Alexandre da Cunha: Broken, solo exhibition now on view at Thomas Dane Gallery
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Alexandre da Cunha: Broken, solo exhibition now on view at Thomas Dane Gallery
Alexandre da Cunha, Broken VI, 2023 © Alexandre da Cunha. Photo: © Edouard Fraipont.

LONDON.- Thomas Dane Gallery will open on May 24th a solo exhibition of Alexandre da Cunha (b. 1969, Rio de Janeiro) featuring new sculptures and works on paper. These new works expand on da Cunha’s longstanding engagement with found objects, incorporating new aspects of his studio practice and experimenting with strategies of display through spatial interventions in the gallery. Titled Broken, the show, which will end on July 15th, 2023, will encompass ideas of redundancy, fragmentation and disrepair as generative and productive forces.

Da Cunha’s practice centres on a highly attuned bearing toward his everyday surroundings, often engaging with workaday objects and utilitarian materials in ways that challenge perceptions of value, function and form. Da Cunha splits his time between Brazil and the UK, countries which have both seen turbulent periods of political transition and social disruption in the last year. This broader sense of flux reverberates through the artist’s recent studio work, in which objects and materials are altered and assembled into piebald compositions that suggest a state of suspension, as though captured in limbo. While many of the appropriated objects remain immediately recognisable – a chair, hat, bottle or feather – in other instances they are presented in broken and fragmented states that reflect an exercise of reconfiguration, in which the habitual is transformed and the act of ‘breaking’ – both as fracture and discontinuation – serves as a mode of reframing and rebuilding. This transitory sensibility is reflected in the modest scale of many of the works, which stand in contrast to previous large-scale concrete sculptures by da Cunha.

Around the gallery, sculptural works will be displayed on the walls at eye level, as well as on a ledge running along the perimeter of the gallery. Intentionally avoiding showing sculptural works in the round, da Cunha forces us into frontal views of each, enhancing their pictorial status. Repeating in many of the shelf-based works is da Cunha’s use of concrete, a material crucial to his vernacular, stemming from his reflections on construction, architecture and modernism, and the material’s prevalence in his native Brazil. The concrete bases of many of the works secure and add weight to objects that would otherwise topple over, suggesting a permanence which is often in stark contrast to the objects they support. Upended, specimen-like bottles contain soft or organic materials, frozen in time by concrete which seals their hourglass-like containers. Items often discarded at the end of their short lives – brushes, broken fragments of furniture or clothing – are made permanent and eternal by their unbreakable bases. There is a dark sense of humour in many of these works; as these objects are solidified and made permanent, they are also trapped and imprisoned, denied their usual cycles of decay and disappearance.

The sculptures will be accompanied by a series of intimate gouache works on paper, divergent abstract compositions of the same size, forming what can be thought of as a series of diary entries or letters realised over a period of time. Continuing his exploration of the middle ground between objects and pictures da Cunha presents these works framed but unglazed, drawing our attention to the object of the paper itself. Alongside the gouaches will be a series of flat wall-based objects resembling paintings, and often supported on painting stretchers, containing groupings of objects composed on a flat surface. Da Cunha has long been interested in the narratives and histories of the often used or broken objects he finds. These narratives take on an even more resonant importance in the context of this Rauschenbergian or Braquian approach to sculptural pictures.

Alexandre da Cunha was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1969 and lives and works in São Paulo and London. He has exhibited widely throughout the world with selected solo exhibitions including: Quebrada, auroras, São Paulo, Brazil (2023); Duplex, Brighton CCA, Brighton, England (2021); Arena, Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples, Italy (2020); Duologue with Phillip King, Royal Society of Sculptors, London, England (2018); Boom, Pivô, São Paulo, Brazil (2017); Free Fall, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, England (2016); the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago IL, USA (2015); Dublê, Centro Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2011), and Laissez-Faire, Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2009). Da Cunha’s work is included in major private and institutional collections including the Tate, England; ICA Boston, Boston MA, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago IL, USA; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; and Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil.

Major public and outdoor sculptures by da Cunha are on permanent view at Battersea Power Station Underground Station in London, the Monsoon Building in London, the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis USA, Pierce Boston Tower in Boston USA and the Rochaverá Tower in São Paulo, Brazil.

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