Ilcio Lopes – Inside, Outside, and the Space in Between

Inside, Outside, and the Space in Between


A visitor to Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto, Rio de Janeiro to see O Cubo dentro do Cubo, the exhibition of new works by visual artist Ilcio Lopes, may immediately recognize characteristic elements of past exhibitions and public interventions such as cube-shaped adhesives that form urban maps, DNA double helix-like chains of pattern, and exquisite lines. Lopes’ lines emerge from the design, continuity, density, and color of cube placement. They offer routes to somewhere while not clearing identifying or even suggesting destinations. In the rich tradition and vibrancy of carioca (Rio de Janeiro) art practice since the mid-20th Century, the exhibition includes drawings, video, and installation.

However, as life repeatedly reminds us, never judge a book by its cover. More pertinent to this exhibition, it is wise not to be judgmental about the familiarity of materials, patterns, and past interactions with this artist’s work. This exhibition serves as a platform for Lopes to make an unexpected departure from the depiction of two-dimensional geometric forms and offers opportunities for viewers to make multi-faceted investigations and memorable personal experiences with the allegoric and metaphoric cube. Whereas Lopes previously sought to create things or objects, now his focus is to open the cube and to make a giant leap of faith towards opening up his own life. He is aware that such action is accompanied by potential risks, but already feels the joy and freedom from embarking on this strategic course.

Ilcio Lopes was born in Rio de Janeiro (1961) and raised during one of the most productive and rich periods of Brazilian art and culture characterized by intense creative activity and societal, cultural transformation. He establishes direct linkages with those who came before, particularly the Neo-Concretists, in conceptual language of repetition of geometric forms, the use of simple, everyday materials, encouraging public participation, creating art outside art hegemonic constrictions in a space where art and life are joined, dematerializing experimentation (analogous to concurrent Body Art and Land Art movements), and revising the visual semantics of art – line, plane, color, space, and absence and presence. At the same time, he engages in an ongoing, synergistic dialog with contemporaries who deal with issues of identity, post-industrial residue, globalization, and urbanization. Lopes reveals fascinating personal experiences and demonstrates extraordinary expertise in working with a broad spectrum of media. His research is rooted in the knowledge of art history and a keen awareness of street life and contemporary culture. 

The cube has been the focus of Ilcio Lopes’ research and art practice since 2001. Metaphorically for Lopes, the cube represents the essence of life itself. It has a base, height, depth, and volume, as well as an almost infinite number of mathematic permutations which he continually works to investigate and deplete in drawings and as building blocks in his work. His art recalls the later and most recognized works of Brazilian mid-20th Century artist Alfredo Volpi with the reduction of geometric shapes and elements of urban landscapes. Lopes recognizes that art transcends its materiality by creating new and wide-ranging meanings which integrate artist, art, and the public. 

Entering and passing through the exhibition space, one feels a floating, disorienting sensation while embarking on an exploratory voyage to discover Lopes’ own life cube…both inside and out…in the gallery he has transformed into a virtual multi-dimensional sketch book and studio. A voyeuristic feeling is evoked by the opportunity to gaze at intimate evidence of drawings, exploratory ideas, landscapes of triumph and loss, and fresh aspirations. 

A clear cube is more easily imagined, having transparent, though defined, interior and exterior spaces. The cube’s geometric shape loses its objective nature, becoming an abundant space for reflection, imagination, and expression. The basic shape of the cube suggests secure shelter from where the liberating, but perilous outside space can be viewed, imagined, and yearned for. Looking from the outside in, one imagines a contrasting point-of-view of tantalizing security. However, it comes with the potentially high price of losing freedom and being bound. Initially, there appears to be a distinct and impenetrable separation between the two spaces and in the way Lopes has practiced art making and, as he affirms, has lived in the past. 

In his art, working conceptually with the idea of simultaneous presence and absence, Brazilian-based artist Waltercio Caldas sought to inhabit and navigate the space in between things. These spaces are the highly-sought after fertile lands where the sweetest fruit grows and that yield the most bountiful harvests. They are the destinations that Ilcio Lopes’ new art works provide maps and routes to. In the past years, Lopes has lived on both sides of the cube while experiencing and enduring the ongoing, raging, and universal struggle to navigate the rigid dichotomous space between private and public, absent and present, performer and spectator, and being a part-time versus a full-time working artist. With this exhibition of new works, it is evident that he has discovered the spaces between and has harnessed the emancipating power of art to liberate his art making practice and himself from previous bindings. 

Currently, Lopes lives and works in the greater Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, with studios in Niterói and Cabo Frio. Lopes attended the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Also, he studied art in Paris and Barcelona during a year of living abroad. His public art works and interventions, installations, paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings have occurred and have been exhibited in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Niterói, Belém, Buzios, Uberlândia, and Vitória, as well as internationally in China, England, France, and Spain.  

Ted G. Decker
May, 2009

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