Private Collection, Stockholm (acquired from the above in 1968)
Private Collection, Sweden (thence by descent)
Christie’s, New York, 12 November 2013, Lot 26 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Although Camargo had been making sculpture since he was eighteen, it wasn’t until he was thirty-three that he began to create his now iconic white reliefs. The potential of the cut cylinder as an artistic trope was discovered by pure accident; one day when cutting an apple to eat, Camargo sliced off nearly half the fruit and then made another incision at a different angle to take a piece to eat. The two resulting planes constructed a simple interplay of light and shadow, which immediately caught the artist’s attention and provided the ultimate synthesis of what he had previously been working towards. It was this seemingly banal discovery that gave birth to one of the greatest bodies of contemporary art of our time. Taking the simple form of the cut cylinder as his basic vocabulary, Camargo varied the size, concentration, direction and angle of each element to create unique artistic statements. In Untitled (Relief No. 195) the wooden components are scattered in irregular clusters, rising up like mountain ranges or the undulating surface of the moon. Their irregular placement enacts a sensuous interplay of jostling forms, which are enlivened by the dramatic shadows cast by light as it bounces off the cut surfaces.
Camargo’s fascination with volume, and its dematerialisation, is at the very heart of his artistic enquiry. When light is cast across the beguiling surface of Untitled (Relief No. 195), the volume appears to disintegrate and dissolve. By bathing his reliefs in a blanket of white paint, Camargo forces the viewer to engage with the faculties of light and form and in doing so heightens our visual senses. As Brett has observed, “when it is painted, white light enters the work, dematerialising the volumes into a space which to the spectator’s eyes is uncertain in depth, vibrating, continually changing with the spectator’s movement and the light’s movement. The work interweaves the information of our tactile and visual senses in a revolutionary way” (Guy Brett, Camargo, London 1966, n.p.).
Steeped in intellectual import, these extraordinary reliefs acknowledge the precedent of Camargo’s mentor Fontana, and the purist language of ZERO artists, such as Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein, Heinz Mack and Günther Uecker, whilst also addressing an utterly cosmopolitan history of late modernist practices. The sumptuous rippling of organic forms recalls the sensuous geometry of Neo-concretism and artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica whilst the interplay of light and movement is more than just a nod to the opticality of Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto, and the conceptual practices of American masters such as Robert Ryman and Sol Lewitt. Dramatically re-engaging old traditions via a bold new lexicon, Untitled (Relief No. 195) is a stunning example from Camargo’s most celebrated and fruitful period.
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