“To roll, to crease, to fold, to store, to bend, to shorten, to twist, to dapple, to crumple, to shave, to tear, to chip, to split, to cut, to sever, to drop, to remove, to simplify.” Those are just a few of the 84 verbs the American sculptor Richard Serra named in his Verb List (1967–68). The handwritten list, part of the collection at MoMA’s Department of Drawings, is a sort of informal manifesto or guide, Serra’s way of spelling out an artist’s creative options. That guidance—and, moreover, the concept that materials are less important than what you do with them—deeply inspired Verónica Vázquez, an artist born a few years after Serra wrote his list.
Vázquez grew up on the other side of the world, in Uruguay, where she enjoyed a quiet childhood filled with puzzles and sewing, afternoons by the river, trips to a local artist’s pottery workshop with her parents. She later formally studied pottery and sculpture. Perhaps it’s no wonder, given so many hours working with her hands and picking up pebbles on the beach, that she became an artist who works across media, using found materials to build conceptual assemblages.
Instead of starting with a perfect canvas or a pristine piece of paper, Vázquez begins her work with junk material she herself sources: scraps of metal, swatches of fabric, pieces of cardboard, bits of thread, discarded pins, and construction material like bolts, screws, brackets, and wire. She then repurposes the mélange of detritus into striking sculptures and installations that fuse textures in unusual ways, often with a flash of social commentary.
Instalación de Moldes (2016), for instance, includes cloth patterns, fabric pins, and textile samples the artist sourced from an abandoned clothing factory. “I went into a factory that had been closed for many years,” Vázquez has said. “I saw sewing and textile patterns, machines and their parts; the workshop was in a low-ceilinged loft where around 20 women had worked for years.” There’s a certain nostalgia in the work, a sense of reawakening a forgotten past. And particularly now, in this era of fast fashion, the weight and quality of the clothiers’ tools seem like relics of another time. The same could be said of earlier works Vázquez made with old typography boxes: In a digital age, these assemblages, like Typography drawer (2010), evoke a gentler past.
Now through February, Vázquez is showing at the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales in Montevideo, Uruguay, with “La naturaleza de las cosas (the nature of things),” and in January she’ll join “Inner Dialogue,” a group show at Piero Atchugarry Gallery in Pueblo Garzón. As she continues to bend, to bind, to bundle, to collect, there’s no telling what verb will be next.