IMAGE: Installation view of The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas at the Blanton Museum of Art. Photo: Mary Myers.
Entering Waltercio Caldas’s exhibition The Nearest Air immediately produces a sense of lightness in the viewer. Thanks to Caldas’s excellent exhibition design and the help of Blanton preparators, the Brazilian conceptual artist’s work seemingly glides across the gallery space. Primary-colored yarn floats down from the ceiling; glass sheets hang suspended; and angled pedestals and vitrines open the space for a layered effect, allowing for works to be viewed from multiple vantage points.
Simple compositions dot the exhibition, which the Blanton co-organized with the Fundação Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Caldas creates tableaux by closely installing individual works. One outstanding example consists of four works from the late 1970s through the early 1990s: Yarn hangs loosely from the ceiling in overlapping half ovals (The Nearest Air, 1991) while two works, both titled Sculpture for Nontransparent Materials (1985) and made of solid wood and marble hemispheres sit closely on the floor, facing each other. On the far wall, a small wall sculpture, Painted Tubes (1978) finishes out the scene. The flow of the colored lines, the polished hemispheres grounded to the floor and the airiness of the painted iron create kind of anti-gravity effect permeating the entire exhibition.
Art Apparatus (1978) is a sculpture made from painted iron and glass sheets. Situated on three legs, the work references an old 8×10 camera while emphasizing geometric shapes and industrial materials. The balance of the glass and iron is exact and heart stopping. This work, like many others in the exhibition, poetically combines disparate materials in delicate balance.
Guest-curated by former Blanton Latin American art curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, who left the museum in 2007 for his current post as director and chief curator of the renowned Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, The Nearest Air is one of the Blanton’s most successful surveys in many years. One can truly feel the symbiosis of solid matter with air.
On a side note: Even if you normally prefer visiting exhibitions in silence, I implore you to check out the listening device created by the artist and education departments. It’s not an audio tour, but a mixtape of the artist’s favorite songs, including Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood and Thelonious Monk’s Round Lights. It truly enhances the experience.