Lucas Arruda’s first large-scale institutional solo exhibition opens this month at the Fridericianum, in Kassel. Organized by the museum’s director, Moritz Wesseler, the show is called Deserto-Modelo, a title shared by the majority of the artist’s solo exhibitions to date and the name given to his ongoing series of untitled works depicting landscapes and seascapes. "I used it in the sense of a prototype or testing ground that could lead to something, or not, allied with the metaphor of the desert understood as an atemporal place that can’t be grasped through language because there aren’t sufficient visual elements to describe it," Arruda explains of the title, Deserto-Modelo, which is a term from the late Brazilian poet João Cabral de Melo Neto; "The recurring title also subverts the logic of the exhibition as a conclusion or a self-contained moment frozen in time. Rather, it’s an ongoing series of model-deserts and for as long as I continue to research in this direction, I’ll go on using this title to emphasize the idea of repetition." The exhibition at the Fridericianum will include a number of these paintings, as well as prints, light installations, slide projections, and films.
Painted from memory and characterized by their subtle rendition of light, the Deserto-Modelo paintings for which Arruda is best known are devoid of specific reference points, but differentiate themselves in their portrayal of atmospheric conditions. The small compositions are grounded by an ever-present, if sometimes faint, horizon line that offers a perception of distance. "The results are views that invite a sense of immediacy, and ask us to focus our attention onto a small surface," critic and curator Ellen Mara De Wachter writes in a text accompanying the artist’s Pinault Collection residency, in 2017; "as he builds up and scrapes off layer upon layer of oil paint, the residue of this process gathers around the edges of the canvas, like the foam that bubbles on the sand in the wake of a wave. The intimate scale of the paintings requires viewers physically to lean in, called towards the picture so as to appreciate these painterly textures and visual effects."
"There’s a combination of mathematical and metaphysical impulses in my work," Arruda says. "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."
Image: Lucas Arruda. Photo by Gui Gomes