Relief 329, 1970 signed, titled and dated 'Camargo 70 no. 329/70' (on the reverse) painted wood construction 30 1/2 x 12 1/4 x 6 1/2in. (77.5 x 31.1 x 16.5cm)
PROVENANCE: Galerie M, Bochum. Collection Nicholas Gomez d'Avila, Miami. Private Collection, Miami.
Sergio Camargo's Relief no. 329 from 1971 is a magnificent example of the artist's signature sculptural reliefs composed of white cylindrical wooden elements protruding from a white wooden backboard at jarring angles. The Brazilian-born Constructivist artist's work was revolutionary in Brazil as it was both deconstructing Modernism and advancing ideas of Spatialism and Minimalism pioneered by European artists like Lucio Fontana and Jean Arp. In fact, Camargo had studied extensively with Fontana in his younger years in Brazil and later with Constantine Brancusi and Arp while studying in Paris at the Sorbonne.
Camargo sought to combine elements of all that he had learned both abroad and at home to create his own signature style which would combine elements of Constructivism, Cubism, Spatialism and the sensual surfaces created by artists like Brancusi, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni. The intricately composed relief paintings and sculptures created during the mid-late 1960s and 70s explore Camargo's fundamental focus on geometry juxtaposed with the tactile and kinetic experience that Camargo learned from his Constructivist counterparts, while at the same time are in line with the more contemporary approach of deconstructing form. "Empirical geometry" as Camargo described it is a confrontation of the re-articulation of volumetric form and a way of challenging the limits of modernism by striving to reach a moment of sublime symbiosis between order and disorder. According to renowned Camargo scholar Ronald Brito, "The crucial point was how to arrive at an abstract aesthetics of the volume: how to elaborate the specific intelligence of the volume without falling back on the illusionist mimesis and all the substantialist load that inexorably accompanies it" (R. Brito, Camargo, São Paulo: Ediçes Akagawa, 1990, p. 37).
To further articulate the visual relationship of space and volume, Camargo concluded that in removing color he could accentuate the impact of his reliefs. He stated, "I have been working exclusively with white since 1963, first with wood which I painted and recently with a pure white marble. My use of white is therefore more a constant theme than a particular phase. Having never been a painter it may be that my choice of white for my reliefs and sculpture corresponds with a desire to annihilate the surface qualities of matter in order to accentuate the power of structures which work together through interpenetration of light and space..." (Sergio Camargo quoted in L. Milton (ed.), Basically White, exh. cat., London, Institute of Contemporary Art, 1974, p. 18). Furthermore, it becomes abundantly clear that when considered alongside one of Fontana's classic white Concetto spaziale paintings, that Camargo was indeed indebted to the Italian master's ideology.
In Relief 329, the overlapping diagonal cylinders generates a sense of texture, movement and extraordinary depth through the tension created by the dynamic interplay of light and shadows which echo sense of the space beyond in Fontana's slash paintings. In these early painted wood constructions, Camargo clearly demonstrates his concerns regarding the limits of his art historical influences and mentors and the boundaries of space and mass by highlighting the symbiotic relationship between geometric forms of the cut and painted wood and the organic forms of the light and shadow and between the confined order of the stacked wooden columns and the chaos of the angular ends.
As Guy Brett once commented about Camargo's brilliant paintings, "the white solids are not felt as solids; the shadows and relations are felt, more strongly, and these are the immaterial traces of the elements volume. Volume, in Camargo's reliefs, though in reality it exists, is perceived as virtual" (G. Brett quoted in Sergio Camargo: Light and Shadow, São Paolo 2007, p. 23).
"The final triumph belongs to the absolute aesthetic evidence of each piece in itself. His more classical approach, trusting in the social action of the form on a way of long historical continuance, can only refine itself, however, through the conquest of tension, vertigo and opposites, challenging permanently its own balance" Ronald Brito (Ronald Brito on Camargo, in "Present for Future," in Mira Schendel, Sergio Camargo, Willys de Castro, Rio de Janeiro 2000, p. 59).