Sergio Camargo - LATIN AMERICA New York Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galeria Colectio, São Paulo; Private Collection, Los Angeles

  • Catalogue Essay

    The revolutionary sculptor Sérgio de Camargo was born in Rio de Janeiro on April 8, 1930. He studied at the Academia Altamira in Buenos Aires under avant-garde cubist painter, Emilio Pettoruti, and Spacialist sculptor, Lucio Fontana. In addition to his tutelage under these modernist heroes, Camargo studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. With the help of his teachers, colleagues, and multifaceted education, Camargo sojourned to Europe in 1948 at the young age of 18; during his travels he met a string of twentieth century luminaries, such as Constantine Brancusi, Hans Jean Arp, Henri Laurens and Georges Vantangerloo, all of whom helped to further develop the sculptor’s eye and skill. It was after this didactic exposure that his style began to unfold, reflecting the many facets of his tutors and travels. This style would eventually combine the cubist approach of Pettoruti, the spacial awareness of Fontana, and the sensuous surfaces of Brancusi.  
                Upon returning to Brazil in 1950, Camargo came into contact with Brazilian Constructivists, a new movement dedicated to non-representational relief construction, sculpture, kinetics and painting. His country was steeped in an artistic revolution that challenged utopian notions of modernism. Inspired by this revolution, Camargo began to work in sculpture. Between 1961 and 1974, Camargo returned to Paris, where he became a member of the "Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel," whose concept of the “artist” was not an individual, but a collective activity that based its identity on a collaborative mission. This collaborative environment, in addition to the group’s emphasis on the scientific and technical disciplines of aesthetics, marks the birth of Camargo’s monochrome white surfaces with cylindrical wooden reliefs. This series is the ultimate embodiment of both the Constructivist revolution in his country and the avant-garde uprising in Paris.
    This legendary monochromatic series, Relief, consists of painted diagonally-cut wooden cylinders arranged on a flat wooden board in a seemingly chaotic fashion. Executed in 1964, Relief no. 161-4 integrates Fontana’s legendary mastery of volume as experienced through the interplay of light and shadow. Camargo explores this balance between order and chaos by alternating between the fullness and emptiness of a space. As the densely clustered volumes slowly begin to move and intertwine before one’s eyes, the arrangement emerges as a completely systematized order. The interplay of the hard edges and the supple curves further challenges the optical experience of the viewer – suggesting a personal experiment as one gazes upon the sumptuous surface, enticed by its kinetic composition yet apprehensive of its tactile qualities.
    In Relief no. 161-4 the contrast between the packed surface and the flatness of the white board below both challenges and echoes the faculties of his early teachings and the Constructivist ideologies of his country. The slight instance of the white flat board exposed through the density of the surface is the precise balance between these two philosophical movements. The single diagonal that cuts through the cylinders projects its own space in the relief, forming a new layer of depth. In Relief no. 161-4 the empty space created by the diagonal is both an homage to his early teachers—Emilio Pettoruti and Lucio Fontana—and a proliferation of the systemized ordering of forms of the Constructivist principles. This legendary work radically invigorates the aesthetics of both old and new traditions.

  • Artist Biography

    Sergio Camargo

    Brazilian • 1930 - 1990

    Sergio Camargo was a Brazilian artist known for his sculptures, wall-based reliefs and architectural commissions. Born in Rio de Janeiro, he studied in Buenos Aires and Paris before returning to Brazil in 1950 at which point he became familiar with the Constructivist movement. During the 1960s and 1970s his work became dominated by wooden, terracotta, marble and stone forms, cylindrical or cuboid in shape, jutting out in relief with geometric precision from monochrome white surfaces. The interjecting lines created across the white surfaces by shadow and light evoke the interplay of alternating modes of rationality and chaos, fullness and emptiness. The three-dimensional constructions are meticulous in their use of color and form, simultaneously minimalist in order and expansive in their study of volume and light.

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Relief no. 161-4

Painted wood relief.
48 x 26 x 5.5 in. (121.9 x 66 x 14 cm).
Signed, titled, inscribed and dated "Camargo, Paris 64, No. 161-4" on the reverse.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $842,500


29 September 2010
New York