Verónica Vázquez’s Meditative Metal Sculptures Consider the Relationship Between Man and Machine
It’s a long way from a tiny pueblo in Uruguay to the largest city in South America—or, more specifically, between Piero Atchugarry Gallery and Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, site of SP-Arte 2015. But there’s nothing small-town about the work the gallery is showing this year in São Paulo.
Alongside works by Jonathan Leach and Alberto Biasi are a group of strong pieces by contemporary sculptor Verónica Vázquez. She’s headlined the gallery’s most recent pair of shows in Pueblo Garzón, Uruguay. The titles of these two exhibitions, “Subtle balances” and “Geometric Dissonance,” hint at the conceptual underpinnings of Vázquez’s work.
Indeed, her featured pieces at SP-Arte 2015, including industrial-looking installations and metal collages, aren’t quickly digestible or easy to talk about—this is a show about abstraction, not an exhibition of crowd-pleasing watercolor landscapes. Art critics have turned to ancient Chinese philosophy and aesthetic theories to try to explain or capture in words the ideas that Vázquez explores. For the average viewer who comes into contact with her sculptures at an art fair, however, what’s most important to grasp about this artist’s work is her choice of material and its relationship to time and space.
The materials, in this case, are rugged and generally unyielding: iron, board, recycled typographical drawers. In some cases, as in Cajón tipográfico intervenido III (2010), the industrial feel is offset by more delicate elements like wire and thread—materials that seem dainty, even romantic, in comparison with the heavy setting. As the Uruguayan muralist Ricardo Pickenhayn points out, Vázquez worked with plastic and clay before taking a creative interest in the earthiness and power of metals: “Between all the numerous materials that attract her, the choice of iron was determining. From her first works of deprived minimalism, she incorporated pieces that created a bridge between the heavy volumes and the ethereal of the feminine warp.”
For all their heaviness and force, however, Vázquez’s materials are vulnerable: her works appear at turns aged and rusty, like abandoned industrial equipment left out in the rain. It’s a comment on extinction itself: the corrosion of the material reveals the inevitable breakdown of material objects over time. In the end, the works might be abstract, but the message couldn’t be more timeless, more poignant, or more applicable across cultures—in South America and beyond.
Visit Piero Atchugarry Gallery at SP-Arte 2015, Booth B01 is on view in São Paulo, Apr. 9–12, 2015.