The Black Pineapples and Brazilian Linen of Tonico Lemos Auad

London-based artist Tonico Lemos Auad has penchants for slow, deliberate processes and meditative reflections. As his playful sculptures and prints show, he’s comfortable working with a wide variety of materials, both natural and manmade.

Auad has said he considers his practice to be “architecture in a quite broad sense.” He attended architecture school in Brazil, where he was born, and credits the lessons he learned there for giving him his sense of space as well as his predilection for site-specific work.

Though he’s been living in the UK for quite some time, Auad’s work occasionally calls back to his native home, taking symbols of local identity and comfort, then retooling them as delicate metaphors that invite audience engagement. For the Folkestone Triennial in 2011, his Carrancas pieces drew on the imagery of Brazilian boat figureheads, with his versions being hidden or revealed by the rising and falling tides. In Reflected Archaeology, the artist coated wallpaper in silver ink and invited visitors to scratch it off, thus revealing images from parades in the northern part of the country.

In a major solo exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion, Auad’s work invites reflection on the town’s history as a seaside resort as well as a hub for mental health services on the southern coast of England. Gardening is crucial to his sculptures there, and each plant within the gallery has healing properties of its own.

Auad’s work is also part of the Stephen Friedman Gallery offerings at ARCOmadrid 2016. In Zebra (2009), a Rorschach-like version of the animal’s head appears on paper, while black crocheted vases rest above wooden plinths in Unruly Architecture I (2015). In Desert Flower (2010), Brazilian linen covers a spiderlike shape cast from solid silver. The dissimilar presentations reveal an artist having fun in an impressive number of ways.


—M. Osberg


Tonico Lemos Auad’s work is on view at ARCOmadrid, Feb. 24–Feb. 28, 2016.

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