An exhibition that privileges touch

By Tadeu Chiarelli, São Paulo, 1994

The sculptures by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro contradict the notion of conventional sculpture and, at the same time, do not travel through the territory of what is conventionally understood as contemporary sculpture: the production of minimalist bias. If someone wishes to affiliate the artist’s production in any current, it can be said that it derives or is the overcoming of the formal rigor of Sergio Camargo’s sculpture, filtered by the extreme sensuality of certain propositions by Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica. Redefining the expressive possibilities of materials as noble and institutionalized as marble and alabaster, Perlingeiro transforms the notion of traditional sculpture, since it problematizes fruition only through looking, allowing the tactile exploration of its almost horizontal and light forms, almost plans dissatisfied with their condition. On the other hand, the updating of such opulent materials, their non-monumental and manipulable forms and the artisanal character of their work deny the conventions of a large part of the three-dimensional production – national and international – of the last decades, bringing to this field a tremor of originality quite healthy and necessary. Perlingeiro’s production seems to be a good example of the sedimentation of a Brazilian artistic tradition of the best quality. An exhibition to be seen – and touched.

OPEN HEART

By Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, 1998

The heart of the matter
The heart of the town
Heart of grace
Heart of hearts
Heart and soul
Of good heart
Take heart
To open one’s heart
The way to somebody’s heart
Cold heart
Heartless
Heart of flint
Out of heart
Heart rending
Bleeding heart
Heart whole
Heart at rest
Heart’s ease
Heart breaker
Heart in his mouth
Heart in his boots
With a heart in one’s hand
Heart of gold
Young at heart
Cross my heart
By heart
Change of heart
Soft heart
To lose heart
To follow one’s heart
To win the heart
To give somebody’ one’s heart
From the bottom of one’s heart
To set one’s heart upon
To take to heart
Lighthearted
Heartbeat
Heartache
Heart attack
Heartbreak
The heart of a dispute
Heart of artichoke
Heartwood
Heart rate
To be in good heart
Near to one’s heart
Deep in one’s heart
Heavy heart
Bloody heart
Broken heart
Heart failure
Heartsick
Heart warming
Heart burn
Heart trouble
Heartstrings
Heartrending
Heartland
Heart murmur
Hearty
Hearten
To sing one’s heart out
To solo one’s heart out
To act one’s heart out
To take to heart
After my own heart
My heart goes out to you
With all my heart
Heart shape
Heart-searching
Heart-to-heart
Open heart

LIGHT AND STONE

por Pierre Daix, 2013

Luz e Pedra [Light and Stone]: the title of the exhibition alone is a statement by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro implying that the act of sculpting is not only to create a meaningful three-dimensional object, but also to produce a glow from this object, or from its multiplication, that changes the light of the environment. Tearing it away from what we would expect to see. Following the same lines as the earliest known traces of sculpture, but updating and renovating them in the 21st century, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work recalls three-dimensional assemblages such as the bear skull in Chauvet Cave, placed atop boulders that elevate a horizontal plane to form a pedestal that highlights the pieces and lends it a religious aura.

The choice of alabasters, sculpted since the Neolithic Age, shows the same concern for continuity with origins, but Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro knows how to illuminate them with gold inclusions, selenite and its transparent crystals. She brings us into a double dialogue with and about space : first with the sculptures themselves, through their beaming shapes, their surprising inclusions, and then with their relations to one another, or their multiplication, arranged by the artist in order to create a renewed field of vision, made to catch our eye. Indeed, this multiplication challenges the established order and shows the unexpected through a luminous disruption, altering the visual field.

She adds, as I have stated previously, something unique, which only belongs to her: the meaning of her gold inclusions or the holes in the marble, leading to further unpredicted dialogues with the light.

With the continuity of her work with alabaster and the surprises arising from her combinations of materials, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro creates an art of associations, contrasts, and multiplication of shapes in active interplay with light, renewing our sight.

Translation: Rafaela Vincensini, Paris

Pierre Daix, born in 1922, is a French novelist, essayist and art historian. Having been part of the Resistance during the Second World War, he was imprisoned in the concentration camp of Mauthausen. Being a communist activist from an early age, he takes an active part in the committed press. He runs the Communist newspaper Ce soir and becomes chief editor of the literary newspapers Les Lettres françaises under the direction of Louis Aragon from 1948 to 1972, making writers such as Milan Kundera and Alexander Solzhenitsyn known to the French public. As a friend of Pablo Picasso, Pierre Daix wrote various books on the painter, and painting in general.

FLUID SCULPTURE

by Ronaldo Brito, 2007

The process of a work of art, its biography so to speak, anticipates the concrete form it will take for the world to see. The way it appears in space is similar to the way it emerges in time, as in the way it grieves, negotiates and flows with time. Its comes and goes, the unpredictable steps forwards and backwards over the years only unveil the inevitable measures by which it comes to fulfil its aesthetic destiny. The argument seems very idealistic, being the innocent victim of the proverbial retrospective illusion. Maybe, even so, I sense something true and irreplaceable: a lifestyle searching for its equivalent form. And the argument is even valid in reverse order – Merleau-Ponty already used to say, each work of art takes a lifetime.

 

To this critical text’s delight, the work trajectory of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro describes, in fact, a great parabola. Twenty years of heavy work, hard labour, achieve at last to produce a light, almost diaphanous sculpture; twenty years of daily struggle with the material ends by its almost immateriality. And with the due twists and turns. All this only happened after the artist, under the pressure of the experimentalist culture of the 70s, tried to escape a vocation, obviously unescapable: that of a compulsive maker, thinking also with her hands, and being only able to define a project, discern her own poetic as far as she masters an artisanal discipline. Under the general influence of pop and conceptualism, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro for a brief moment dreamed of a free presentation, without borders, of her peculiar imagination. Drawings, gravure, photography, tri dimensional displays, it did not matter; the question was to allow infinite “possibilisations”. This many ways, however, can lead to a cul-de-sac: when everything is possible, nothing is real. The genuine content is missing from the formalisation process exercising itself on various casual materials, offering no resistance, and precisely because of this, becomes aloof.
In the end, the backward step towards an anthropomorphic sculpture, going back to the millennial tradition of the Greco-Roman statuary, meant first of all a step forward for the young Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, in the sense of a more vivid and educated assimilation of modern art. Being a product not only of the irrepressible empathy for the marble of a Brazilian master – Sérgio Camargo – but, mostly, of the intrinsic contact with Arp, Brancusi and Giacometti’s works. The issue becomes, eventually, authorial: assuming her particular struggle with the historical and aesthetical reality of modern art. In the New York of the 80s, precisely where the contemporary plastic energy pulsated with the more intensity, Maria-Carmen bravely made herself redo, at her own risk, the classic modern emancipatory parabola: to assimilate the tradition, in this case, taking it literally in her own hands, to try to renew it one more time. Obviously, the hard artisanal apprenticeship routine brought rewards, in many ways; it was so gratifying, having struck an unseen deal between the artist and the determined material. This moment, nonetheless, caused an uncomfortable sensation – something close to giving up the experimental horizon of contemporary art. And, however, time took care of proving that there precisely lied the challenge: her artistic subjectivity process had to go through material consubstantiation of an imagination that would only be valid as such when succeeding to show itself in a peculiar and effective way. In art, ways and means, form and content, right and wrong do not exist separately: good art is merely the one that cannot be otherwise.

 

What were once promises, scattered allusions, directly or indirectly erotic, gain with the first marbles what they were always asking – a body. For a start, the choice of marble does not allow for doubts: the feeling is decidedly organic. The first challenge consists in forcing the venerated marble into new iconoclastic torsions, between the abstract forms and the figurative suggestions. What can be imagined, at the verge of the credible, and what can be realized, by achieving the artisanal savoir-faire, still merge in these pieces that already forecast, meanwhile, a way of being – a direct presence in the world, without base or pedestal, yet suave, non-imposing, a lot more seductive than demonstrative.

 

 

Although they already predict the serial, because of the repetitive rhythm of its curves, they pursue the canonical logic of the formal unity. We could say that they search for the consistence that was missing from the previous experimental ventures. But, soon enough, spontaneously, they act as pairs and three of a kind, as they come closer to the minimalist logic of the element, and thus, to the contemporary intelligence of the open form. Less than rigorously combinatorial, they remain inspired dispositions, casual conversation between mimetic impulses and autonomous abstraction.

 

Some of these pieces seem to spring, abrupt, from an imaginary vision, as if they answered to the subconscious’ appeal. They get somewhat surrealist, their enigmatic morphology searching to bring Hans Arp up to date with less fleeting but more unnerving figures. Even so, there is a cut, an almost graphic formal sharpness in erasing the traces of the intense artisanal struggle that brought these pieces to light. In any way, their formal elegance urges strict limits to the morphological narrative – and that is where they meet, unexpectedly, the aspiration for classical perfection and the contemporary critic of anthropomorphism. Since the beginning, a unique aesthetical law rules this artisanal virtuosity: it only applies when it disappears. The poetic venture consists in sublimating it entirely in one piece of sculpture that popped up ready, intact and modern, intended for an always fresh and renewed perception. The remains of the making would bring us back to the past, when all these sculptures want, being good products of the modern tradition, is to achieve the post-cubist planar dimension and thus, be fully worthy of interest. In a nutshell, they want to perform, not to represent.

 

Ingenuity, enchantment and irony

In no way orthodox, the initial marbles of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro belong nonetheless to the torso genre. They suggest corporal movements to the limit of the verisimilitude. On the edge of abstraction, they often keep the mark of the gestures that has moulded them. In close contact with the material, evaluating its potentialities, the artist seeks nevertheless to work within the reference frame of the Creation metaphysics. In an always schematic retrospective vision, everything happens as if she was obligated to recount, step by step, the genetic morphology twists and turns until finding the labyrinth’s exit. And it is undeniable that, varying the model – here the Witch of Brancusi, there a torso from Arp – Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro is driven to dissect and disenchant the last canonical exemplars of the occidental statuary, without the urge to exorcise them, erase them once and for all, because this is not a part of the amiable, kind nature of her poetic, but instead to embrace them, to incorporate them to her own skin.

 

That is why, with time, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s torsos volumes unravel and become skin. Small epiphanies happen then, moments in which the skin coincides with the plan, moments in which the volumetry reduced to its minimum coincides with the planar and non-projective dimension. The corporal becomes epidermal and thus anticipates the somewhat rarefied material density characteristic of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s poetic: to spiritualise the matter by the amorous handling, to free it from its weight and opacity in order to turn it pure aesthetic appearance. In this neutral marble, without interiority, what matters is the surface. It is frequently treated as a plaster mould, compressed to its minimal thickness, released from its gravity force, keeping the visible mark of the hands. Truly, this is where its historical memory shines, essential to an aesthetic temperament adopting a malleable, hermeneutical contemporaneity, in dialogue with tradition.

 

Everything but detached, marble tends to be handled by the sculptress in a concise way, potentially against the nap. Here and there – as occurs, even by the force of attraction of the theme, with the Three graces – the curves, although modern, follow the flexible nobility of the ultimate matter of our anthropocentric tradition. Parodies in no way grandiloquent, in a precarious equilibrium, the Three graces represent the climax of the marble fascination upon the artist’s sensitivity. In turn, the last marble series –Breads and Candies – for their humour and starkness, reveals itself, in fact and rightfully, last, to close the cycle. Here the marble receives a pop treatment, disenchanted, of bread dough. Almost jokes à la Oldenburg, these succinct sculptures perfectly translate the spirit of her work – manual ingenuity, spontaneous enchantment for the everyday life and an irrepressible, although distanced and ironic, mimetic compulsion joined together in a free and honest association. These pieces take on a considerable poetic license in front of the marble classicist rhetoric. Discreetly, in a minor tone, these are biting and iconoclast works. Their ludic spirit of infantile and feminine connotations ironizes the artisanal effort; their cordial irreverence dissipates any solemnity that insists on identifying with any marble sculpture. Such a mimetic operation is too straightforward to be taken seriously – on the contrary, as often happens in the artist’s best works, it brings about a smile. Smile because life is good, since there is bread and delicious candies; smile because contemporary art is still capable of rediscovering poetic novelty in sudden simple moments, joyful enough to recreate in marble all these delicacies.

 

Amongst the marble series, however, the one including the lead wires was, in my opinion, the true visionary: it prefigured her work’s future. Problems, dilemmas and plastic solutions about which she now focuses, intuitively and methodically. Not because she adds another material to the stone, which has become standard, but because, in a way or another, the formalization process comes and goes between the volumetric and the linear, and even incorporates, physically, the linear to the volumetric. The lead wires that accompanied and accentuated the stone’s contour, linking the two materials, ended up absorbed by the sculpture itself. As the extraordinary series Fragments, figures demonstrates, the miracle (including the technical one) consists in involving, in a topological gesture, two figures and the background in a sculptural whole. Their ingenious features are precisely what these little pieces try to articulate. The involvement remains, true enough, a little extrinsic, but only when we compare it to posterior work. As they are, these colloquial pieces of marble and lead reveal themselves perfectly convincing. They draw their own space, cut their plastic autonomy, in one word: they self-figurate. After Brancusi, here is the key: the sculpture brings its environment with it, independently from the natural or mundane horizon. The spatial self-involvement given by the lead wires to the marble’s volume, creating a second virtual volume and integrating both, produces the expansion of the pieces’ limits but also its contraction: they close on themselves, pure plastic energy circuit. Achieving the emancipation as a modern autonomous sculpture, significantly, they already display a certain non-conformism in front of such condition. Hybrid marbles, these sculptures already are a little what Donald Judd called Specific objects.

 

Perfect ambiguous alabaster

To the exact measure of its ambiguity, maybe only an oxymoron could explain the alabaster’s attraction force on Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sensitivity. After the serious and virile marble came alabaster, volatile and feminine stone. At first, there is the aura of tradition, a lot scarcer in the alabaster’s case, a kind of pop, decorative marble, without spiritual substance. Raw material, it fulfils in the work’s body the essential mediation between nature and culture. Yet, it does so in a casual way, more linked to the applied arts than to the classical statuary. Finally, there is in alabaster an ostensive superficiality, a lack of interiority that makes it suspicious to the eyes of the high culture. In addition to all this, the gratuitous beauty, almost kitsch, intolerable for both the functionalist rigour and the expressionist fervour. From the point of view of the strict artisanal discipline, it is an easy, docile and seductive material.

 

 

Naturally, this makes it extremely perfect. And until further notice, exclusive to the practice of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro. Because she honestly needs her parcel of tradition, just to aerate it, to dress it with a contemporary second skin. Useless to the industrialist ideology of minimal, also useless to the strident urban imagination of pop, in the hands of a Brazilian artist established in Geneva, alabaster lends itself to an aesthetical contemporary exercise that mix, quietly, in its never-exploding chemistry, two components: a fragile structural notion, between the element’s logic and the anthropomorphic nexus, the link to minimalism in a broad sense; already its figuration, with intimate and affective accents, is too banal and public not to have kept a pop past. Suffice it to remind her amusing titles, by the way. They spread their mimetic origins in a disillusioned pop spirit. By nature, work is hard; it demands constant dedication, therefore, method. But what it searches and finds is grace, poetic discoveries, unpretentious but self-sufficient. Contrary to the everlasting marble, alabaster is a passing thing. Hesitantly passing, though, between the vegetal germination and the prompt visible fascination. The transparent roc, by diluting itself in light, appears to induce semi-transcendence.

 

Colourful, variable according to the effect of light, alabaster is the ideal vector, because in total opposition, to absorb the clear and neat drawing of these common objects, of summary and well-defined profiles. So common, they do not symbolize aliveness, mere anonymous companions of our daily life. Once upon a time, happy coincidence, they reveal their true form to the artist’s eyes, which is also, as Plato used to teach, their idea. From this little initial amazement results the series, determined constellation of objects conjuring the artist’s imagination. And again, only the empty alabaster achieves, without tossing the freshness of these pieces overboard, to quickly associate them with memories, bestowing upon them the feeling of time. Magical things reappear, for the first time, rediscovered by the poetic use. And because we see only their contour, their general aspect, they seem even more vivid, since it is this way, distracted, that we see and consummate them. Generic, with no foreshortening, no substance, they reveal their essence: their full particularity.

 

Aesthetical re-education

In this process that only accelerates, only amplify itself in radial form, letting itself impregnate by the various aspects of the living world, the Fragments, figures series (late 90s) stay, in my opinion, emblematic. In it, more than in the irresistible piles of Books or in the Coins collection, her work conquers its specific topology: a narrow fragment, randomly chosen, engraved front and back with the profile of two daily life objects. Even though the artist is a disciple of the figure of speech known as chaotic enumeration – the consecrated example being the hilarious Chinese Encyclopaedia by Jorge Luis Borges – the series has concrete and serious origin: her father’s death. From his office supplies, to which he dedicated love, the daughter recreates her sculptural environment – envelopes summarizing the content of letters. Against one another, between literal and spectral, the characters of this bureaucratic paraphernalia surface: scissors and staplers, padlocks and stamps, along with pieces from the proper civil servant uniform, formal footwear, white collar, the whole indistinct summary of his common and dignified life, redeemed by what is most intimate, and distinct: filial love.

 

The fluency with which figure and background interpenetrate in this alabaster blade, the counterpoint between its irregular contour and the drawing precision, between its frontal presence in the world plan and its aura of dream, all this concurs to transform these pieces in contemporary Bust models. Indeed, under close scrutiny, they are discontinuous portraits. By an oblique metonymy, they portrait a personality. That is what, at this point of the never-ending crisis of occidental humanism, seems ineluctable – every subjectivity will not only be off-centre, but also fractal and spectacular. Mild-humoured, semi-aerials, these pieces start doing something serious: they initiate the grieving process. And, despite my chronic aversion for any psychological illation, I think that this difficult moment of personal rethinking boosts her work’s structural change. There is something freeing about this fluid synthesis of three elements in one sculptural whole, a fortuitous miracle in these fragments exhibiting two figures. And something vertiginous in this topology involving space, volume and line, present and past, conscious and unconscious. Maybe a deep trivial truth shines here – that all these elements, which we only know how to separate and distinguish, always affect us together, blended and confused.

 

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculptures now let themselves go into space. Because these Busts are mobile, coextensive to the world’s things, irradiating a particular beauty that redeems the clumsy routine of life. Slowly, brief aesthetical exclamation succinctly appear, immediate instants of grace exempting God and politics.

 

Achieving an autonomous space, her work can risk itself in the environment. After Nails and Petals, as pairs and three of a kind in the horizontal plan, it is time for the important Drops series, less sculpture than alabaster relief. Obviously, on a large scale, on the adjacent wall of the re-education pool of the Suva clinic, in Sion, the Drops meet their habitat: they merge into the heat condensation of the atmosphere and thus, quite literally, flow. Less than the risk of diluting into space, suspended relief in the air, their risk is to dilute their content of aesthetical truth in remaining here so close to the sentimental. The Drops indicate, in this sense, the language maturity of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro in assuming, in the problematic context of contemporary art, her unwavering part of purity – formal, affective purity. Deprived of irony, the Drops (tears) maintain only the indispensable margin of mimetic distance. Furthermore, they identify themselves formally and emotionally with their motive. Clearly, they are no wailing tears, nor the bitter tears of anger or resentment. They are spontaneous reactions, part of life’s chemistry, and the opposite of smiling.

 

They are spontaneous reactions, part of life’s chemistry, and the opposite of smiling.
That is why they are partitioned, appearing here or there, adaptable to different places or situations. Tears appear suddenly, whatever the reason, love and death, a painting or a film. What the series Drops considers in definitive, within her work, is the pure register of sentiment, in slight opposition to the almost official cynicism dominating the contemporary artistic culture.

 

 

If the Drops series is plural, portable, The wonderful world of floating objects belongs to the contemporary, post-minimalist genre installation. Without big experimental pretention, she brings an air of liberty to her work, capable now to spatially articulate and re-articulate her elements in an open style practice. Her multiple versions have in common the obsession for lightness and availability, suitable aesthetical corrective of a world always heavier and more opaque, each time more closed to spontaneous processes of subjectification. Lightness and availability that also summarize the artist’s intuitive strategy in coping with the accumulated weight of modern tradition, the general sensation that everything was already made and consumed. With its misleading title, its resonance with the imaginary world of childhood, the series is perfectly sincere – it promises to relativize gravity, in every sense of the term. In this ludic spirit, the installation reminds of a giant anti-gravitational Morandi. In any case, because of the levitation feeling, it materializes an oneiric atmosphere without resorting to the genre clichés. Kinaesthetic, The wonderful world of floating objects shifts the physical position of contemplation by combining horizontal and vertical, full and empty, real and virtual.

 

Curiously enough, as it asserts its poetic, re-potentiate its means, claims at last full authorship, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work carries out in a much more voracious way its mimetic vocation. Logically, it is a wise mimesis, second degree, between the candid and the ironic. The essential is that the motive favours an imaginative formal exercise, light a spark of poetry amid life. She proceeds, for example, to reinterpret Duccio’s Maestà, retrieves its primitive aesthetical emotion by leaving only the skeleton and then reconstruct it as an alabaster with gold foils relief. This translation of the morphological continuous into the discontinuous language of discreet elements is typical of her work, almost her registered mark; in truth, it is the principal reason for her works’ increasing mobility. The cascading Coins are the origin of these circles relating the Maestà’s biblical narrative according to an unorthodox minimalist grammar. What the Renaissance composition portended, in the beginnings of perspective, transforms into a casual sequence close to the famous minimalist maxim – one thing after another.

 

Between the prolific recent series – Mountains, Lunatics, etc. – I choose, without hesitation, the Piercings one. It renews the obsession of her work on the body with a synthesis power unseen in the work’s history. The alabaster fragments not only acquire ear shapes, but they show themselves, in pairs, in the right height, suggestive, on the wall. Suspended in the world, they integrate the movement suggestion to their mimetic process: after all, they refer to a typical visual phenomenon of our urban landscape. In the era of absolute consummation, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculpture attempts a spontaneous and unpretentious aesthetical re-education, an astounding and yet simple task: renew our amorous contact with things.

FROM INSIDE TO OUTSIDE AND BACK

by Michael Jakob, 2007

Art has no origin: it is indeed its duty to make things emerge. However, there is always an Urszene , an actual place allowing to set markers, to draw directions and allow evolutions in an artist’s work. That is what happens with Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work. In her case, the place in question are two almost adjacent rooms in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: one presents Brancusi’s sculptures, in the other are gathered Marcel Duchamp’s most important works. /span>

 

What is surprising at first with the Romanian artist is the extreme work on the material, the creation of an « epidermis » of the sculptural object that, such as an omnipotent mirror, absorbs the environing space. Everything, with Brancusi, is concentration, implosion, so much so that the entire world’s energy seems to « auratically » curl up in the simple shapes fashioned by the sculptor. The absolute interiority created by the object of art, the magical surface, self-referential, and the sense of total concentration are nonetheless unimaginable without an equally strong external space: the rural world – the only “true one”, according to Emile Cioran, Brancusi’s compatriot – nature, observed and interiorized. The infinitely fragile and precious object exhibited in an art studio or within the four walls of a museum room becomes therefore the result of a trajectory, of an exact knowledge of the materials and shapes of this universe. The heads, firebirds and others Mademoiselles Pogany, which the artist disposed, following an obsessively spatial logic, refer to the external work, subject to daylight and bad weather, of Târgu Jiu, and more specifically to the Endless Column (Coloana fără sfârșit)..

 

et, the analogies between Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work and Brancusi’s are surprising and deep. They focus on the creation space: the art studio covered in white dust and cadenced by the sculptures’ rapports, placed according to a strict spatial order. They concern the importance of the Eros’ absolute simplicity, so difficult to create, of shapes. They refer, finally, to this essential exteriority of open spaces, sometimes “green”, sometimes anti-urban, representing the other in the gathered gesture, unifying.
The trajectory that, with Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, leads from the inside to the outside requires us to think about the material, about the light in Brancusi’s work. The artefact represents, by all appearances, triumph of shape over material – by all appearances only, since the material fashioned by the artist is nothing else but alabaster, a tender stone with a unique, individual aspect. The gypseous alabaster weakens with its fragility the idea of perfection and eternity. In other words, the stone, with its typical veins, takes on a skin appearance. The alabaster is the living metonymy of a successive concentration process: it is the result of marine water sedimentation, extracted from blocks (ovuli, “eggs”) in which only the heart will be kept to be at last transformed in sculpture. The geological trajectory and the stone’s “travel” from Volterra to the artist’s studio subsist in the transparencies of this memorable material.

 

“Prière de toucher” (Please touch), an important opus of Marcel Duchamp presented with ready-mades and other objects in Philadelphia, proves to be, in relation to Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work, more than a metaphor. To transcend the privileged sense of sight to the benefit of the sense of touch, the tactile sight even, is applicable to her whole work. We can also add, still in relation to Duchamp, the rapport to the human body, the erotic dimension and the sense of humour. The body centrality is already the guiding thread of the marble sculptures. They show the extreme fragility of the human figure and the always-radiant beauty of the spinal column. The body and the pure sculptural form converge in a dynamic ensemble exalted by the light. Eros is a constant characterizing both the marble and alabaster works and the more specifically landscape works. It is a metaphysical eroticism, never free, of a sexuality always followed by a humorous smile. Eros, with Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, is life itself, or energy of the living.

 

A major work from Duchamp will allow to cross for good the threshold dividing the inside and the outside (and the step backwards): Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage . . . (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas . . .) (1946-1966). The inside opens onto a surprising outside – a body in a landscape – without leaving the art world behind. Nothing in the décor constructed by Duchamp is fixed, and nothing is set on a palpable canvas. Only the viewer identifies, gazes, from his point of view, the work, and he alone can find its meaning. The nature concept (landscape, waterfall) ironically merges in this anti-work of art with the desire fantasy.

 

 

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro likes just as much to divert our attention, using the subtlest means. The Uccello Spears, a project realised for the ephemeral exhibition “Lausanne Jardins 2000” involves only one vegetal, the Sansevieria, a tropical plant whose leaves are in the shape of blades, commonly referred to as “Saint-Georges swords” in Brazil. The ensemble is formed by three big rows of Sansevieria disposed in a prairie. The vegetal blades’ profile brutally stands out from the ground, breaking the bucolic scenery. The hard elegant leaves, the sculptural and willowy form of the plant and its artificial appearance demand to be touched, titillate the desires. The meaning of this multiple diversion (displacement of tropical plants, cultural references, and usual location) is explained by the intention to dialog with Paolo Uccello, one of the most mysterious painters of the Italian Renaissance. The immediate reference of the minimalist vegetal composition is the famous Battle of San Romano (London, The National Gallery). The three vegetal rows refer to both the spears and the force lines of the Quattrocento painting. The plant’s plastic violence and its no less brutal implantation on the hill’s slope awaken, “hurt” the imagination. The location appears to be – and with it the European cultural landscape – a fabricated territory, the result of successive conquests. The division in three rows reminds of the separation of the three original panels, the aggression history inflicts on art itself (in addition to the painting in London, the one from the Louvre and the one from Florence). Another aspect, no less violent, concerns the representation proposed by the painter. Indeed, Uccello’s paintings come and go between the Middle Ages’ codes (chivalry theme) and the modern standards, expressed through perspective, a technique obsessively used by the painter. Perspective and movement representation in the Battle of San Romano were not understood by his contemporaries, thus causing the painting to be seen as an aesthetic aggression. The fact that the Brazilian name of the Sansevieria evokes Saint Georges opens another referential field: Paolo Uccello is in fact the author of two others famous paintings (London, The National Gallery; Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André) depicting precisely the fight between the saint and the dragon. And the scene where the hero gets to the monster with his spear is every time surrounded by an amazing landscape. The Paris painting is marked by a thin green lace circling the cave and continuing to the fortified castle in the background. As for the London version, it exposes the climactic moment of the struggle between the two antagonists on a forecourt embellished with a geometric flower-bed anticipating by somehow five hundred years the landscape architecture’s inventions of the 20th century. With simple yet powerful measures, Uccello’s Spears show a glimpse of the unexpected modernity of the past and the work of history.

 

The Greek name for the palm tree is Phoiniks. The myth associates the sacred plant with Apollo, god of divination and poetic inspiration. Leto, mother of the future leader of the muses, is said to have given birth to his son on a palm tree in Delos. And palm trees are precisely what Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro chose for another landscape project of hers (“Lausanne Jardins 2004”). Palm trees in transit, side-tracked from their usual locations, question the displacement concept. These plants, which more or less thirty different species were showed in an interstitial and temporary space, are great travellers. Produced all over the world, they end up in countries with continental climate as refugees. The ancient Egyptian symbol for the sun brings back the energy and a certain exoticism from south to north. The names are enough to make us dream and travel: Cocos nucifera, Canaries date palm, Phoenix roebelenii, Mekong date palm, Livistona chinensis, fountain-palm tree… For a moment, this work transformed plants into ready-mades. The transitory and apparently futile aspect of the vegetal collection confronted the visitors with their habits and most intimate expectations. The issues raised were about the creation of intimate or mundane spaces, the idea of well-being, the man/plant relationship and, last but not least, the idea of Nature for the man of the 21th century, as well as the always tempting phenomenon of evasion.

 

 

Another plant, no less symbolic, the cypress tree, is at the heart of an important urban project realised in Geneva in 1997. The Cupressus sempervirens is the ultimate polysemous tree: it symbolizes eternity and death, hospitality and grief, immortality and spiritual values, healing and longevity. As the origin of the plant takes us back to Asia and Oriental Mediterranean, the possibility to subject it to the geometric order reminds of its topical function in the Italian Quattrocento. The three cypress trees in front of the central façade of the Uni Dufour building function as a powerful visual sign. They identify the threshold separating the inside from the outside, the solid mineral presence and the solid vegetation, landscape and architecture. Planted in an almost empty square, they create a concentred and silent space. The vertical momentum of the sculptural plants allows for a dialogue with a building made of horizontals, and draws new spatial force lines in the reconstructed urban landscape. The university being by definition a dynamic place, the landscaping project had to reflect mobility: mobility from the cypress tree displaced and reinvented many times throughout history; mobility “lived” by the threshold of a faculty building with its essential steps like the entrance into the institution and the exit; mobility of the generous construction architecture, allowing for ample space and freedom of movement.

 

 

Open heart, an outdoor work realized for “The edge of awareness” exhibition (Art for the world, 1998) at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, carries on with the living sculptures series developed by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro together with architects. The big vegetal heart is composed of various distinct elements. Two apple trees (Red Gravenstein and Gloster) placed in the middle of the garden, give big red fruits. Some plant vines (Merlot) whose grapes are also red, surround the apple trees and draw the shape of a heart on the lawn. Dogwoods (Cornus alba sibirica) are grouped around the heart’s inner walls; they too decorate the ensemble with their red colour during winter. The heart’s core is formed by the red foliage of the Cotinus coggyria, the wig tree. Metallic fences allow the public to penetrate the heart’s heart. Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s green-red heart grows in its garden, lives with the seasons. It expresses in an immediate manner the idea of centre (centre of the body, centre of the garden, centre of research and coordination, etc.) and the centrality of the liquids giving life to a garden and to living beings in general. Here, the simple but efficient reference is added to the ludic anthropomorphism. The project readability is exposed to time, which transforms the heart in an increasingly thicker vegetal palimpsest. This work represents a threshold too. The ultimate centre of the body, namely the heart, is moved outdoors to be in turn interiorized by the surrounding nature. The passer-by participates in that experience, being both at the heart of nature and art. .

 

 

In Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s path, the distinction between inside and outside, sculpture and landscaping project, studios and “green” sites fades more and more and make way to an expanding intermediary space. The floating objects trajectory (The wonderful world of floating objects) between Tuscany, Rio de Janeiro and Paris, the exhibition of these outstanding objects suspended in open spaces illustrates the freedom and delicacy conquered by the artist. Her work has now reached the magical equilibrium, the flotation point.

A SECOND SKIN

by Ronaldo Brito, 2006

As the artist discovers his material, he discovers the texture of the world. Therein lies his ability to transfigure it. More than merely fitting it into a personal framework, which would also involve a problem of figures and proportion, the artist, in fact, absorbs it, by following the twists and turns of its erratic course. As the material turns magical it conjures up an authentic and unique record of the aesthetic emergence of the world.

 

This is undoubtedly true of alabaster in Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s creative process. It instantly unveils the ethics of her language in the public context of contemporary art: her unwavering commitment to modern values is, nevertheless, devoid of any underlying aggressive or revolutionary hints, in an open dialogue with tradition, marked by a somewhat purist, a somewhat ironic relationship – with the classic concept of beauty.

 

Alabaster is always, and almost fatefully, linked to ambiguity. Not only does it display a dubious beauty, bordering on the kitsch, caught between sculpture’s historic nobility and striking decorativism, but it also boasts an elusive physical texture: a fragile and pliable stone, on the verge of evaporating in light. Here we have a geology of the surface, evocative by its very nature, incapable of keeping secrets. And thereby particularly suitable to translate the topology of our troubled daily life, always up against the blurred boundaries between subject and object, interiority and exteriority.

 

It is a contemporary treatment that with serene wisdom associates the minimalist logics of subtle elements to a deliberately mimetic morphology. And by ignoring hierarchies, it is capable of accommodating a free re-reading of Duccio’s 14th century Maestà, a so to say decomposing re-reading, as well as amusing allusions to the body language of Piercing, without any significant changes in the spiritual tonus of the work. Her poetic sense of humour remains distinctive, exuding a certain lightness, a certain freshness, a touch of irony.

 

It is a spontaneous and unpretentious serial art project that tailors and singles out its elements through serial progressions or divisions – and by abandoning the canonical concept of formal unity – it completely indulges its mimetic impulses. And as if meant to correct the misleading aspect of alabaster, these swift and direct mimetic impulses generate a chain reaction. Every series responds, nominally as well, to a specific imaginary association. Simple pieces or fragments of stone are, albeit modified, almost ready-made, and can thus be turned into mountain profiles or lunar detritus. A serene mimetic ravenousness seems to pervade Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculptures. It is a moment of existential insight, of perspective investment in the bountiful diversity of the world-of-life. Everything deserves a second skin.

PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

by Maria Cristina Burlamaqui, 2005

The Photographic references exhibition claims to revive the photography/art debate through the artistic eye perspective of four Brazilian contemporary artists who work in painting, sculpture, installations and urban and landscape interferences as their plastic expression. They are: Gabriela Machado (painting), José Tannuri (installations and urban interferences), Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro (sculpture and landscape interferences) and Ricardo Becker (painting, sculpture, installations and urban and architectonic interferences).

With an exhibition of photographs from artists who express themselves in different fields of the arts, the Ipanema Gallery initiates the commemoration of its 40 years of existence with the intention to highlight a new way, the one chosen by these artists, who, with their “photographic eye”, reveal an extraordinary aesthetic power. The selected artists are well recognized in the Brazilian contemporary scene, with significant presence in national and international exhibitions – like Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, first place in the 1996 International Uni Dufour contest organized by the Bank Darier-Hentsch and the Estate of Geneva.

The participation of Gabriela Machado, José Tannuri and Ricardo Becker with original photos, and Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro exhibiting photos presented in Rio de Janeiro and Geneva in 1980, but remade with new technology in 2005, intends to question their reflexion about the photographic reference within art. It is the artist’s eye, in observation, and the making of art through photography.

The photographic images are, sometimes, reality fragments; they come from the experience captured by the camera, creating magic, despite the multiple interpretations to which everyone can pretend. The awareness of the art of taking photos exists, as well as a huge discussion of the photography as an art premise. The chosen artists for this exhibition are expressively present in the Brazilian art, today, through their pictorial thinking, experiences in the lightness of the sculptures and in the reflexion about their installations; they will certainly be able to deepen the said premise via their photographic thinking.

We are trying to reflect about the “unity in the diversity” of their personal languages, loaded with energy and strangeness in the capture of “a marginal reality unveiling an occult truth”, as Susan Sontag asserts in her essay, About photography.

Here, the creators are going to explore the static and the movement, and the image composition will not be a simple register anymore, to reveal the multiple truths of their poetics. It is science enabling art. Some historians speculate about the fact that Vermeer used the camera obscura to obtain precision in his memorable pictorial scenes. Velasquez has too used optics in his court paintings. And it is important to remember all the visual supports employed by Picasso and Braque. It is exactly towards this focal point that the Photographic references exhibition claims to realize an autonomous composition experience, to announce, who knows, without any exaggerated pretention, of course, new possibilities for the arts, today, as “magic of the reality”.

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s exterior photos, as well as Tannuri’s, and the intimate ones by Gabriela Machado and Ricardo Becker awake us to this reflection. In the auto portrait sequence by Becker, for instance, time involving its movement subjectively does not characterize the photo, since the evidence of time appears directly within the superficies and captures decisive moments. With Gabriela Machado, though, there is the idea of actualizing the past (Velasquez) with shadows, and a fluid abstract of light – which is almost a pictorial composition and acts as a bridge between the abstractionism of her following painting. Meanwhile, the captured moments in the 1980s by the sculptor Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro explore the shadows, the winds, the palm trees and the effect of wordplays, magnifying the majestic presence of the Pão de Açucar (“sugar loaf”) as a city memorabilia. While Tannuri approaches the daily reality with the tensions of the lines, the structures of the partitioned grids in which the perception of reality itself comes true in a world that is “inside” and in a world that is “outside”, beyond the border’s limits.

What we want to show is the fascination photography holds by keeping its mystery quality, revealing these artists as “art alchemists”.

The artist Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, well-known and recognized sculptor of the alabaster’s lightness, presents photos from the 1980s, previously exhibited in Rio de Janeiro and Geneva – remade in 2005 with new technology. The photographs, all taken from the Flamengo beach, in 1980, are a tribute to the Pão de Açucar, palm trees and buses, an exercise for “the eye only the artist has… that does not stick to reality” according to her own words. Here, the Pão de Açucar is no postcard. It is art. In Vol Bol / Col Sol, we see the mountain, symbol of Rio de Janeiro, in shades of blue, magenta and black, in a duo with the palm trees, tropical emblem, and highlighted words, in which, to Maria-Carmen, “birds of a feather flock together”, as in a grammatical notion.

In Advérbios de Lugar (adverbs of place), she plays with the words and images, showing a sequence of four identical photos, four moments of the Pão de Açucar, and a yellow bus. In truth, these photos are one and the same, repeated, suggesting the word interpretation in a combination of image vs. text, repetition, in a jest with adverb of place.

In the admirable Callistemon Rigidus, there is a visual relationship between the flower and the red bottle-cleaning brush. Images link the two objects in an ironic wordplay of compound words: tic-tac, pik-pok.

The Superlatives constitute a series of photos attempting to play with the Pão de Açucar – veiled or hidden by palm trees – as an icon. Is the Pão de Açucar our Marilyn? Warhol added halftones in the photos to create, in the actress’ face, multiple aspects with different contrasts. Perlingeiro reflects upon the superlatives by insistently photographing the Pão de Açucar behind the leaves of a palm tree which, depending on the wind, veils or unveils the mountain – we are looking for it and we cannot see it. Such a sequence of pictures suggests an almost kinetic mobility. The artist captures the image, sensing the exact moment in which things would display themselves.

CONNIVANCE AND VOLUPTUOUSNESS

by Lionnel Gras, 2003

LUZ DE PEDRA, monographic exhibition by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro
at the Modern Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s exhibition at Rio’s Modern Art Museum presents new and existing pieces. These form a dense and precise panorama of the prolific array into sculpture that the artist has carried through for many years. Constantly coherent and absolutely rigorous, the Brazilian artist, born in 1952, has been working intuitively and methodically in Geneva for a little more than 20 years. The LUZ DE PEDRA exhibition unfolds as a clear path leading to the artist’s thoughts and experimentations, as an intimate collection generously shared.

 

The exhibition begins with a series of bas-reliefs in the shape of a “sole”, an invitation to a mental wandering within and beyond the exhibition. Oscillating between focus and dispersal, the exhibition allows the viewer’s gaze to alternate between an attentive observation of the skilfully crafted pieces and the perception of a vast universe to explore. From opacity to transparency, step-by-step and through the successive layers, the exhibition highlights a startling world, at times quiet and peaceful, a poetics of the substance.

 

Allowing a seamless flow within the exhibition, a set of semi-transparent suspended panels offer dynamic oblique lines and continuously renewed prismatic visions. The different series of sculptures shown are enhanced by the natural light passing though them, and by the museum’s raw space. The artist gives preference to radiant natural materials such as alabaster, gypsum or gold, and commands them with a rare gesture of pure elegance. Some pieces take us back to the origins and to the underworlds, as they seem to appear difficult to date. Choosing raw and precious materials as well as some generic and archetypal shapes bears this double desire to inscribe both the apparition of art and the emergence of shapes in the long term, and to place them, as if out of time, in a tension towards the “horizon” of the absolute.

 

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro takes up the particular challenge to combine an outstanding skill and a substantial coherence, a material density and a suggestive tenuity, an affirmed voluptuousness and an obvious connivance. At first, a glimpse seems sufficient to grasp Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s world. From a close, numerous gaps and cracks allows us to sense in many ways – as the exhibition title suggests – the plural and equivocal dimension of her work. Each piece seem to simply appear, shine brightly, hide again, and illuminate us little by little. Between formal minimalism and figurative suggestions, plenitude and openness, brutality and preciousness, fraction and union, light and dark, the pieces present themselves as true visual oxymora. First of all, they offer themselves as multiple invitations to travel to the very heart of visual and semantic communions created by the artist, and successfully make us smile, think and dream.

 

In her work in general, and for this exhibition in particular, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro favours a human-sized scale, not only allowing the artist to be one with the material she works with, but also to offer a certain proximity and familiarity with the pieces. Mostly of a small format, between distance and proximity, these ultimately seem to caress what infinitely exceeds us and intensely enthuse us

 

Lionnel Gras (1984) is an art historian, critic and curator.
She currently works at the Haute école d’art et de design (HEAD) and at the Fonds municipal d’art contemporain de Genève (FMAC).

Translation Alexandra Dupont, Geneva

STONE LIGHT

by Maria Cristina Burlamaqui, 2003

Between the Matterhorn, the hills of Tuscany, and Rio de Janeiro´s hillsides: this is where Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro has been building her ‘poetics of stone’. The Brazilian artist based in Geneva, Switzerland, is now showing her most recent work – alabaster torsos and polyhedrons, animal hides, selenite ice, mica crystals affixed to acrylic sheets – comprising hand carved pieces that instigate spatial engagement through the transparency of sculpted, perforated stones, and diffusion of light.

 

Perlingeiro has explored the sensitivity of alabaster by delivering unique reinterpretations of this material. Tuscany´s translucent alabaster enables the creation of an aura of light in a “magic moment” that arises between the luminous spatial field and the sculpture of fragments. Thus Rio hillsides, torsos, childhood memories and reminiscences are created and engraved with gold leaf – all meant to explore the limits of the gaze.

 

Since Perlingeiro started sculpting marble, in 1983, stone has been her material of choice. Rio de Janeiro has a marked presence in her sculptures and her scale of seduction: her singular aesthetic law regulates virtuosity with great freshness and humor. Alabaster, a translucent stone that may also be opaque and at the same time incomparably beautiful, reaches the ostensive superficiality of a docile and seductive material in her hands. For her, stone lends itself to an aesthetic exercise with an intimate and affective accent of subtle irony.

 

Having found the ideal support for her sculpture in Tuscany, the artist embraced the Renaissance tradition of collecting alabaster rocks, which she stores at her open-air workshop in Volterra, for subsequent slicing and cutting into blocks. Every time she goes back to Geneva, the artist takes 700 kilos of rocks in tow that eventually will be worked by her hands, gouges, burins, and machinery. Methodical everyday work joins with aesthetic exercise to consubstantiate her poetic discoveries in the fragility of alabaster, incorporating it to light, combining opacity and transparencies. Perlingeiro usually visits Volterra at least once a year to select rough stones of this ideal mineral – those showing translucency and relative hardness –in order to exploit their veins and ensure visual and tactile richness. More recently, she has been drawn to selenite and mica crystals, and all her pieces play on the sensitivity of these rocks between spatial and luminous fields.

 

The exhibition presents Torsos and A bela e a fera [Beauty and the Beast], both made from alabaster and naturally black-and-white mountain-goat skins; Hot Ice, Cones e Cubos, and Micas. Recent works comprise large blocks of selenite, a Mexican stone that is bulky but equally translucent, like ice, which the artist cross-drills and etches with gold leaf, prompting a vertiginous gaze between full and empty, inside and outside. As an earth-element with a glassy appearance, selenite involves volume and its diaphanous splendor creates a connection with the energy of an architectural form, just as its transparency and undulating forms add the character of limpid body fluids.

 

For the Hot Ice series, Perlingeiro drills stone and engages in gold etching, in an alchemy of intuitive harmony in which the luminous core circulates, as if traversing the infinite. Her pieces materialize the void, and light permeates the solidity of selenite like a prehistoric monolith, or menhir, that incorporates monumental scale not through its size, but through its translucency, on which the pieces loom large in an ephemeral experience of time-space. In an almost sensual game, the two raw and naked Torsos, carved so as to render extreme vigor and lightness, refer to the tradition of sculpture, and become timeless.

 

In their turn, Micas pose the real dynamics of the speed of light, and are incorporated into the repertoire of the artist, who appropriated crystals layered on successively parallel surfaces. Also shiny in their appearance, her mica pieces give out great luminosity, when on a small scale. These slices of rock attached to acrylic sheets are dynamized in geometric games lacking mathematical logic, like the ambivalent constructions of Joseph Albers, since Maria-Carmen introduced beam-like triangular shapes of light on the acrylic sheets.

 

In another part of the exhibition, her Solados structures resemble bare human footprints moving up the museum´s untreated cement walls, trying to climb the impossible!

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, essentially a sculptor, perceives the world of tridimensional volumes sculpted by natural light and makes her poetics part of a visual and tactile experience, imprinting subtle references in a rhythm of sheer beauty.

THE BIRTH OF COMMON THINGS

by Paulo Venancio Filho, 2001

After a process of intensive confrontation and dialogue with some of the great moderns: Brancusi, Arp, Sérgio Carmargo and the entire immemorial tradition of marble, it feels like the recent sculptures of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro confront us with an immediate and unexpected disenchantment. Switching the radical twists and turns of the modern form for this unusual bond with such prosaic daily objects could suggest one more evasive attitude current nowadays – it would be a wrong, polluted suggestion.

 

Already the stone had changed – in anticipation – from marble to alabaster. Alabaster is a very special stone; it is so much more ambiguous than the marble, with an almost artificial, undefined je-ne-sais-quoi. The stone seems to enclose a curious dialectic between actuality and eternity. Because in this ambiguous stone very defined objects start to appear, without any ambiguity. Objects that, being so detailed could belong to a catalogue where they must appear precisely defined. Collection, album, these are words that come to mind to justify this selection of familiar and boring objects. And what is there to say about the absolutely non-obvious insignificance of these objects and choices? Isn’t the still life missing?

 

Still life: a bottle and two glasses, some apples, a knife, a fish, a bunch of asparagus, a cloth covering the table, these are examples of what used to compose a full, complete, meaningful world. But in the alabaster we have examples of the objects’ solitary existence before (or after) the established cohabitation between one another – the placental stage, (pre or post?) still lifes. These sculptures assemble, in their strict disenchanted formalisation, the wild post-pop atmosphere, the deconsecrated comic strips humour, the consumerist vulgarisation of the daily life and the classical dignity and simplicity in a fragment of stone; absolute contemporary stele, incomplete and defined monolith inside the undefined alabaster fragment. A piece of the “world’s flesh”, being in total and very up-to-speed contradiction with the delimited exteriority of the Greek classic. The modern sculpture is back in gestation, accurately defining the objects’ limits inside the shapeless alabaster, transforming shape into light, image into “x-ray”, body into “soul”. That is why there are two dissimilar sides, the piece’s duality – what is “in parentheses” and what is out.

 

Paulo Venancio Filho, 2001

BETWEEN THE BODY AND THE STRUCTURE

by Ronaldo Brito, 1991

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculpture consciously assumes a morphological sensibility and reasoning. In the digit and serial empire, the choice of a frontal clash against a certain material – all the more this being the traditional Carrara marble – could seem anachronistic. And yet, the challenge actually consists in leading to form’s eventual contemporary power. The fact itself of returning to handwork after passing through the experimental phase in the seventies is rather clarifying: it shows the position, among the general dilution, of recovering the contact with modern principles. Restoring and reconsidering its final articulations, the piece of work tries to answer the crucial question: the inquiry about the possibility, the reality and the necessity of the modern form during its crisis.

 

Thus the coincidence – in her best works – between the handcraft tour de force and the intellectual revelation of form will be more than gratifying, revivifying in the term’s emphatical sense. Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculptures, unlike the growing number of doubtful novelties, starts by metabolizing its historical references in order to appear as a coherent and astonishing plastic unity. The capacity for discovery remains essential regarding the prospective logic of the modern project: each piece must discover one truth about the entire work which would be considered unfinished without this piece.

 

We are obviously still going through the investigation and consideration process about the multiple adventures of the liberated modern form. Arp, Brancusi, the Brazilian Sérgio Camargo amongst others, impregnate these sculptures that, while in search of a specific identity, often extract from the marble’s remarkable clearness something precisely obscure. Between the elegant economy and the “unexplained” attraction for tortuousness, they expose a bodily imagination. Meanwhile they conquer a substantive plastic presence; they affirm as well their enigmatic nature. Yet, the body “knowledge” enigma has certainly something to say about this brutal and opaque contemporary day-to-day that seems to ignore the bodily dimension on behalf of materialism itself.

 

Curiously, this kind of body metaphor arises from the exercise of an aesthetic discipline near the constructive tradition. Hand movements tend to repeat compulsively unconscious fixations and obsessions. Pressure of structural logic, in turn, prescribes lucid and precise articulations and forbids language vices or fancies. Everything shows that Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work is now ready to recover some of the expressive affinities of the past she has exorcised to a certain point. It is enabled to recognize and assemble some constants. By reading over modern grammar, the artist was not only putting on a mimetic act of this or that work. As we noticed, her syntax develops at the cost of a risky balance between the organic and the structural. But the unavoidable longing for a “solution” of each one of the separate pieces used to keep in suspense a research on the work’s destiny. Handwork problems, as usual, would intervene between the work’s immediate reality and the availability to think over its “becoming”. This explains the constants’ symptomatic value. Rejected by formal insufficiency, they come back now to charge for the price of their expressive truth.

 

After refusing a plastic language independent of it’s “making”, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculptures, little by little, grew distant from this same “making” – just enough to render it even more present. The contradiction is merely apparent. Partly because this distance results from a perfect control of handwork. The most important is that the “making” is no longer a previous matter set apart from the work’s constructive logic and expressive nucleus, but turns into one of its constitutional instances. Therefore, one could conclude that the demand of a rigorous formalization applies itself here to strange and disturbing “figures”. The aesthetic impact of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculpture is of the paradoxical order of plastic metaphorical synthesis. A concise, abrupt discursiveness is imposed avoiding redundancy. What supports these pieces in the Actual records is their prompt exhibition as enigmas without regressing neither to suggestive nor to virtual forms. It is not a question of narrating a dilemma, but of pointing it out.

DEW DROPS

by Michael Jakob, 1999

Architecture – the art of adapting space to human exigencies – inscribes the perspective of moving beings in reality. In what could be called an architecture of health, the relationship between the two verticals, body and edifice, grows even more complicated because the natural balance is being threatened. Hence the great necessity to form salutary bonds between the hardness, motionless greatness of what is built, and the frailty of a distressed person.

 

Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s art was able to bring these two very opposite poles together by giving the “spectators” of this therapeutic place an aesthetic, moral and intellectual support. The piece, with its eloquent title “Dew drops” is centred on the aquatic concept. Water, universal symbol for life, shared not only by architecture (the pool) but also by man (human body being composed almost exclusively of water) materialises itself, resists, holds on the wall in the one of the lightest form of all : the drop. Sculpted in alabaster – so similar to human flesh, in its mineral way – and each having their well-defined shape, the drops turn into a mirror to everyone present.

 

Even if they conserve their individuality, these drops, all reunited as they are on the same wall, form a balanced and vivid ensemble. The entire mural sculpture seems to move thanks to the natural light, allowing for a sparkling recovery. Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s sculpture, although aesthetically anticipating on the improved body dynamic, also respects the ill person’s pain and their drop-tears. The interval – sometimes very long – in which the body, thirsting for movement, also finds its expression in the drops as metaphors of a temporal shape, suspended between the stable and the instable, of the plenitude of a special moment. “Dew drops” invites man to be conscious of his temporality: Doesn’t life itself aspire to “cling” to the space of this fulfilled moment where everyone shines with their own strength? Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro’s work appeals precisely to this inner power: it “pulls” the person from bottom to top in order to make him move again.

One fragment, two figures

by Ronaldo Brito, 1999

Facing this series of sculptures by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, the greatest difficulty is precisely to accept its simplicity, the fluent and casual way in which they present themselves. Not because its intriguing aspect is deceptive or irrelevant, quite the contrary – yet its simplicity is a crucial part of the plot. In any case, its mystery begins and ends in the full evidence of an aesthetical presence that absorb all ambiguities that used to threaten and now improve its integrity. Far from avoiding them, her work tries to exhibit them. Hence those pieces in alabaster looking like absurd two face reliefs and showing a frontality, an ironic game of figure-background, and even a quite pictorial light. Yet they are sculptures, and they always will be.

 

All this exhibited in a discursive order, thought over and over chronologically, is nonetheless shown at once, through the stone’s concreteness. And its transparency, the aura of light enfolding it only strengthens the magical instant of its appearance. In the meantime, the eye (who is no fool) promptly wonders and mistrusts: soon the magical instant turns into a moment of doubt. Because there is no way the perception conforms itself with the synthesis of two very distinct times: the evocative one, memorial, relevant to the somewhat diaphanous matter of the alabaster and the agile one, precise, of a drawing that cuts in the stone the neat profile of an everyday object. The mere outline of the alabaster fragment causes the merger between the bright spatial field and the object that stands out from it, thoughtlessly insuring the piece’s unity. And to make it worse, each side of this narrow slice of stone reveals a different figure. It’s a lot, we agree, for so little.

 

Mimicking its own work, without ostentation, leaving aside the prodigious artisanal making, remembering however that the eye hold the due amazement in front of the phenomenon, amazement that goes along with the comes and goes of the interpretation. But the slight scandal consists precisely in the unlikely harmony between antagonist aesthetical durations – the long duration, historical, inherent to the traditional matter, fatally elected, and the short duration, almost pop, of an abrupt and direct drawing which defines a current and planar solution for these sculptures. The ingenuous reaction – for this, even partial, is indisputably true – is to ask ourselves, incredulous, how such distinct things can come so close to each other. Indeed, such pieces of art seem, bathing in sepia light, in an oneiric atmosphere, to attest of their virtual character – beings coming from our memory that softly invade our present. Not frightening, friendly, but slightly unnerving. If they do not challenge the physical balance – familiars, they find a place and do not disturb, in one way or another, the gravity law – theses sculptures certainly evolve in time. They are in perpetual germination thanks to the volatile geology of the alabaster. Its basic disquiet, however, is about the psychic pulsation, insistently suggesting the latent work of the memory.

 

Indeed, we know that the initial production context for this series of sculptures from Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro is linked to an important period of mourning: her father’s death. This is the peculiar and intimate origin of these daily objects, here begins the poetic transfiguration that will give it its unique and lyrical affectivity. Confirming Freud’s theories, the artistic work corresponds to a sublimation process, undertaking the symbolic redemption of the fatherly figure. On the other hand, in passing, they would contradict Kafka by idealizing the father figure precisely through its intense relationship with his offices supplies. It is in the daily exercise of duty, also in devotion towards the little every day life habits, through the very things that he has impregnated with love, successfully transforming them into private and non-transferable things, above any exchange value, that the daughter rewrites the father’s life, to enchant it again. We do not even need to appeal to the poetic licence to recognize in these sculptures, in their theme as much as in their shape, modified and contemporary versions of the conventional gender of the Bust – after all, they are, through a drastic (and many times diverted) operation of metonymy, portraits.

 

The alabaster, obviously, lend itself admirably to replicate the diffuse action of the imagination, with its shaded colour, somewhat aloof, and its epidemic qualities, so to speak. However, it gains here content of real material: sensitive membranes that unite and disunite universes – past and present, sleep and wakefulness, physical and psychic. As their volume increases, liberating themselves from the implicit reduction of the typical recollection vision, in perspective and distanced – which gave to the firsts and these ones the almost condition of members of a still-life – consuming themselves in a sculptural liberation: the works of art extrapolate on the scale of figured things, mobilizing them in space. This way, they complete their paradoxical cycle: works from the “past” that remain in the present while inquiring about the future.

 

To get there, the work needed to travel, throughout the years, the complex and disappointing contemporary cultural circuit until it became its natural habitat. The fluency with which it circulates through the multiples cul-de-sacs of the late modern languages to reinvent new possibilities, new conditions for happiness, commensurate with itself, obviously presupposes the dominion of the post-cubist planar reasoning, or it would never have been able to, restaging wisely and a little perversely a mimetic figure, reach its modest but unrivalled formal self-sufficiency. Today, it is anything but easy to hold to a lyrical mood, an unequivocal affective emphasis, within the denial of any and every confessional expressivity; or even extend a sincere commemorative note without diluting oneself in a post-modern mockery.

 

Ironies and detachments, apparently, became therefore a second nature for the “amphibious” contemporary artist. Quietly, Maria-Carmen starts by taking the alabaster fragments as ready-mades. Without intervening in its outline, she eventually transforms an “existing” fragment collection into an almost post-minimalist series of constructive elements. The choice of each fragment is restricted by the sheer match with the intended object. The fragment, as a part extracted from a whole, acts now as a given element, positive, a combinatory module. A similar strategy of detachment significantly neutralizes the substantialist connotations associated with the alabaster by rubbing it the wrong way –the artist sculpts in the stone the clean figure of a standard visual sign. From there result succinct pieces of sculptures, perfectly upstanding in their ambiguity: the blocks of stone are almost reduced as streams of light, and in return, the figures in relief seem tangibles.

 

Following the continuous, self-enveloping space of these sculptures, which asserts their concise plastic unity – the same simplicity value we mentioned at the beginning – soon we see ourselves literally facing three distinct moments, irreconcilable as a single aim. Because not only different objects emerge in opposite sides – as formally unequal between them as they are familiar in the strict meaning of the term – but we also need to consider the whole of the alabaster fragment which forms, after all, the body of the sculpture. Only a very scholar critical description, ill-advised, would say that these fragments hold the two figures; the contemporary attraction force of these pieces from Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro stems specifically from their curious topology, obtained at the cost of the humorous relativisation submitted by the classic representation stage.

 

Somewhat dispossessed, with their three distinct moments, they also express a Tripartite Unity, even if very far, in letter and spirit, from Max Bill’s famous sculpture bearing this title. This sculpture could be imagined, at the end of the 40s, as a previously unseen non-Euclidian geometry demonstration, a formal model to surpass the Aristotelian dualism continuing to dictate anachronistic limits to a world incapable to take on the topological process of spatialization. In all and for all uninvolved with this constructivist epic, Maria-Carmen’s sculptures affect the current world dimension, in lyrical contact with and by contrast to the realities of life. And the casual elegance with which they resolve their paradox – the disjunctive cohesion between what we would formerly call their parts – encourages us spontaneously to see them as first specimens of a new species of lyrical, day-to-day, deductible topology, within reach of our common imagination.

CLEPSYDRA

by Paulo Venancio Filho, 1996

Would it be foolish to claim that these stone sculptures seek to assimilate the dimension of time? That what they are is not for ever. That their lasting tells us about what does not last. Little lies, pretending to be, but not being. After all, is that not the ambiguity of the alabaster, a pretty false stone – false to the point of looking sometimes artificial?

 

Because in the alabaster, it seems that first of all the stone is missing. The alabaster is a stone that seems to lie about stone. I wonder if the title of some sculptures as well as a text from a recent exhibition, respectively White lies and Petits mensonges*, does not imply something of the sort. Because in the alabaster there seems to be something perishable, almost similar to life, that maybe was alive and can come to life again. Something that was forgotten and can be remembered. In it, objects are not as permanently immobilised, as in stone. Even opaque, mat and blurred, the alabaster unveils an inside, much like some defenceless organisms do. It is as if the stone lost its defences, depetrifying itself. The surface – its last defence – becomes translucent membrane. Facing this, numerous suggestions can be made. Here we appear to be in front of things long forgotten; there we appear to be in front of a sculpture in gestation, asleep in its embryonic state, pre-sculpture, pre-stone. Something that has not taken shape yet,
amorphous – jellyfishes, águas-vivas in Portuguese, which can be translated as living water**. A state “pre” or “between”, sufficiently undetermined. As an organism still hesitating between solid or liquid form. In other words, as something refusing to be a firmly solid sculpture. Another suggestion can emerge from the association with an organic matter also ambiguous and undecided, namely the nail. And a fragment of cut nail reminds very well of the crescent moon – the proper Moon, seen from here, isn’t it something opaque, bright, almost translucent, that could be made of alabaster? Lunatiques (lunatic) isn’t that the name of the work? A title that, lying sufficiently, a little and poetically, seek to avoid every limited and partial comprehension that prevails today.

 

The work itself knows how to find its way, as it once knew to come close and confront the white marble, classic, stern, and to impoverish it in modern and contemporary ways through a poetic of the blade and the film. That is what happens, I think, in the work in which an iron bar crosses the alabaster ovals. The lies of the stone can seduce excessively, so much so that it is necessary to report it, even aggressively. In the same way, I detect another series of works, apparently so distant, as a result of actions of mistrust.
I refer to the sculptures of recognizable and identifiable objects: the slipper, the shovel and the shoehorn, the bellows and the violin. It shows here the almost impropriety to represent these objects within the stone permanency, because of their banality. But in what other material can we capture them, if not in the undefined and essential picture only the alabaster can provide so they can reveal their Proustian presence; immerged in stone like in limbo, embodying a recollection of what happened and stayed as such. These objects are in our memory as they are in the alabaster, three-dimensional madeleines*** so much so that even the memory could be made of alabaster. Because Time has invaded the stone, and things too, like water in a clepsydra, taking every shape…

 

(1) * Catalogue Sculptures, Rosa Turetsky gallery, Geneva, text by Michael Jakob.
(2) ** This is how the critic Rodrigo Naves calls the alabaster sculptures.
(3) *** NdT: in French in the text

WHITE LIES

by Michael Jakob, 1996

Every sculpting act must face a contradiction with serious consequences, namely the contradiction between the material’s extreme heaviness and the human body’s lightness, between the stone or the bronze’s hardness and the fragility of the sculpting being. Even though the human body is present in the sculpture, there’s a good chance for it to be reduced to a simple outline exteriorisation and to dissolve forever in the materiality of the sculptural object.

The precious aspect of the material, as well as its shine and its texture also contribute to reinforce the object supremacy (smooth, polished) on what it attempts – often to no avail – to expose: a subject made of flesh and skin, a living material, perpetually betrayed by the artistic commodification. The history of sculpture was affected by the dialectic of what is present as material and what is presented by the material, while questioning the emergence of the body, of the skin, of life.
The sculpture modelling the human body is, as Hegel used to say, “the abstraction of the shape”. By imagining this body in the epiphany of its greatest beauty or in its most characteristic aspect, the sculpture also proceeds to abstract time to distract, again, from what overrides the body: its vital spark.

The art of Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro reassess sculpture’s foundations and question tradition both delicately and strongly. Her objects unveil sculptural conventions’ aporia by privileging the fragment and the detail.  Suddenly, for example, thanks to a surprising amplification, a nail emerges, becomes sculpture. And what is a nail if not the infinitely small, a relic that generally goes unnoticed?  But the nail is, as the tear sculpted in Sigh by Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro, something unique, absolutely peculiar, resisting the artistic generalisation.

Hanging by the living body but already doomed to die, the nail suggests the passage of time, recording a unique moment – but not a privileged one. Hanging between the eye which gave life to it and always ready to let go, the tear also suggests an imminent death. The Sigh seems to question intensely this path: the crystallisation of the living in what is dead, the concretisation of shape in what is, by its very nature, imperfect, singular, stained, marked by time. The Sigh and the nail additionally examine the fundamental question of the expression. Human expression, materialising itself in the signs of life, as a nail leaving the body, as a tear leaving somebody’s eye, “dying” to pass on something to others. Artistic expression which falls into the space between life and death to bring life to the inanimate stone.

To succeed in this living art, to keep the fragility of the living, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro chose the ideal mineral: the alabaster. This stone has an astonishing translucence and a relative hardness; its transparency and sinuous layers expose its depths – everything in it seems to suggest living material under the skin. By making use of alabaster’s irregular veins, the artist prints her vision in a material as unique as the shape of a nail or of a tear.

It is also the unrecoverable depth and singularity of the different layers, and the translucent skin of the alabaster that allows the artist to create pieces such as the shoulder pad or the rose petal. Through the latter object, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro achieves the most incisive expression of an art choosing to realise (to harden) what is per se fragile and to weaken (to lighten) what is per se hard. We are once more confronted with a fragment, a little thing becoming a sculpture, with something fleeting and unique, something infinitely thin, light and almost impalpable, holding however on its fibre, its lifeblood. Symbol of the fragility of the Eros and the Beauty, the rose, metonymically reduced to one petal, magnified in sculpture, embodies an artistic vision attempting to keep in the fleeting radiance the memory of the lived experience and the singularity of every being.

PROJETO VEGETAL

por Perlingeiro/Junod/Beusch, 1996

Nos convencemos de imediato quanto à qualidade arquitetônica do edifício, da riqueza dos espaços e da atenção dada à escolha dos materiais. O Projeto Vegetal tem por objetivo a valorização do edifício com transformações no seu imediato contexto e nossa intervenção se declina, essencialmente, sobre dois modos diferentes:

 

• estabelecer um diálogo com o edifício e seu ambiente através dos vegetais;
• permitir uma melhor percepção do prédio.

 

Quisemos utilizar plantas por suas capacidades de diálogo com a arquitetura e os arredores. Três ciprestes plantados em frente a entrada, cuja verticalidade faz contraponto à forte horizontalidade do edifício, indicando sua presença de longe. As gramíneas entre a base e o corpo da estrutura, cujo movimento permanente relaciona o volume mineral com o espaço atmosférico. Cada espécie vegetal foi escolhida por sua especificidade botânica e morfológica, e implantada no lugar onde revelará seu pleno sentido. É o tempo que vai ritmar o aspecto visual do “Projeto Vegetal”: o tempo necessário para o crescimento e o desenvolvimento dos vegetais e o tempo cíclico das estações.

 

Oferecer boas condições para ver o edifício, significa antes de tudo “abrir espaço”. Literalmente eliminando alguns objetos (caixas bloqueando a entrada, plantas inapropriadas), e figurativamente com a realização de espaços-limiares ao redor do prédio. Desenhamos uma praça que prolonga a entrada de Uni Dufour até o limite da rua ‘Conseil-Général’. A entrada, nivelada com nova laje e a nova fachada de entrada cos três ciprestes. A praça se termina um pouco abaixo do piso da rua ‘Conseil-Général’, com um muro maciço formando uma “mesa” do lado da calçada e um encosto para um banco de 36 metros de cumprimento em frente ao edifício da universidade. A praça é uma passagem entre a concentração dos estudos e o movimento da rua, um vazio entre o cheio vegetal do Parc des Bastions e o cheio mineral do prédio da Uni Dufour. Esse é o poder de um limiar: dar uma respiração à um edifício.

 

As duas-rodas, dispersas, vão completar a composição do perímetro quando serão organizadas em duas linhas de suporte metálico ao longo das ruas de Saussure et Jacques-Balmat.

 

A supressão das plantas de interior que crescem contra os vidros, e sua substituição por plantas herbáceas fazem parte da mesma lógica de desenvolvimento dos limiares. Trata-se aqui de melhorar a percepção do exterior visto de dentro e de deixar entrar a luz da rua no prédio.

 

AS PLANTAS DO PROJETO VEGETAL

Formas pontiagudas
Com sua folhagem verde escuro, a Cupressus sempervirens “Stricta” é uma conífera extraordinária de verticalidade, e pode chegar a uma altura de 20 metros.
Plantados ao nível do chão, a direita da entrada principal, os três ciprestes previstos no projeto vão ter um papel de indicação visual. Presentes e silenciosos, vão assumir a função de comitê anfitrião para os utilizadores do edifício.

 

As plantas trepadeiras
O Parthenocissus tricuspidata “Veitchii” é uma planta trepadeira vigorosa e robusta. Agarrando-se ao muro, ele pode cobrir uma superfície indo de 15 a 20 metros quadrados. Em cada estação, ele estará presente na base do edifício. No inverno, descobrimos as suas veias finas e poderosas. Depois do inverno e até o fim do verão grandes folhas verdes e brilhantes aparecem, ganhando uma maravilhosa cor vermelha no outono.

 

Mesa de roseiras
O Rosa rugosa scarlet meldiland é uma roseira robusta com folhas ásperas, brilhantes, verde escuras de baixo e de cor amarelo-ouro no outono. As roseiras plantadas em maciços compactos e uniformes se apresentarão como uma mesa disposta na base. De junho a setembro, suas flores púrpuras e pelviforme emitem um perfume intenso. Vermelhas, elas manifestam a sua presença desde a Plaine de Plainpalais. Perfumadas e delicadas, elas são um ambiente familiar para o terraço exterior do refeitório.

 

A echarpe externa
A Molinia caerulea Heidelbraut faz parte da família das gramíneas. Essa planta fina e leve de cor verde clara pode atingir 1 metro de altura. Colocada na base, como uma pele com pelos longos e macios, ela ondula ao capricho do vento. Uma vez maduras, suas inflorescências se movem com a menor brisa até o inverno.

 

O tapete interior A Carex brunnea Variegata é uma planta herbácea cultivada em solo ligeiro, húmido, e bastante ácido. Pode atingir uma altura de 15 centímetros. Sua folhagem é persistente, com uma cor verde clara e brilhante. As gramíneas no interior se espelham nas gramíneas expostas no exterior. Assim os vidros, envolvendo interior e exterior, são o limite de dois climas diferentes: no interior herbáceas de doce “algodão perolado” e no exterior gramíneas sujeitas a todas temperaturas.

Floating objects

Vincent Lieber, 2006

Familiar pieces. We recognize here and there a daily shape, a plate, a cup. And yet what is this strange gap that we do not immediately identify? Admittedly, they float, suspended in space, as if an invisible Chinese juggler made them spin in the air. And then we don’t know: are they old, are they modern? But it’s not just that! It is also the use of this unexpected material: this alabaster with changing colors, this dense mineral, not quite heavy, which has retained in its very material, in the veins that run through it (do they throb?) memory of past centuries. And there is also the feeling that this airy transparency that the weightlessness underlines in which the artist has suspended these strange reinvented objects for a memory that never existed. And it is also this choice of a material which seems soft and remains, all the same, somewhat disturbing, with its milky transparency which will never reveal all its secrets.