Lucas Arruda: Deserto-Modelo
In September, David Zwirner will present an exhibition of new work by Lucas Arruda. On view at 525 West 19th Street in New York will be paintings that revolve around a play between light and color. Some are near-monochromatic compositions verging on abstraction, while others depict vaguely familiar vistas, including seascapes and wild forests, which are always painted from memory. All are built up with textured brushwork and grounded by an ever-present—if sometimes faint—horizon line that offers a perception of distance.
In his “monochromes,” the artist applies paint to presaturated canvases, further blurring the notions of foreground and background. As he has noted, light and color are used to uncover a “sensation, a state of mind suspended within the medium of paint … that can’t be grasped through language because there aren’t sufficient visual elements to describe it.”1
This will be Arruda’s second solo exhibition at David Zwirner. The Brazilian artist had his inaugural show at the gallery in London in 2017, and in 2018, his work was included in the Nature and Abstraction exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel. A major solo exhibition of his work opened at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany, on June 6, 2019.
Image: Lucas Arruda, Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series), 2018
1 Angeria Rigamonti di Cutò, “Lucas Arruda: ‘The only reason to call my works landscapes is cultural,’” Studio International (September 19, 2017), accessed online.
This September, David Zwirner will present an exhibition of new paintings by Lucas Arruda in New York. Featuring a range of compositions that revolve around an atmospheric play between light and color that is grounded only by faint horizon lines, this presentation opens on the heels of Arruda’s first large-scale institutional solo exhibition at the Fridericianum in Kassel. Carefully arranged by the artist, the installation of works in the West 19th Street gallery is being conceived as an environment that evokes Arruda’s own childhood, with the works hung facing toward the Hudson River, just as he recalls the jungle bordering the sea in Brazil.
Arruda was born in 1983 in São Paulo, where he received his BFA from Faculdade Santa Marcelina in 2009. He continues to live and work in the city. “Since I was young,” he says, “art was the only thing that could hold my concentration…. Painting for me is like having a candle in the dark that allows you to see only what is close to you.”
The three groups of new works in this exhibition are abstract scenes painted from memory. “I don’t think of myself as a landscape painter,” Arruda explains in a recent interview. “It’s the idea of a landscape rather than a real place…. And also trying to uncover a mental dimension, a mood, a sensation, a state of mind suspended within the medium of paint.”
Deserto-Modelo is the title shared by the majority of Arruda’s solo exhibitions to date and the name given to his ongoing series of untitled works. A term drawn from the writings of the late Brazilian poet João Cabral de Melo Neto, this title is invoked as “the metaphor of the desert understood as an atemporal place that can’t be grasped through language,” as well as to emphasize the iterative and experimental nature of these paintings.
Published on the occasion of a recent solo exhibition at Cahiers d’Art in Paris, the first monograph about the artist features texts by Fernanda Brenner, Chris Sharp, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. As Brenner writes in her essay “Without a Pier”:
“Together, Arruda’s paintings seem to constitute a large inventory of the incidence and refraction of light on the atmosphere. Beyond any sort of narrative concern, these images are in fact the result of his main activity: ‘handling clearings’ in masses of paint. Some lights are constructions, while others are removals. What we understand as the horizon, for instance, is made by removing some of the paint with the back of a brush. In turn, in his monochromatic paintings, the gas-like appearance of the surface is the result of a tireless process in which the artist applies layers of paint on the canvas trying to match the bare canvas’ original colour (the outcome from this process is always a mystery). His compositions are mostly in the margins of the day: at dawn, twilight or nocturnal, when things lose their edge. When seen in sequence, it is as if we were watching, in real time, the passing of the hours in a suspended space.”