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

Relief No. 285

Sergio Camargo (Brazilian 1930-1990)
Relief No. 285
signed, dated, and titled 'Camargo, Paris 70, n.285' (on the verso)
oil on wood construction
58 7/8 x 40¾ in. (149.5 x 103.5 cm.)
Executed in Paris in 1970.
Acquired directly from the artist (circa 1972).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
São Paulo, Galeria Collectio, Sergio Camargo, 1973.

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity from the Estate of Sergio Camargo signed by Raquel Arnaud, dated 2 October 2013 and numbered 11830.

A student of Emilio Pettoruti and Lucio Fontana as a young artist in Buenos Aires, Camargo found his aesthetic and philosophical bearings in Paris over the course of the 1950s and '60s. He was drawn at first into the orbit of Constantin Brancusi, whose sculptural volumes formed an early point of reference, but he soon began to translate constructivist principles into conceptual monochromes evoking stasis and seriality, movement and multiplicity. His iconic white reliefs of the 1960s and '70s remark upon a cosmopolitan history of late modernist practices, engaging in different ways the unfolding geometries of Neo-concretism (Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica), the optical vibrations of kineticism (Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús Rafael Soto), and the iterative systems of conceptualism (Sol Lewitt, Robert Ryman). Indeed, Camargo's self-described "empirical geometry," around which his reliefs are oriented, confronts the limits of modernist form by carving away and rearticulating its volumes, reaching for maximal points of coexistence between order and its disintegration.

"Whatever is fixed and permanent about it acts as a foil and resonator for all that is fleeting and changing," Guy Brett has remarked of the "perpetual present" embodied in Camargo's work. "The relief's material structure--a dense compacted matrix suggesting the earth, the organic, the vegetable, the crystalline--becomes the means of manifesting its opposite: the immaterial, light, air, in a mysterious and beautiful unity."(1) Constructed of diagonally cut, wooden cylinders set a top a flat wooden board, the all-white reliefs open up the syntax of geometry, delighting in the luminous deconstructions of its rational forms. In the present work, Camargo contrast a minimalist white field with the rounded angularity of the projecting wooden modules arranged only along the lower edge of the relief, positing dynamic formal relationships between plane and volume. The spatialized energy of Relief No. 285 projects well beyond the work's intimate size, generating a full-bodied phenomenological experience through the play of light and shadow around its suggestively animate wooden forms.

The crux of Camargo's aesthetics, like that of many other artists of his generation, rests between the physics and the metaphysics of his work, in other words between the objecthood of the wood cylinders and the philosophical space that they inhabit. The organicity of the relief elements engages metaphors of the body, physical and psychosomatic, and yet the materiality of its surfaces and volumes simultaneously yields to the all-over abstractions of topological space. "We can perhaps appeal to a universal geometric imagination functioning here at its highest degree of tension and audacity," Ronaldo Brito has observed of Camargo's practice. "And also at a highest degree of aesthetic selection that is as rigorous as [it is] singular. Not at any moment does the artist interfere on the specific logic of elements--as mathematical figures, this work proceeds on its own. Notwithstanding, Camargo's poetics consist exactly in defying method, and incessantly questioning order --attractive are only the unusual combinations pointing to the unstable but everlasting sense of harmony. The pulsation of harmony, its casualism, the luster and surprise of its emergence."(2)

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1)Guy Brett, Camargo: esculturas (Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão, 1994).
2)Ronaldo Brito, "Anonymous Enigmas, " in Camargo: esculturas.

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