Sergio Verastegui ”How” at Galerie Thomas Bernard / Cortex Athletico, Paris
“Did you ever eat fresh tomatoes?”
The series of works created by Sergio Verastegui, and grouped in the “How” project, is structured from images and elements that reflect a state of emergency and crisis. Free falling, in the context of a reality from where we have excluded all humaneness, fascinated by endless production and reproduction possibilities, we wander looking for shelter or an emergency exit. In“How”, Verastegui builds an uncanny atmosphere. The exhibition tends to reveal a yet more unstable and catastrophic future. We seem to be trapped inside a falling aircraft -we are like Icarus, losing his wings after the ecstasy of elevation, we wander in the immediate vicinities of a catastrophe that has just occurred.
Springing from elements of post-industrial consumer society and decaying nature the works in “How” derive from an interpretation linked to phenomenology and to a certain « attentiveness » to materials. Forms result from the composition of elements rather than from modification of materials.
We may be moving through airspace but air is still and rarefied; big white jellyfish (Méduses I, II, III, IV) float like ghosts wearing pieces of parachutes, masks and life jackets, like a jumble of remains and plastic waste at the bottom of the ocean. Nevertheless, the large white nylon fabric structures evoke a luminous shelter where to hide hoping to find there the only safe territory, however frail it may be.
Verastegui often combines utilitarian objects and industrial scrap with natural, organic or mineral elements: in the manner of the series of sculptures Birth, 2019, where cotton sheets are the basic element for building partitions decorated with skulls, bones and animal skins. As for the piece Ecdysis, 2019, corrugated cardboard pieces covered with gold leaf pose as abandoned exoskeletons or iridescent reptile skins. These random materials complete each other in a dialogue where « nature » and « culture » are two versions of the same story. In that sense, the artist’s creative process seems to be often based on transforming an inanimate object into a « living» sculpture.
Most likely without being aware of it, the artist -who travels regularly- embraces two legacies: that of Western culture and its vocabulary on how to think and make art, and the regional heritage and its particular understanding of materiality, body and space. This tangent or off-center position makes him an atypical thinker enriched by his own culture, free from the roots of traditions and « monolingualism ». He is therefore able to elaborate cross-cultural narratives and reflect in global terms about his own culture.
Having lived for five years in Rio de Janeiro in the early 2000s, Verastegui profited from direct and ongoing contact with the work of artists who were capital in the creation of a post neo-concrete sculptural language in Brazil, such as Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Arthur Barrio, Nuno Ramos and Tunga. He says himself that having been in contact with these artists in the carioca context has opened him to «new possibilities to experiment with materiality but has also exposed him to an explosive freedom in understanding space and the concept of art itself, allowing that space and concept to be contaminated by street and cultural forms of art such as the carnival ».
All the artists mentioned by Verastegui base their practice in the way they apprehend space and materials. From Oiticica’s pieces such as « Penetrables » or «bolide-transobjet» (fireball/trans-object) that uses appropriation of existing objects to Tunga’s sensory installations. These works place creation in social context by means of an extremely complex aesthetic reflection.
Mindful of the creative process, Verastegui recombines found elements assembled in a choreography of pieces, creating a suspended environment that offers a «spatial understanding» of the work. He addresses the questions of his time to elicit extremely powerful and poetic formal results.
At Galerie Thomas Bernard – Cortex Athletico, Paris
until 23 November 2019