S�o Paulo

View of “Jac Leirner,” 2012. Foreground: Hardware Seda (Hardware Silk), 2012. Background: Seis Níveis (Six Levels), 2012.

View of “Jac Leirner,” 2012. Foreground: Hardware Seda (Hardware Silk), 2012. Background: Seis Níveis (Six Levels), 2012.

Jac Leirner

Fortes D�Aloia & Gabriel | Galeria

View of “Jac Leirner,” 2012. Foreground: Hardware Seda (Hardware Silk), 2012. Background: Seis Níveis (Six Levels), 2012.

For those accustomed to seeing Jac Leirner’s choice of materials as inspired by the universe of circulation and consumption—examples include banknotes, cigarette packs, plastic bags, airplane ashtrays, business cards, and so on—her latest exhibition at Galeria Fortes Vilaça probably came as a surprise. “Hardware Seda – Hardware Silk” consisted mostly of construction tools and utensils, in particular objects used in the making and installing of artworks. Yet this opposition between consumption and production is far from straightforward. Part of a series begun during a residency at the Yale School of Art, Leirner’s new works evoke not so much the inconspicuous dignity of the Heideggerian ready-to-hand hammer as the quintessentially North American subculture of do-it-yourself, a market niche that heralds the power tool as its ultimate fetish. Hardware Seda (all works 2012), the sculpture that gave the exhibition its title, is a long straight line made of various types of turnbuckles connected by a steel cable. It is sheathed throughout by tubes, nuts, sleeves, pipe fittings, couplers, slip hooks, and so forth; in short, by a plethora of holed or hollow pieces of hardware. The nearly forty-foot-long line traversing the gallery slightly below eye level seemed to invite us to look closely at those items, to inspect their varying shapes, textures, and colors and discover in the work an unexpected sensuousness.

True to the minimalist maxim, Seis Níveis (Six Levels) is what it is: an ensemble of six construction levels. They are mounted on the wall, one on top of another, and separated by even intervals in an unmistakable nod to Donald Judd’s stack pieces that is nevertheless more complex than it at first seems. In contrast with the other precision level piece in the show, Dimensões Variáveis (Variable Dimensions), which allows for expansion or compression, the very title of Seis Níveis states its closure, thus restricting the work to a specific scale. Wrested away from their mundane task of determining whether other objects are horizontally aligned, the levels draw attention only to themselves, but also, by the same token, to our own act of looking at them. What their perfectly centered bubbles now gauge, somewhat ironically, is our rather presumptuous self-reflexivity as we stand there, filling in for painting’s ideal viewing subjects.

Retrato (Portrait) is an elaborate rhomboid construction from which a bunch of postcards portraying some of Leirner’s modernist heroes dangles. It is also a work that attests to her love of color: Fastened to a wire, a series of small square samples of Plexiglas suggests a synthesis of Albers with ready-made color; the influence of that artist, who once taught at Yale, is also detectable in Quase Quadrado (Almost Square). Skin (Smoking Red) is the exhibition’s odd work out. This serial and rectangular arrangement of silky rolling paper glued to the wall acted as a cue, further prompting us to relate to the hardware as a deeply tactile sculptural material. It also added a further layer of complexity to the exhibition by means of another set of oppositions: manual work versus leisure activity, the mechanical versus the bodily. The irony, in this case, is that this is not really a comment on issues of labor and class, but rather on elements of one and the same lifestyle.

Sérgio Martins