6 October– 30 December 2012
Place des Quatre z’horloges
44 600 Saint-Nazaire, France
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 2–7pm, Wednesday 11–7pm
The disarmingly poetic work of Alexandre da Cunha draws upon his dual culture as a Brazilian artist who has lived in London for over a decade. At the convergence of various movements (with references to the Duchampian readymade and to architectural modernism), his sculptural practice takes everyday things and transforms them into objects of wonder.
Da Cunha’s hybrid sculptures bring together the materials of mass consumption with an artisan’s activity. The elegant modernist tapestries of his Kentucky series (2008–2012) turn out to be woven from mop heads—objects of domestic drudgery par excellence—which also feature in his ongoingBusts series (2007–), totemic figures that appear to have escaped from an ethnographic museum.
Preserving the integrity of his source materials, Da Cunha wittily liberates new possibilities of aesthetic, political and social signification, while giving a nod to the canons of art history: the canvases from deckchairs and—more recently—shop blinds are framed and wall-mounted to mimic minimalist painting (Deck Paintings, 2011; and Gazebo I & II, 2008); the heads of toilet plungers placed atop one another riff on postmodern design or offer themselves as the subject for a Giorgio Morandi still life (TerracottaEbony, 2006–2010); a stack of plant pots is a homage to Brancusi’s Endless Column, crowned with a cheeky cast of coconut (Red Fountain, 2009).
Behind these games of displacement and the interweaving of high and popular culture is the desire to avoid overly rapid readings or ethnocentric certitudes. Da Cunha’s formalist practice is marked by a strong modernist vocabulary, yet explores the different ways his works are read according to their cultural context.
For his first solo exhibition in France, Da Cunha presents an important body of recent works, including a new series presented at Le Grand Café for the first time: Full Catastrophe (Drums), 2012, a group of three “pots” that resemble antique bronzes or archaeological relics. They are in fact the drums of cement mixers, onto and into which the artist has subtly intervened, filling one with concrete, or polishing another to give its rim the appearance of leather. The brute force of the found objects is transformed into a surprising elegance, as these powerful works seem to hover above a slab of concrete atop a pristine white plinth. With these new works, Da Cunha adds an important element to his family of modest monuments and offers us another take on modernity.
Co-curated by Zoë Gray and Sophie Legrandjacques
Alexandre da Cunha was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1969. He lives and works in London. His work can currently be seen at the São Paolo Biennial. Among many international exhibitions, he has shown at the Camden Arts Centre (London) in 2009, at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (San Francisco) in 2007, and at Witte de With (Rotterdam) in the 2011 exhibition Making is Thinking. He is represented by Luisa Strina in São Paulo, Thomas Dane in London, CRG in New York and Sommer & Kohl in Berlin.
Zoë Gray is a freelance curator based in Brussels. Vice-president of IKT (International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art), she was curator at Witte de With in Rotterdam from 2006 to 2011. She also curated the exhibitions Cyprien Gaillard, Béton Belvédère at Stroom, The Hague (2009); and Manufacture (with Sandra Patron) at Parc Saint Léger (Pougues-les-Eaux), John Hansard Gallery (Southampton), and the CentrePasquArt (Biel/Bienne), 2011–2012. She is the author of the first monograph dedicated to Alexandre da Cunha’s work, published by Cobogó in September 2012.
Sophie Legrandjacques is director of Le Grand Café.
Guided tour of the exhibition
By Zoë Gray and Sophie Legrandjacques
Sunday, 21 October, 3pm– Free
Contact Le Grand Café
T + 33 (0)2 44 73 44 00
F + 33 (0)2 44 73 44 01
Le Grand Café is a member of the DCA- Association française de développement des centres d’art.