Stephen Friedman Gallery, May 2009
Tonico Lemos Auad
Tonico Lemos Auad’s work coasts a delicate spell, lulling you like a calm, night sea voyage. The drooping frame of Beira do mar/The Shallows (2009) is the skeleton of a small boat made of recycled clothing. A shelf on the wall above the boat is slightly askew, but the black, gray and orange paper that rests on it all bare a perfectly horizontal line that at first glance – in this maritime mindset – seams to be the mark left by the water’s high tide. On closer inspection, the materials of Seven Seas/Night (2007) have been faded by the sun’s rays. The dangling silver chains of Swings (2009) glitter like the scene’s stars.
These works have a double existence, breaking through the idyll with material immediacy and a careworn irony. Mouth, ears, and eyes, just like us (2009) suggests a hidden world that would reveal itself through these transformed objects. Reflected Archeology (2009) is an entire wall covered in silver lottery card ink that could be scratched off. Visitors have left a range of graffiti; below scrawled slogans like “Baroque Obama” and “Darth Vader Was Here” are glimpses of candles, fruits, and small shrines. The subtleties of Lemos Auad’s very physical revelations and playful touch however, jar when he apparently equates his hidden world with a kitschy spirituality. The seventy-six pots, urns, plates and bowls of Mouth, ears, and eyes, just like us, made of the same recycled cloth material, carry a heavier, more solemn tone that is out of balance with the rest of the show, threatening to capsize the entire journey.