Sergio Camargo (1930-1990)
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Sergio Camargo (1930-1990)

Relief no. 259

Sergio Camargo (1930-1990)
Relief no. 259
signed and titled 'Camargo n° 259' (on the reverse)
oil on wood construction
31 3/8 x 31 3/8 x 4 7/8in. (79.7 x 79.7 x 12.5cm.)
Executed in 1970
Gimpel Fils, London.
Ronnie Shapiro, New York.
Private Collection, Chicago.
Private Collection, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
London, Gimpel Fils Gallery, Sergio Camargo, 1970, no. 11, p. 17 (dated 1969).
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.
Sale room notice
Please note this work is accompanied by a certificate from the Estate.

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Lot Essay

'I have been working exclusively with white since 1963, first with wood which I painted and recently with a pure white marble. My use of white is therefore more a constant theme than a particular phase. Having never been a painter it may be that my choice of white for my reliefs and sculpture corresponds with a desire to annihilate the surface qualities of matter in order to accentuate the power of structures which work together through interpenetration of light and space...' (S. Camargo quoted in L. Milton (ed.), Basically White, Institute of Contemporary Art, London 1974, p. 18).

Executed in 1970, Camargo's Relief no. 259 is a signature, radiant, white, sculptural work by Brazilian artist Sergio Camargo. The student of Lucio Fontana from his time at the Academia Altamira in Buenos Aires, Camargo learnt a great deal from his teachérs pure, conceptual aesthetic. Indeed, the long vertical aperture cleared through the wealth of cylindrical wooden pieces in Relief no. 259, recalls Fontana's own slashes, cutting into the monochrome canvas to reveal the space beyond. In Relief no. 259, the wooden pieces create a dynamic play of shadows as light penetrates and illuminates different facets of the work. As Guy Brett has described, the work 'becomes a kind of white mould into which light seems to imprint its natural rhythm; it bears the traces of each slight transformation as clean morning light changes to plain afternoon light and later to elusive evening light. It is not there to tell us anything but to return, amplified, what we bring to it' (G. Brett quoted in Sergio Camargo: Light and Shadow, São Paolo 2007, p. 23).

Relief no. 259 was created at the height of Camargo's career, whilst he was staying in Paris forming associations with artists such as Jean (Hans) Arp, Henri Laurens and Constantin Brancusi. His work, although grounded in what has been described as the 'Brazilian feeling for organic life and physical ease of movement' (G. Brett quoted in Sergio Camargo: Light and Shadow, São Paolo 2007, p. 59) also retains the logical clarity and conceptual acuity of his contemporaries. Each work results from a calculated balance of order and disorder, reengaging the tradition of Constructivist aesthetics and invigorating old geometries with the lyricism of organic form.

Camargo's first white relief was executed in 1963 when the artist was thirty-three. The discovery of his sculptural vernacular was entirely incidental; one day whilst cutting an apple, he sliced off nearly half the fruit and made an additional cut at a different angle to take a piece to eat. The resulting planes made a neat relationship of light and shadow, and it was this discovery that gave Camargo the concept for his wooden, cylindrical elements. These simple shapes became the very foundations for his work, the art lying in their rhythmic application to board. In each piece, Camargo would vary the size, concentration, direction and angle of each wooden element to create a unique, undulating relief. In Relief no. 259, the wooden pieces lie at complementary angles to one another, their pattern of light suggesting vibration and kinetic movement like the wind rushing through tall grass. In the empty white band at the centre of the work, there seems to be no movement, the bare board appearing static in contrast to the sensuous interplay of cylindrical elements in either wing.

For Camargo, the investigation of volume is the most important element of his practice. In Relief no. 259, the artist has created a work that appears to disintegrate volume, shattering it with light. Whilst the real, physical properties of each curved piece never change, the apparent volume becomes increasingly vague as light interacts with each white surface. In painting the work exclusively white, Camargo was seeking to eliminate all other considerations apart from the dialogue between mass and light. As Brett has noted, 'the white solids are not felt as solids; the shadows and relations are felt, more strongly, and these are the immaterial traces of the elements volume. Volume, in Camargo's reliefs, though in reality it exists, is perceived as virtual' (G. Brett quoted in Sergio Camargo: Light and Shadow, São Paolo 2007, p. 23).

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