São Paulo

Tunga

Galeria Luisa Strina

Tunga presents a model of subjectivity and of the body that is radically different from that found in the contemporary art to which we have become accustomed (at least the North American version). There is nothing extraordinary in such an affirmation given the art produced in Brazil since the ’50s, a period during which the attempt to reconceptualize subjectivity and the body played a central role in artistic production. Specifically, Tunga’s work is like a series of baroque scenes in which the subject is in a permanent state of decomposition and reconstruction, a far cry from the rigid subjectivity described by many as characteristic of European Modernism.

With these works, Tunga presents a new chapter in the fertile narrative he has built around his exploration of the subject. The seven bronze pieces shown at Luisa Strina were each made up of three independent yet interrelated parts; at Andre Milian, he staged a performance in which the designs from which he created the bronze pieces were related to the spontaneous dance of a serpent and a spider. The bronze pieces are actually different versions of a cup, an amphora (molded in clay, then forged in bronze, and finally covered in makeup by three of Tunga’s assistants), and a connective tissue of irregular form that the artist designates as a “catastrophe surface,” a term clearly borrowed from chaos theory. Simultaneously, on the floor of the Andre Milian gallery, a drawing done in powder, representing the silhouettes of the cup and the amphora, was being subtly altered by the irregular movements of the serpent and the spider.

The constructive principle of Tunga’s work seems to be contagion. There is nothing odd in this, if we consider that the artist admits to being influenced by writers like Raymond Roussel and José Lezama Lima, the complex structure of whose works was built on phonetic associations and metonymic relationships. Tunga’s pieces in this exhibit resemble archaeological remains, but also allude to a kind of archaic dimension of identity suggested by the contrast between a constantly mutating interior and the chaotic, purely voracious exterior from which it seems to want to separate itself. Another level of understanding is reached when it is acknowledged that the bronze, covered in makeup, has the shine of ceramic which in itself conveys the softness of skin. These pieces tell a story of the body that is simultaneously a myth of origin and a tale of the erodes of chaos. Thus, these works are an attempt to stage two moments: the formal detachment of the body from the apparent formlessness of chaos, and the decomposition of form, the annulment of tensions by the same chaotic principles out of which that body originated. In essence, they choreograph two movements of desire: tension and release; attraction and repulsion. Between these two poles lies the enigmatic weight of simulation embodied by an amorphous object and by the unpredictable movement of a reptile and a spider on the floor of a gallery.

Carlos Basualdo

Translated from the Spanish by Dalia Rabinowitz.