Sergio Camargo - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Estate of Sergio Camargo
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    I have been working exclusively with white since 1963, first with wood which I painted and recently with a pure white marble. My use of white is therefore more a constant theme than a particular phase. Having never been a painter it may be that my choice of white for my reliefs and sculpture corresponds with a desire to annihilate the surface qualities of matter in order to accentuate the power of structures which work together through interpenetration of light and space...
    Sergio Camargo, 1974

    Born to a Brazilian mother and Argentine father in Rio de Janeiro, the Constructivist sculptor Sergio Camargo studied in Buenos Aires under the tutelage of modernist luminaries such as Emilio Pettoruti and Lucio Fontana. He then travelled to Paris where he studied philosophy and sculpture. Throughout his career, Camargo frequently returned to Europe to visit former teachers and mentors, and also to remain abreast with the latest artistic investigations of experimental groups such as the Groupe de Recherche D’Art Visuel. It was as a member of this avant-garde group of artists that Camargo pursued new avenues within his work and developed his signature monochromatic works of the 1960s. Camargo began creating entirely white and highly textured surfaces that were completely covered by wooden cylindrical pegs jutting out at different angles. Despite their clear and rational geometric shapes, these relief elements created a chaotic surface enlivened by an optical play of light and shadows. In 1979, Camargo started working in Italy where he investigated the properties of brilliant, white Carrara marble, a material that Camargo saw as a logical extension of his earlier work with painted wooden dowels. Untitled from 1985 is one such marble work, illustrating the artist’s masterful manipulation and economy of means.

    The crux of Camargo’s aesthetic, like that of many other artists of his generation, rests between the physics and metaphysics of his work— in other words, between the materiality of the medium, in this case vibrant white Carrara marble, and the conceptual space projected by this marble. Sharing the philosophy of his Parisian teachers, Gaston Bachelard and Pierre Francastel, Camargo understood his reliefs as intellectual products, world-conscious and historically situated. The sculpture acknowledges the precedents of his mentors, from the Argentines Fontana and Pettoruti to the Europeans Hans Arp, Constantin Brancusi and Georges Vantongerloo, yet it dramatically re engages their tradition of Constructivist aesthetics, invigorating old geometries with the lyricism of organic form.

    Fontana, in particular, can be seen as an influence for the logic of Camargo’s work. Fontana’s signature works consisted of a simple, minimalist gesture—a slashing of the canvas—that allowed real space to erupt onto the space of illusions, that is, the two dimensional surface of the canvas. This play with flatness and three dimensionality finds its parallel in this untitled piece by Camargo. For the most part, the works seems to be the sculptural equivalent of a blank canvas, a flat, pure white slab of marble, as abstract as one of Robert Rauschenberg’s white paintings of the 1950s, for example. But, crucially, the flatness of this pristine surface gradually metamorphoses into the weighty three dimensionality of a fold of marble. Like Fontana’s slash, this bulging volume ruptures the flatness that reigns over the majority of the work, a flatness that had been fetishized by Greenbergian narratives of modern art. With such avant-garde gestures in his oeuvre, it is unsurprising that Camargo has entered the canon of Latin American art as one of its unquestionable masters.

  • 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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white Carrara marble
16 1/2 x 33 1/4 x 3 1/4 in. (41.9 x 84.5 x 8.3 cm.)
Signed and dated "Camargo 85" lower left turnover edge. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Galeria Raquel Arnaud.

$140,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $173,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm