Tadeu Chiarelli. O problema Luiz Hermano. Publicado no catálogo da exposição na Galeria Valu Oria. versão para o inglês: The Luiz Hermano issue – 2000 -
When observing the work of Luiz Hermano, one might ask how it differs from craftsmanship. Or one might ask what makes his works into objects of art. There is no doubt that these are plausible questions. After all, the manual skill and the operative effort seen in Hermano’s work are such highly visible elements that, at first glance, might even seem to superimpose over the idea that created them. The important thing to state here – in the sense of trying to clarify the artist’s poetics to a certain extent – is that the operative emphasis instilled in his sculptures and objects leans over – or rather, derives from – something previously imagined, created by Hermano at the beginning of his career and which, in turn, would be the sensitive interpretation of his life experience within a very specific material and visual culture: the culture of the State of Ceará.
The artist developed that something previously imagined I referred to in the paragraph above more extensively in the early stages of his career, by means of drawings and prints. In his graphic work, the line plays a fundamental role, and it was through lines that Hermano built up those rather unusual creatures that people the scenes (no less unusual) shown on paper.
In Hermano’s graphic work, the line was like a fine thread that, linked to another thread and then another – or running loose – configured those weird, rather fantastic forms, giving them a surrealistic air yet with something juvenile about them.
There is no need to travel to the heartland of Ceará to know that those figures and scenes shown by the artist in his drawings and prints are closely related to both the imaginary images seen in the ordinary prints and illustrations of “literatura em cordel” (the cheap pamphlets and the like displayed hanging along a cord on the sides of a newsstand) and, in a similar manner, to the architecture and utensils created and made by his fellow country-men who use wood, natural fibers and threadlike metal in their art. When Luiz Hermano began to produce his first objects and sculptures (in the late eighties and early nineties), what he did to a certain extent was, first of all, bring those pre-existing forms into a three-dimensional context in his graphic work.
By doing so, he resorted to, or took into his poetics (expanding at the time), the techniques used to build houses and manufacture utensils in his home state. As Octavio Paz once said, something that has been old for thousands of years can become new if it is re-contextualized. And this is what happened, in a certain way, with Luiz Hermano’s sculptures. Although he makes his sculptures by using ancient techniques (or precisely because he does this), little by little his work began to resonate in the art world of that time in Brazil.
We must remember that the late eighties and early nineties witnessed the emergence of highly individualized poetics, with powerful echoes of local visual cultures (to mention but two examples, all we need to recall are the cases of Emmanuel Nasser, from the city of Belém, and Karen Lambrecht, from the city of Porto Alegre, both of whom emerged within this context). Within such an environment, Luiz Hermano’s threadlike sculptures – always with echoes of his home state’s material culture – punctuated the Brazilian art circuit with noteworthy singularity.
However, Luiz Hermano’s sculptures were accepted in the art circuit to a certain degree – meaning that the acceptance of the artist’s production was not absolute. This lack of unanimity (which fortunately for Hermano, still holds true today) also originated, right from the start, from – let’s call it this way – the constituting peculiarity of his sculpture production: his basically craftsman like technique. In the opinion of many art critics, collectors and gallery owners, the artist’s work was merely an appropriation of craftsman like construction techniques, with basically ornamental objectives.
Logically, there seems to be no doubt in regard to the powerfully ornamental nature of most of Luiz Hermano’s sculptures. However, the concern with the beauty of his work is not something that the artist has aggregated to the craftsman like techniques he uses. If we look very carefully at the work of craftsmen in general, especially at the work of those who invest their work force in basket weaving, textiles and other objects, we will see that the concern with rhythm, harmony, beauty and the combination of materials is all there: these are elements that cannot be dissociated from the objects’ constitution itself….
Luiz Hermano’s sculptures maintain all these characteristics. However, they differ from arts and crafts because they have the typical characteristic of a work of art: first and foremost, they have the intention of being art. Although tied down to production techniques linked to ordinary arts and crafts, the pieces, due to the “intentionality,” mentioned above add problems to the elements found in their original source: popular arts and crafts. What is the initial sign of this problem-adding? Undoubtedly, it is the absence of any functional or utilitarian characteristics: the objects made by Luiz Hermano cannot – even theoretically – contain or support anything. His objects, in the opulence of the materials they are made of, in the constructing elements that structure them, are made to be looked at (and touched, at least on the level of desire) and lived with as if they were new data being added to our perception, to our reality. It is in this sense of course that they are duly integrated into the wide-ranging world of contemporary sculpture. Or maybe they are not quite that integrated ….
Because, even when exploring issues directly related to contemporary sculpture – volume, extension, topography, etc… the craftsman like techniques used by Hermano as well as the materials (industrially processed aluminum, bronze, stainless steel, and copper) suggest a certain kind of bitterness that does not make them easily consumed within the world of contemporary sculpture. They are very shiny and very beautiful; however, the fragility of their construction is widely exposed, the origin of such fragility being the constructive tradition the artist appropriated in his work. His objects, even the ones with huge dimensions and willful shapes, retain the precariousness and fragile nature arising out of the techniques referred to above that Hermano insists on maintaining. Such “structural contradiction” of the artist’s poetics of the nineties is undoubtedly its fundamental element. Because in the beginning, his sculptures were made of iron, but Hermano soon drifted away from this material that aggregated stability to the subtle delicacy of his lines, and this did not please the artist. It seems that the artist’s intent now is to work with more malleable metals or alloys, in the sense of forcing the relationship or the first origin of his imaginary images.
It is precisely at this intersection that Hermano’s sculptures interact — a precarious way of production, originating from a pre-industrial world – used to produce autonomous shapes made out of processed materials: this is exactly where the interest of the artist’s work lies. It is under this kind of paradox that his work is able to transcend its materiality and presence, and then to convert into a kind of very particular metaphor for a country like Brazil, where production modes intertwine and battle with each other, with amazing “simplicity, ” generating life experiences that are perhaps impossible to occur in other countries. From 1996 to 1999 or thereabouts, the issues that engendered Luiz Hermano’s poetics became highly perceptible. This was the period during which the artist produced a number of works where the figure of the cube – a symbol of stability, wisdom and moral perfection – was reworked several times, by means of those immemorial techniques appropriated by Hermano who, to this end, was already using malleable materials. In those pieces of art, the reason and logic embedded in the figure of the cube were subverted by the constituting fragility that characterizes Hermano’s work.
As I have already pointed out, the contradiction becomes explicit in these pieces, as does their metaphoric capacity. In the artist’s exhibition at Galeria Valu Oria , one notices that Luiz Hermano is drifting away from the cubic configuration of his previous phase (it must not be forgotten that the cube is the square of the square) and, although the artist has named a specific piece of art “Canguru ” (kangaroo), that specific work of art’s configuration, with the Brazilian flag – a flag that no longer flutters but seems ready to collapse – is undeniable. However, what attracts one’s attention the most at this stage of Hermano’s production is the extent of the shapes that he explores, by inserting colored metals, bits of plastic and natural dried calabash shells.
One clearly sees in the show that the artist is plunging radically into the production of relief with a strong organic background, in which certain fragments of the human body are the basis for the launching of his works: “Corpo”(“Body”) and “Orgãos” (“Organs”) – both made in 1997 – (a fact which denounces the emergence of this interest still in the context of his “geometric” phase) – truly seem to be pieces of art that set off the detonating moment of the new phase of the artist’s production: “classic” torsos, redefined by the plastic beauty of copper and aluminum are multiplied into works with a powerful impact – as is the case of “Olho” (”Eye”) – and/or the strange sensuality of “Todas as mulheres do mundo” (“ All the women of the world”), “Vazia” (“Empty”) and other pieces. Undoubtedly, the basic interest of Luiz Hermano’s poetics has remained in these new works: his more recent pieces are still intersections between a timeless constructing tradition traveling through the contemporary sculpture environment by means of unusual shapes full of the ability to enchant anyone who looks at them.