From August to October 2014, Brazilian artist Adriano Costa presents his first solo exhibition in London – also his first with Sadie Coles HQ. Made over a period of two months in London during the lead-up to the exhibition, Costa’s latest works harness everyday objects – mostly gathered in situ – so as to magnify their basic geometrical patterns, textures and colours. While probing the imaginative and aesthetic potential embedded in the stuff of daily life, Costa’s sculptures, paintings and installations also allude implicitly to the wider system in which art is made, validated and sold.
In line with previous installations, Costa’s found objects – readymade yet reformulated – continue to express their original functions and resonances; earlier assemblages have for example recycled items of clothing from his childhood. He has made a series of wall compositions using cut-out sections of free London newspapers, and these bear witness to the news stories that dominated the headlines over the summer (or indeed those that passed by without note), from the wars in the Middle East to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the Ukraine. Reflected in these works, Costa proposes, is a sense of the “crazy and intense summer” that has just passed, with “some works speaking of tragedies, others of funnier things. It’s always important for me to talk about where I’ve been working – perhaps in an attempt to understand.”
Assimilating a diverse range of forms and colours – whether of copper or concrete, steel or cloth – Costa also oscillates freely between miniature and monumental scales, suspended and earthbound formats, or flat and volumetric structures. His works harbour precise references to artists he admires – allusions “packaged in plastic” – while also affectionately subverting the models they invoke. A grid of metal tiles, reminiscent of a Carl Andre floor sculpture, has for instance been riddled with circular holes. Elsewhere Costa has deployed coloured polythene bags (rubbish and recycling sacks from different London boroughs) to create geometrical wall pieces akin to Constructivist paintings; while in a series of smallscale paintings, he combines the methods and motifs of embroidery, collage and cartoons
Quoting artistic precursors in seemingly degraded materials or formats, Costa playfully interrogates the “real value” of works of art, addressing the question of how unspectacular or even desultory materials might transmute into an art object and vice versa. Conflating painting and sculpture, his works inveigle viewers into tactile environments that amount to giant three-dimensional avant-garde paintings; yet their ‘abstract’ designs work to reveal and reassert – rather than disguising – their component materials, whether carpets or clothes or goalposts.
Citing the ground-breaking and sensual Neo Concrete installations of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, Costa compares the construction of his installations as analogous to painting – a process of simultaneous construction and deconstruction. One earthbound sculpture takes the form of a cluster of cylindrical vessels resembling earthenware pots or cross-sections of pipe; these sit like archaeological fragments amid a heap of dust – but might as easily be the remnants of a building site as an historical excavation. Of his working method, he has observed: “I never work with a predetermined project. Rather, it is a certain material or colour that determines my direction, and when other elements are incorporated, one thing starts to relate to another, some problems emerge, and I try to solve them. Sometimes, there is no solution, so I have to deal with that too.” Magnifying the emotional charge or chance beauty lurking within forgettable objects, Costa’s is an ‘art of the incidental’ which elides the gap between artistic experimentation and the unpredictable turns of daily existence.
Adriano Costa (b. 1975, São Paulo) lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil. His work is currently featured in Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today, Guggenheim, New York; a recent solo presentation at the Zabludowicz Collection, London and will have solo exhibition at PeepHole, Milan in September. Selected group exhibitions include: IMAGINE BRAZIL, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo & Musee D’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France, 2014; Correspondências, Centro Cultural dos Correios, Rio de Janeiro, 2013; Time Space Poker Face, Be-Part, Waregem, Belgium, 2013; Rumos Artes Visuais, Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, 2012; MYTHOLOGIES, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, 2011; Programa Anual de Exposições, Centro Cultural São Paulo, 2010.