São Paulo

Daniel Senise, Skylight, 2017, monotype on cotton on aluminum, 98 3/8 × 118 1/8".

Daniel Senise, Skylight, 2017, monotype on cotton on aluminum, 98 3/8 × 118 1/8".

Daniel Senise

Daniel Senise, Skylight, 2017, monotype on cotton on aluminum, 98 3/8 × 118 1/8".

Brazilian artist Daniel Senise is often referred to as a painter, despite his use of many different mediums since he began making artwork in the 1980s. Senise has painted a great deal, of course; he was trained in the practice (after earning a degree in engineering), and the term painting accurately describes most of the work he made early in his career. But as his oeuvre has developed, it’s become clear that the core of his art lies not in a medium that defines what he does, but in the impetus to experiment and decipher ways of seeing and constructing images. In doing so, he works through concepts and draws on some elements that are inherent to painting, such as composition, perspective, and color, but his art is not constrained by painting’s qualitative limitations.  

In his most recent show, curated by Brett Littman, executive director of the Drawing Center in New York, Senise exhibited eleven pieces, all referred to on the checklist as monotypes. The works were dominated by earthy and gray tones interspersed with whites, and made from cutout fabric imprints of surfaces (predominantly floors and walls) assembled and glued onto white aluminum panels. Five of the eleven wall-hung pieces were exhibited in the gallery’s main room. The fabrics used to make them came from the artist’s archive of surface imprints compiled over many years. Apart from Night Studio, 2017––which depicts a deconstructed indoor space with a window through which shines a light in the sky––the works in the main room revealed large uncovered areas of the rectangular white metal panels onto which the sections of cloths were glued. These white areas carried markings—scratches and incisions––that were the result of the artist slicing into the fabric to shape and remove sections of it, at times while making the works that were on display, but at other times by using one or another of these boards as a worktable for the production of other pieces. In a sense, these markings are also imprints of the artist’s changes and choices over the years.

Senise’s creative process was also at the core of other artworks in the show. The title of Night Studio, of course, recalls the space of production; Skylight, 2017, shows a deconstructed space that somehow appears to be neither indoors nor outdoors, despite its predominant and easily identifiable grid-derived structures, such as a staircase, a bookshelf, and the skylight that names it, which the artist told me refers to the one in his actual studio space. In A Floresta do Livre Arbítrio (The Forest of Free Will), 2016, which speaks to the plurality of choices an artist faces, what stands out most is a rectangular worktable at the forefront of the picture plane, made from different sections of imprinted fabrics.

Three alluring smaller works from the series “Biógrafo” (Biographer), 2013–, made after the death of the artist’s father, hung in a side space in the gallery. These are characterized by a preeminent rectangle at their center; in Biógrafo LXXXIV, 2016, for example, a lighter-toned rectangle of a parquet floor imprint fuses with a darker-toned imprint of a similar floor. This use of a primary rectangle speaks to Billboard, 2017, exhibited in the gallery’s main room, in which the rectangular shape of the eponymous plane is surrounded by smaller, also rectangular sections of imprinted fabrics, displayed vertically like an array of samples, organized in a grid format much like the pages from art books used in Senise’s earlier “Skira” series, 2009–10. 

The repeated rectangles featured in Senise’s work reminded one of bricks––basic blocks for constructions––and were, of course, a typical shape of the planes on which wall-hung art is traditionally presented. They were a reminder, as well, of how Senise continuously explores the constructive nature and process of imagemaking, whatever the medium or subject matter.

––Camila Belchior