Los Angeles

Waltercio Caldas

Christopher Grimes Gallery

Waltercio Caldas’s drawing 1, 2009, is a straightforward composition of india ink and pins on paper; two diamond forms—one small and red; the other, larger and black—slightly intersect near a spot of printed text reading simples. While this word (a plural) seems to describe the adjacent shapes, its placement here is curious for an artist who rarely uses text, even if he repeatedly references the textual. Caldas typically makes abstract sculptures that signify the syntactic movement of language, as if diagramming a sentence. By applying to his materials a set of formal guidelines—for example, the juxtaposition of line and curve, the balance of solidity and fragility, the activation of negative space as presence—the Brazilian artist composes meaningful permutations of like elements. To read these permutations is to decipher the whole from its grammarlike parts, as demonstrated by the eight other pieces in this exhibition—five sculptures and three drawings (in addition to drawing 1) that date from 2007 to 2009.

Installed in the main gallery, Parabola, 2008, typifies Caldas’s spatial poetics. A stainless-steel armature is affixed to the wall near a period-like black vinyl circle. A strand of purple wool thread drapes from the ceiling and through the armature, echoing the curved part of the steel while forming a parabola in three-dimensional space. Whereas the parabolic form may signal a play on the work’s title, the piece as a whole acts as a single, expressive statement. Shade, 2009, hanging opposite, similarly contains these three formal elements—yarn woven through a steel structure, with the vinyl dot represented by a suspended black granite ball—as does drawing 3, 2009, which reduces the scale of Shade’s visual lexicon by incorporating the black head of a pin and a thin string that mimics the thick strand of yarn.

Not only does Caldas’s material vocabulary recycle and repeat such formal punctuations (from all periods of his career), it also revisits the dialectic of the Brazilian Neo-concrete artists of a previous generation, reinterpreting their dynamic and sensual strain of geometric abstraction. Emerging in the late 1950s and early ’60s (just prior to Brazil’s military dictatorship), Neo-concretists such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape freed Constructivist-based painting and sculpture from its rigid, mathematical logic and commingled its forms with the everyday. Like those artists, who aimed to eliminate the frame or pedestal and instead situate the viewer’s body as an artwork’s “support,” Caldas draws the viewer into proximity with his objects to set up an experiential exchange; in this exhibition, the sculptures were installed around the perimeter of the gallery, allowing the viewer’s body to occupy the otherwise open center. From this vantage, the space could be considered either as a constellation of interconnected points or as a series of formal permutations in two and three dimensions.

Caldas’s lexicon is a clean, vibrant, and seemingly effortless collection of “simple” figures. And while simples may be an apt label for these works, the word’s literal appearance in this exhibition (via drawing 1) is an exciting complication of the subtler mechanics of the artist’s style. Perhaps the simple innovation of spelling out an idea will open up new possibilities for Caldas’s material constructions.

Catherine Taft