Ana Holck

05/Sep/2012 – 20/Oct/2012

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  • Press Release

    Paulo Sergio Duarte

    Six years ago I wrote about Ana Holck’s work. Considering the speeds at which things take place nowadays, a period of over half a decade is a sufficient span for, among other things, testing the consistency of the work in terms of the development of its language. And it is that coherence which has been clearly confirmed over the years and is materialized in this exhibition. In 2006, the work had already been exhibited in several prior installations, intelligent occupations of spaces, not always easy to be resolved. Ana Holck belongs to a precious current in contemporary art, particularly dear to Brazilian tradition: she assimilates the best from the concrete and neoconcrete tradition, redevelops it and shapes it to fit modern-day artistic issues and challenges. So one does not perceive any disjunction, disconnect or conflict between the modern and the contemporary, so common to the so-called postmodern scene. Rather, we see a transitivity, a positive updating of the modern legacy, refreshed and transformed into the art of the present.

    The ethical implications of this aesthetic choice are clear: the work is free of the temptations of cynical reason so extensively explored by the stars of the current art world. We are also distant from the explorations of Lygia Clark’s (1920–1988) Casulos (1959), Bichos (1960s) and Trepantes (1960s), from the cuttings and folds of Amilcar de Castro (1920–2002), and from the intercrossing color planes of Franz Weissmann (1911–2005). Currently, contemporary Brazilian sculpture boasts privileged instances of this legacy in several different directions, such as in the works by Waltercio Caldas, Iole de Freitas, Carmela Gross, José Resende, Tunga and the installations by Cildo Meireles. This corpus has recently expanded to include investigations into space as diverse as the works of Ernesto Neto, Carla Guagliardi and Ana Holck.

    Ana Holck’s work has always dialogued with the architectural and urban space. More than a mere dialogue or conversation, the elements of the architecture and even the entire buildings are poetically evoked by the artist’s language, reinforced in the titles. After the Elevados [Flyovers], Pontes [Bridges], Passarelas [Walkways] and so many other invitations to architecture and the city, we now have the sculptures Cruzamentos [Crossings] and Torres [Towers] along with a novelty in her oeuvre: the exploration of metal engravings in the series Perimetrais [Ring Roads].

    There is a twist in the horizon of the Cruzamentos and an evident verticality in the Torres. The latter display a clear subversion of the urban ideal of protection: the elements that compose the work are omnipresent in Brazilian cities as parts of security fences used to protect private and public property. The dimensions and configuration are calculated to present an obstacle to the human body. They are the supports that hold the barbed wire, the topmost parts inclined 45° in toward the protected land; the module used in the Torres is steeped with meaning. Now, skillfully grouped into three elements, bundled by steel bands and angled outwards, they become, let us say, elegant, but without losing the memory of their origin: the apparent concrete and its raw presence, as well as the holes for the barbed wire to pass through, have not received any make-over. The constructivist ideal and its aspiration to become a visual Esperanto prevented the importation of everyday elements so common in pop art. Thus, Ana Holck’s Torres bear within them a pop maneuver to produce a work with strong ties to the constructivist tradition. Without belittling the origin of its elements, the aesthetic movement transforms them into a poetic moment that undergoes a dual tension: the physical tension that keeps them standing and the tension of the subverted presence of the module that serves to protect properties. It is possible that the beauty lies in this encounter of the formal solution with the actual history of the module that it constitutes.

    In Cruzamentos the presence of architecture is potentialized by the titles; without them we would just see sculptures projecting into space from the most traditional support for artworks – the walls. Their construction involves tension in the material extending between its points of attachment and the counterweight of cylindrical concrete test bodies* suspended by steel wires. No element is superfluous – they all act, not only visually, as in the first Passarelas, which already displayed a refined shape, to compose the contrast between the invisible physical tensions and its presence in the materials: the tension of the steel arc and its evident corporeality versus the tension of the wires that defy the body which outlines the void. The scale of these sculptures is exact, but there is nothing preventing a subsequent development from taking on a public scale and going onto a city wall.

    As if the Torres and Cruzamentos were not enough, the artist has also embarked on a new investigation in the series of engravings entitled Perimetrais. The starting point here are the structural elements that sustain a well-known, high-speed elevated roadway that encircles Rio de Janeiro’s downtown district, from Santos Dumont Airport to the start of Avenida Brasil and the Rio-Niterói Bridge. The redevelopment plans for the city center and the wharf in the port area call for the demolition of this roadway. What Ana reveals in her prints, by isolating the columns and supporting beams, is a contemporary geometry camouflaged by the hustle and bustle of urban life. These elements isolated on paper, carefully selected and cut out, demonstrate on the flatness of the plane the same rigor that has always ruled in the artist’s works: loyal to her lexicon, they now allow us to appreciate Ana Holck’s unique architecture on paper – an architecture that resorts to a careful game of tensions to inject poetry where there are only banalities and the rawness of everyday life.


    * Test bodies are specimens used for testing the tensile strength and load resistance of building materials.

    Critical essay