Ivens Machado

Galleria Tucci Russo

The work of Ivens Machado, a Brazilian artist showing here for the first time in Italy, oscillates between two approaches. He chooses his materials from the residue of urban detritus, sometimes redeeming them and transforming them in playful decorative schemes, elsewhere presenting them precisely as the flowers of ruin. Cement (both fresh and colored by oxidation), splinters of glass, wire mesh, tiles—these are the constituents of the pieces that Machado installed over the two floors of the gallery.

The lower floor was simply a container for the various works, but its arrangement clearly illustrated the split in Machado’s artistic personality. In one half of the space was a series of cement structures supported by thin iron legs. Each piece is articulated on each of several facets, like a sort of open book around which one has to move to discover the inner details. The structures gain specific, individual characters through their varying geometries and surface treatments: the direct marks of the hand on wet cement; repetitive slashes from a trowel; fragments of glass or colored tile; or clots of cement, sometimes colored, arranged in rhythmic order, and often used to fracture light across the surface of the sculpture or to introduce tonal variation in a nonexpressive way. This half of the floor emphasized decorative detail and anecdote, concealing the critical quality implicit in Machado’s choice of media. Yet these varying details show Machado’s work at its weakest, for they carry only momentary interest, each being canceled out by the next in what becomes a virtuosic game.

The other half of the floor demonstrated more rigor. The spectator was confronted with two objects—one on a wall, one on the floor—which draw out the maximum expressive potential of Machado’s urban materials rather than subordinating them to structures that render them inoffensive or exotic. The wall piece is a flat cement form, darkened in one half and studded with circular cement clots; from it hangs a wire screen from whose lower edge dangles a group of stone and marble fragments. The work as a whole resembles some marine or aerial form, but in stone—a fishnet, or a kite; in any case, a form designed to carry the weighty material into an area of visual metaphor. The floor piece is an elongated structure, a long roll of wire mesh linking the inner, open ends of two disparate cement vessels. One of these vessels is encrusted with sharp glass splinters, creating both a sparkling iridescence and a sense of violence.

Machado does not make use of all of the relics of urban consumption, but concentrates on those related to construction, to architecture. Underlying his work seems to be the spirit of the metropolitan periphery, the image of the house in the process of either construction or demolition, surrounded by both dusty and glittering fragments which, seen in isolation, appear both lyrical and absurd. The installation on the upper floor of the gallery was a kind of apotheosis of this archetype, conveying a modern, artificial classicism. With a trowel, Machado roughly covered the shafts of the two columns in the room with black cement. Blue tiles formed a pyramidal shape at the base of one column, purple ones a similar form, this time inverted, at the top of the second. The asymmetrical position of these pyramids—forming a base for one column, a capital for the other—would have thrown the space off balance but for the color of the columns’ shafts. The black helped to concentrate the space around it, preventing it from seeming to spin off into a vortex. Machado’s spatial architecture evoked this sense of vortex, then resisted it; a residual fidelity to decisive form again divided his artistic gesture in two.

Luciana Rogozinski

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.