A Brazilian artist’s commentary on American materialism is at the forefront of the latest exhibit at the Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Gallery.
“Hardware Seda — Hardware Silk,” a showcase of work by Sao Paulo-based artist Jac Leirner, reopens today after showing for four weeks starting just before Commencement last May. Leirner conceptualized and created the 22 paintings and installations in the exhibition during her eight-week tenure at Yale last spring as an artist-in-residence at Yale, said Robert Storr, dean of the School of Art.
Storr said he became acquainted with Leirner’s work while serving as curator of the department of painting and sculpture for New York’s Museum of Modern Art during the 1990s, when he bought a collage of Leirner’s cigarette box covers. Storr said he kept in touch with Leirner over the years and decided to ask her to come to Yale as a visiting artist after seeing her more recent work with watercolors.
The Edgewood exhibit focuses on Leirner’s watercolors, as well as installations crafted out of objects from everyday life: cigarette rolling papers, steel rulers, levels, product labels and even the artist’s boarding pass saved from her flight from Sao Paulo to the United States.
While there is no logical progression to the exhibit, Storr said that he attempted to find the best way to highlight how the pieces fit together, in terms of the similarity in the aesthetics and in the time frame during which they were created.
“A big part of this exhibition was shopping,” Storr said, noting that the Brazilian artist was inspired by her first interaction with large all-purpose American hardware stores like Home Depot and Staples. The pieces are very materialistic, he said, and showcase the artist’s fascination with the vast, confusing variety of goods available.
But, Storr said, there is a very definite organization and composition in each piece. He added that this is particularly evident in an installation made of various steel rulers of different sizes titled “Electra.” Through the arrangement of rulers, the opera-loving Leirner attempted to mirror the rise and fall of a soprano’s voice when singing a very high note and then immediately a low one, Storr said.
The showcase is a juxtaposition of Leirner’s more well-known style of concrete installations with her recent return to painting watercolors, said Adele Nelson, an art history professor at Temple University and author of the book, “Jac Leirner in Conversation with Adele Nelson.” Though Leirner has worked in watercolors all her life, Yale’s exhibit is only the second time they have been on view, Nelson said.
Leirner often finds beauty in the mundane, Nelson said, noting that the title of the exhibition was inspired by the Portugese word for a cigarette rolling paper, “cigarro,” which translates literally to “little silk.” While Leirner sat in a cafe smoking one day, one of her rolling papers fell to the table. The beauty of the floating paper inspired a series of work called “Little Silks.” Leirner returned to the medium in three pieces in her Edgewood show, licking and sticking dozens of the translucent papers onto the wall to form a subtle pattern.
A panel discussion with Leirner, Storr and Nelson will be held on Sept. 24 at 36 Edgewood Ave.