At Paris’s Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Texture Ties Together Two Brazilian Artists
Minas Gerais is a southeastern state in Brazil that is mineral-rich and lucky to count fashion-and-arts hub Belo Horizonte as its capital. In Paris, France at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, an exhibition called “From Minas to Bahia” draws together two artists from the state: painter-sculptors Iuri Sarmento and Marcos Coelho Benjamim.
Iuri Sarmento’s fantastical paintings are saturated with vibrant colors and an array of dizzying, kaleidoscopic patterns. In Untitled (2013) several bulbous, orange fish swirl around a pinkish fish that swims off-center. Trompe l’oeil blue-and-white tiles painted in the tradition of azulejo, or Portuguese tile-painting, encircle the fish with loopy plants and curlicued details. Like a mandala, these forms radiate from a central point and follow a particular sequence. Unlike a mandala, the end result is not perfectly symmetrical, but rather organic and freewheeling.
In Untitled (2013) a scarlet macaw parrot presides over a collage of floral embroidery, graphic yellow-print tiles, and floating orbs that could sensibly be plates. A starfish-shaped flower pops up several times in the scene: in needlepoint, as blockish pink squares; on ceramic tile, as smooth, well-shaded blossoms. This juxtaposition of patterns is significant; it demonstrates Sarmento’s ability to manipulate paint to achieve illusions of texture.
Sarmento’s three-dimensional pieces follow a similar style as his paintings—fragmentary, animated, richly colored, and often featuring circles. Untitled (2014) and Untitled (2013) are like ceramic crystal balls: small and statuary, with vague if spiritual purpose. Unlike an all-seeing crystal ball there are no visibly translucent parts, and appendages like a teapot spout, lidded top, and mug handle suggest domestic functionality.
Marcos Coelho Benjamim’s sculptures form a nice antidote to Sarmento’s busy but wonderful aesthetic. Using a minimal instead of tropical color palette, Benjamim renders abstract, nonfigurative details in tactile materials like iron and zinc. Layers of rusted zinc combine to form a diamond-shaped structure—topographic like mountains of sedimentary rock. In another piece, zinc is sliced into disjointed, staccato sections, given a red-pink tone, and set into wiggly, maze-like motion.
In Untitled (2012), a coat of Yves Klein-blue washes over metal elements, with jagged edges meeting at a point from which all else radiates. Roda ouro #2 (2012), also on view, is more reminiscent of a dartboard, with linear strands rotating in a circle instead of strictly outward. On occasion Benjamim’s sculptures conform to rounded frames, relating to Sarmento’s work on a basic, formal level. But more often than not, Benjamim and Sarmento’s practices are distinct—celebrating unique visions in their respective materials.
“From Minas to Bahia” is on view at Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Paris, May 21–Jun. 26, 2015.