Kupfer is pleased to present a duo exhibition featuring London-based artists Anderson Borba and Alexandre Canonico. Bringing together a series of wall reliefs by Canonico and two freestanding sculptures by Borba, the show has been conceived as a conversation between two artistic practices that make use of similar raw materials and procedures. In both cases, there is a strong sense of physicality and a keen interest in how materials behave and interact. Stylistically, the works are sometimes reminiscent of a post-Minimalist or colour field abstraction (in the case of Canonico) and early 20th century sculpture (in Borba’s case).
Borba and Canonico are, of course, artists of their own time: even if the works occasionally carry indicial traits of an art historical lexicon of forms, more than anything they engage with problems of the present. In terms of possible crossovers between their practice, the use of cheap, industrial-grade wood is a common denominator between these sculptures and wall reliefs. Equally, there seems to be a certain degree of kinship in the way they manipulate the material through the use of methods and gestures that are characteristic of a DYI universe.
Canonico’s wall pieces emerge from the selection of off-cuts bearing unusual shapes which he collects in his studio. Their outcome is initially dictated by a process that has been previously carried out in the making of other works: the found wood is the starting point for new compositions in which these oddly-shaped scraps are interlocked into a board like jigsaw pieces. Although these works are small in scale, there is a lot going on in them. In a way, they are almost self-explanatory in that we can recognise the actions behind their making, somehow as explicit as Richard Serra’s Verblist (1967-8) albeit in visual form.
At the same time, these reliefs are highly ambiguous: ‘neither sculpture nor painting nor drawing, neither two or three dimensional, but a vivid and always changing combination of all of the above’, to borrow a sentence used by Madeleine Grynsztejn to describe Richard Tuttle’s work. The numerous holes on their surface, which in previous works played a more functional role - i.e. to make room to insert the jigsaw blade into the board - are used in this series to create drawings, featuring more prominently as compositional elements and emphasising the thing-like quality of the pieces. The drawings are further complemented by lines that emerge from the narrow empty spaces in between each bloc of wood and are therefore essentially three-dimensional.
They are, however, unquestionably painterly but, again, this painterly-ness has its roots in the same DYI vocabulary as his sculptural gestures. Canonico borrows his palette from building sites and urban spaces: spray-painted road markings, scaffolding identification painting, road barriers - all vibrant colours that indicate a place or serve as a warning, thus fulfilling a linguistic function in construction sites and the like. These ‘paintings’ are almost figurative; perhaps not in themselves but due to the fact that they all have titles which are suggestive enough to hint at some undefined image.
This movement of ‘pictorialising sculpture’ is also present - although in a more prominent way - in Borba’s work. Images are sometimes the starting point for sculptures, as is the case of The weeping white man (2020). According to the artist, the work was inspired by a media portrait of a sedentary white politician moaning about a recent defeat, and ‘this led (him) to respond and assemble his portrait by working in fragments of wood in a modernist aesthetic simulacra. It shifted and unfolded into a process-oriented construction, using the figure as a pattern for formal decisions’.
A second work presented at this exhibition, titled Word (2020), is an elegant oval construction that evokes a more brancusian sense of simplicity (if Brancusi raided skips in search for materials). On the top half of this piece a sculpted hand perched on a walking stick points its index finger to a round volume placed on the opposite side of the same piece. It’s a self-referential gesture, but above all, as Borba puts it, a primordial gesture that precedes language: ‘Pointing at something… In one sense this simple gesture doesn’t just replace a word, but it is a word – perhaps the first word.’
In spite of sharing some ideas around materiality, workmanship and language, Anderson Borba and Alexandre Canonico make work that have very different intentions and outcomes. Fundamentally, a more relevant coincidence is how both artists manage to achieve a sense of completeness and solidness in sculptures which are innately fragmentary and potentially fickle.
Anderson Borba (Santos, 1972. Lives and works in London) completed the Alternative MFA program at The School of the Damned (2018) and is currently enrolled at the MFA Sculpture at Slade London (2019 - 2021). His work has recently featured in exhibitions at Set Gallery, Off Shoot Gallery and Assembly Point Gallery (London, 2019). He is the recipient at the Herbert Seaborn Memorial Scholarship Prize at Slade (2020) and the Gilbert Bayes Scholarship (2020).
Alexandre Canonico (Pirassununga, 1974. Lives and works in London) is currently completing the Postgraduate Programme at the Royal Academy of Arts (2017-21). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Buraco’, at Galeria Marília Razuk, São Paulo (2019) and ‘Standstill’ at Kubik Gallery, Oporto (2019). Forthcoming shows include New Contemporaries, South London Gallery (2021).