When I was a teenager, there was a popular saying that “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle” — which is still totally true, if a bit dated. I thought of that saying immediately when I saw the Fish-Bicycle hybrid sculpture, Peixe Com Auréola (Fish with Halo), at Anton Kern Gallery this past Friday, when I was there for the opening reception for new works by the Brazilian Artist called Marepe.
For his third solo show at Anton Kern, Marepe presents a group of six sculptures made of common objects and put together with great formal rigor and poetic potential. These works achieve a complex layering of references and meanings addressing the linkage between the individual and society.
Marepe’s sculptures are made from everyday materials such as plastic buckets and tables, ironing boards, brooms, bicycles, wheelbarrows and chipboard. Some titles, such as Embutido Sanfona (embedded accordion), are inspired by popular music. Others are factual and descriptive, such as Empilhamento (stacking). The work allows for a direct reading and, perhaps more importantly, leads toward a sensory experience; an intimacy of touch and interaction, comparable to the deeply emotional experience and immediacy of listening to music.
Duchamp and Neoconcretismo may be part of Marepe’s inspiration, but it is the artist’s deep concern for the social and for human interaction that drives his art. He combines quotidian objects and materials to form disarmingly simple monuments, some suggesting abstract forms, others depicting figures engaged in dance-like interaction, and in some cases allowing cut-out chipboard to assist in creating specific figures.
Many of Marepe’s titles refer to Brazilian music or lyrics. Embutido Sanfona for example, can be translated as “built-in concertina,” the slightly smaller version of the accordion which is the lead instrument in Forró, a thrilling and infectious folk-pop music from the North-East of Brazil, the region where Marepe grew up and still lives and works. “Embutido Sanfona” also refers to Marepe’s previous wooden models for rooms and trucks and his interest in communal and shared spaces. It is simultaneously a minimalist kinetic sculpture, a model for multi-purpose housing, and a musical celebration.
Marepe’s work speaks, or rather sings of everyday life and love, celebrating and elevating the specific materials and origins of the work to the universal. The ordinary shines in its simple beauty declaring its liberating and transformative power.