I love minimalist sculpture, by which I mean both the specific genre under that moniker and any sculptural works where that element is prominent. For the 2023 edition of The Armory Show, held last month (September) at the Javits Center in New York City with hundreds of participating galleries, the Brazilian institution Galeria Raquel Arnaud showed an impressive series of paradigm-challenging sculptural and tactile works that hearkened to that area. Featured artists included Sergio Camargo (also identified sometimes as Sergio de Camargo), João Trevisan, and others.
Showcased from Camargo, who is associated with Neo-Concrete art, were nearly half a dozen works of both wood and marble, including a standout piece from 1970 that consists of shaped marble extending upwards for nearly five and a half feet. (Check out an image here.) With the locus of the split moving in consistent, circular motion around the piece as it journeys higher, levels of this construction feature pieces slightly offset from one another rather than perfectly fitting together. This creates movement mimicking a flower opening up when conditions are right, captured here from a beginning to an end — or at least to a point when the beginning gets going again.
The basic elements of Camargo’s 1970 work are not easily anthropomorphized. The strict outlines — and imagined outlines moving externally from point to point — on this piece do not strictly evoke human form or movement, as emerges from some arguably minimalist sculpture. Instead, observers find a representation of presence and motion that appears familiar yet exists strikingly outside our most accessible processes.
In some manners, Camargo’s work captures the interface between the personal and the less so, activating our own external relationships to our environments upon viewing. The barely perceptible motion of a butterfly wing, the sometimes oddly rhythmic flow of passersby down a city street — these elements here receive the treatment provided to the human form in art of the Renaissance (and, of course, other eras). You could even imagine doing the wave, as it’s known, at a sports game — an apt reflection of the movement seen in Camargo’s work (and something only given life when in external collaboration with others)!
João Trevisan’s work evokes color field paintings, though he also points to other traditions, including with the introduction of sculptural elements. “Intervals and little woods 3 green and 1 yellow + 2 little woods,” 2022, from Trevisan, features a painted canvas and two small pieces of wood mounted parallel to one another and in close proximity to the larger component of the overall piece (the canvas). The canvas features vertical bars of color — also parallel to each other — on a darkened background. (See a picture right here.)
The nearby pieces of wood, both of which are painted, draw attention to the tactile qualities of color, both in general and within this specific work — tactile qualities I contemplated quite a bit while walking through The Armory Show. The rhythmically vertical areas of color on the canvas also give form to color itself. The coolness of the lighter green or blue is uplifting, just as the shine of the yellow sends energy outwards. (These colors appear on opposite sides on Trevisan’s 2022 canvas.) You’re left in the middle, with an earthy, grounding green — and the structure of the presentation makes these sometimes intangible qualities of color shine compellingly. The specific hues that Trevisan showcases here evoke decay or the depth of the natural world (qualities not necessarily contradictory), a feeling steeped in metaphorical mud but elevating in its approach.
Trevisan is Brazilian, as was Camargo, who died in 1990. Notably, Camargo’s extensive work in art included time as a student of the ambitious Italian artist Lucio Fontana, and Camargo’s work is, in New York City, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Carla Chaim and Célia Euvaldo
At The Armory Show 2023, Galeria Raquel Arnaud also exhibited artists including Jesús Rafael Soto, Carla Chaim, and others.
Chaim’s highly action-oriented drawings add, in their presentation on the page, powerful energy to what might ordinarily be understood as a static medium. The sharp, densely packed lines of the oil stick-and-Japanese paper creation “Scribble III,” 2021, leap from the page, evoking in pure and impressively impactful form the constantly churning energy that hurls each element of our surroundings into the future every second.
Seeing the quickly moving lines in such close proximity to each other also establishes a fresh perspective for observing something on par with the work as a whole, meaning perhaps a forest or bustling street. It’s energy not just at the level of the individual line but also across the whole artistic organism, and essentially, everything comes alive. The propulsion of the creative movement behind this work is strong enough that every level of associated experience, whether simply looking at the piece or applying its experience more broadly, is affected. (Check out an image here.)
Chaim also hails from Brazil. The gallery also showed, by Brazilian artist Célia Euvaldo, “Untitled,” 2022, which features painted areas of black and lilting, light blue alongside each other on canvas. (An image is viewable here.) Most of the top-layer brush strokes, which remain evident, run opposite directions comparing one color to another, and the contrast in color delivers a focus on the point of delicate contact between what these colors materialize. Physically, that interchange is represented in the slight overlap of the canvas’s two portions, though the contrast also feels physically palpable in the experiential space associated with the painting. It’s a touch somehow combining delicacy and force, creating a rhythm in the back-and-forth and a stillness within the balance.
See this slew of impressive works via Galeria Raquel Arnaud here. The collection includes nearly two dozen pieces, and I’ve only begun to touch upon the variety put on display. Despite the show having ended, I wanted to put this up because of my abiding interest in the work and to create essentially a record.