Paulo Sergio Duarte
Let there be light? No – build light or choose it. When discovered and emancipated by Dan Flavin, the fluorescent light bulb was an emanation of red, white or blue color, its field of meaning reduced to zero, isolating the signifier to utter solitude. It eluded the eloquent meanings of Pop. Not always. There are tributes to Tatlin. Ascetic minimalism surrenders to History and pays tribute to the meeting of Reason and Art; beyond that, it emphasizes a moment in which art did not aspire to be alone but to achieve a utopian function of alliance with society and its revolutionary urgencies. Nowadays, Flavin’s extremely beautiful tributes, so well exhibited at Beacon, resonate as shallow memories of a distant past in a world governed, according to Sandra Bondarovsky, by “elevator economic analyses” in which the only thing that matters are numbers and indexes that go up and down.
Carmela Gross has revisited the fluorescent modules in their infernal rigidity; nothing to do with the flaccid submission of neon, so subtle and so opposed to resistance. Carmela preferred these store-bought rods of light, as did Flavin. Her phonemes might be ready-mades, were not the use of the linguistic conceit so inappropriate, since the light bulb is actually a particle of a letter, not a sound. This is an unprintable, luminescent typography, albeit one that expresses itself radiantly when it forms words such as HOTEL or AURORA within an irrelevant environment, a technological surface elicited by electric power. It spreads across façades, finding shelter in rooms, and emanating from ceilings; this poetry of morphemes is almost pictorial.
Now it floats; a dwelling place of light in air. The work process is inverted – not a radiant signifier in search of meaning, but an image that radiates in search of the word HOUSE – unwritten yet inscribed, sculpted in light, bulbs, wires, reactors, supports; in space. Instead of the plane of the word, we have an ineffable, empty mass surrounded by light. The house is sculpted from its architecture of elements, a childish drawing such as Klee might have made had he been given time to escape the modern ambush and its formal investigations. See how, as in the song, there is no roof, there are no walls, there is no floor, no one resting in a hammock and, yet, it inhabits us. This house of Carmela’s is not our dwelling place, a building of light in air – it inhabits us, its praise of drawing suspended in three dimensions may give us shelter, yet its dry whiteness penetrates us and the more we look at it, the more we incorporate it and think of the many unperceived houses that inhabit us. Instead of the ‘house’ that protects us, one in which we live, Carmela’s crude hideaway of light bulbs, with its wire intestines and exposed devices, is a delicate thing in search of a word we soon find. Which is why we keep it: this house is a piece of our very self, a perfect mirror of this imperfectly made being.
Carmela Gros: Uma Casa. São Paulo: Galeria de Arte Raquel Arnaud, 2007. Exhibition folder.