabulary suitable to the description of a building. Framing space, playing with color, defining planes, exploring form, siting line is architectural verbiage used here contextually to describe these artists’ works.
Mira Schendel, who “plays with mathematical proportions to produce complex subdivisions of interchangeable shapes,” explores the basic volume and void of architecture. She is as interested in what the line creates in her work, as she is impassioned about the emptiness of what lies in between. The void, the space itself, which in reality is what architecture is about becomes a most dominant theme in her work. It is the void through which we move and through which all intangibles are defined.
Maiolino’s Untitled works, a duet of ironic juxtaposition, examines the void through eye- like apertures against a solid surface of white and black. Perception on the part of the viewer seems less important here than the perspective of the artist. Here, Maiolino views us differently, as we all are, a black eye emanating from the white canvas and a white eye furtively peering through the black. It is a wonderful dichotomy of opposites.
Here, again, the opening – the window, the soul – pierces through the void from a tightly conceived structural enclosure. It’s the void, the eye, the soul, that she makes transcend the object reality of the form into which her spirit is enclosed.
“Sensitive Geometries” is a thoughtfully conceived exhibition drawn from artists who themselves were intimately drawn into the spiritual and physical zeitgeist of their times.
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