São Paulo

Valdirlei Dias Nunes, Untitled, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 19 5/8 x 11 7/8".

Valdirlei Dias Nunes, Untitled, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 19 5/8 x 11 7/8".

Valdirlei Dias Nunes

Galeria Casa Triângulo

Valdirlei Dias Nunes, Untitled, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 19 5/8 x 11 7/8".

Valdirlei Dias Nunes has been working in between painting, sculpture, and drawing for more than twenty-five years, but the formal economy and precision in his work has kept his aesthetic singular and untouched by current stylistic trends. His exhibition “Pinturas e Relevos Recentes” (Recent Paintings and Reliefs) included seventeen pristinely executed, predominantly black or white, wall-mounted pieces that seductively hovered between abstraction and figuration.

Six black paintings in various sizes lined up along one of the gallery’s long walls showed delicate regular golden grids on their surfaces, but these grids were interrupted at various points to reveal passages of uninflected black. At first glance, these areas seemed to be simple, flat, inanimate abstract forms, but under further scrutiny, they evoked masses and voids that ruptured the metallic meshes. The negotiation between these opposing perceptions heightened a latent tension that gave these works their allure. This was most evident in one of the smaller paintings, Sem Título (grade perfurada) (Untitled [Perforated Grid]), 2015, whose otherwise monorhythmic abstract expanse is scattered with fine, irregular white specks that could also represent a starry night sky seen through a shiny net.

Understood within the wider context of the artist’s production over nearly three decades—during which his paintings have been predominantly figurative, albeit minimal in the rendering of their subjects—the seemingly simple paintings in this show gained an added layer of complexity. Beyond the strain between the irregular forms and the regular geometry of the grids was the added antagonistic pull between mass and void, starry sky and glinting skeins, abstraction and representation.

A painting with a brown cuboid shown in perspective on a black ground, Untitled, 2017, spoke to Nunes’s work of the 2010s, when he avidly painted, drew, and made objects of similar rectangular shape. Visually, the painting with the cubical form was linked to the nine reliefs on view: white-painted panels rimmed with broken pieces of light-colored wood, often extending beyond the rectangles’ edges, sometimes leaving parts of the panel unframed. Thus in Relevo n.6 (Relief No. 6),2017, the partial frame appears on only two opposite corners, its fragments in different lengths, while in Relevo n.3, 2017, the wood skirting along the left edge extends well beyond the limits of the panel, implying that it could be a remnant of a larger whole. In both cases, the splintered wood lends the reliefs a violent sense of rupture. Through these simple means, the artist created a sense of play between empty and full areas that gave these flat “reliefs” a sculptural quality. To see a quiet and cohesive group of austere works demonstrate the power of an economical aesthetic to expose inherent formal tensions was gratifying. At a time when a cacophony of visual experiences informs so much contemporary art yet also prevents it from offering any deeper engagement with visual form, this work’s impact was all the more remarkable.

Camila Belchior