Luiz Zerbini returns to São Paulo to present Natureza Espiritual da Realidade [Spiritual Nature of Reality], his new exhibition at Galpão Fortes Vilaça. Through a large sculpture and eight medium and large-format paintings, the artist explores juxtapositions between figuration and geometry, nature and architecture. He has often worked with these themes before, but never with so much complexity.
In his painting, Zerbini begins with photographic images to which he overlays other abstract elements in a complex weave where figure and background are blended. The nonhierarchical way in which these elements are arranged follows an inherent processual logic, in which one image naturally follows another, until the composition is complete. In Ilha da Maré [Maré Island] this weave includes a precarious stage with a chicken, loudspeakers, crabs, bricks, and, finally, the sea – or his particular view of the water of the sea, which also pervades other artworks in the exhibition. Buraco [Hole] depicts a box with distinct geometric patterns that is covered by the ocean tide. A threatening-looking wave invades the largest painting in the exhibition Onda [Wave], which is shot through by disturbances that lend it an even greater velocity. In Cachoeira [Waterfall], bands of color cross the canvas and are interrupted by fragments of tree branches and stones, blending figuration and geometry in an even more complex way.
The geometric works in the show are also associated to figuration. Some of the works are based on an image and become totally abstract; others involve references to places and objects in their titles. These paintings are guided by optical effects, along with experiments with color. In Serra do Luar [Moonlight Mountains], a silver grid of lozenges is overlaid to a grid of squares, with an intricate scheme of colors and shadings. In Ultramarine, a dense and opaque blue stands in contrast to bands of luminous metallic colors in the foreground. For their part, the small colored squares of Chuvisco [Drizzle] confuse the viewer’s focus, causing a sensation of myopia.
Natureza Espiritual da Realidade − the work that lends its title to the exhibition − is a sculpture consisting of wooden tables, configured like museum display cases. The work gained its first form in 2012 when Zerbini included it in the show Amor at MAM Rio and, in 2014, it received a new composition at the exhibition Pinturas, held at Casa Daros, also in Rio de Janeiro. At each exhibition, the arrangement of the tables and their elements is altered, giving the work a constant dynamism. Divided into squares, the tables include curious objects collected by the artist, randomly found on trips or collected for personal reasons. Seashells, stones, bricks, ceramic tiles, tree trunks, plants, fishing nets and even a R$10 bill are arranged sometimes as still-lifes, sometimes as abstract compositions. The artist also interferes on the glass tabletop with graphic marks and colored gelatin, causing alterations in the incidence of color and light on the elements.
Insofar as it establishes a direct dialogue with the works on the wall, the sculpture can be read as a systematic organization of the references present in the paintings – an inventory of the artist’s private universe. It is possible, however, to use an inverse reasoning and understand it as a three-dimensional translation of Zerbini’s pictorial process – especially the way in which he uses color and geometry to organize such a wide range of elements. Natureza Espiritual da Realidade is, therefore, a starting point for his research as well as an attractive field towards which all his work seems to converge.
Luiz Zerbini was born in 1959, in São Paulo, but has been living and working in Rio de Janeiro since 1982. Recent large solo shows that have featured his work include Pinturas, at Casa Daros (Rio de Janeiro, 2014); amor lugar comum, at Inhotim (Brumadinho, 2013); and Amor, at MAM (Rio de Janeiro, 2012). His work is present in various public collections, including those of Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea (Brumadinho), Instituto Itaú Cultural (São Paulo), Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, and Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo. In parallel with his individual work, since 1995 Zerbini has worked together with Barrão and Sérgio Mekler in the artist’s collective Chelpa Ferro, which explores the relations between visual arts and music.