Erika Verzutti

Brazil

2018

Not on display

Artist
Erika Verzutti born 1971
Medium
Papier-mâché, polystyrene, concrete, paint and stainless steel
Dimensions
Object: 795 × 590 × 105 mm
Collection
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2019
On long term loan
Reference
L04291

Summary

Brazil 2018 is a unique wall-based relief by the Brazilian sculptor Erika Verzutti. It is made from materials left over from other works, a common practice for the artist and one related to her notion of creating ‘cemeteries’ – floor-based works in which she groups together various broken sculptures and pieces from what she deems failed artworks. After a long period of experimentation considering how to build cemeteries for the wall, she found that papier mâché offered the solution. Although looking like a piece of heavy stone, this relief is in fact made from papier mâché and polystyrene, making it light enough to hang easily on the wall. The surface of the relief is pitted with rows of roughly ovoid depressions, into a number of which a small concrete egg has been placed. Some of the rows are totally full, some partially full and the top row has no eggs at all. This work is the first instance of Verzutti adapting the cemetery notion to a wall-based work.

The concrete eggs have been painted by the artist in shades of blue, green and yellow to recall the national colours familiar within most Brazilian homes. She gave the work its title to reflect this, stating that ‘Green and yellow in Brazil is Brazil, it means nothing else’ (conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 11 November 2018). Verzutti produced and titled the work before the Presidential elections held in late October 2018, which were won by the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonero, a controversial figure who has publicly praised the military dictatorship of the 1960s and made hateful remarks towards women, black people and homosexuals. Verzutti has explained that while the elections were an important political backdrop, she didn’t title the work with that specifically in mind: ‘I wouldn’t have titled it Brazil after the election … I admit I washed a little of the green off after the election … But I like the title. It’s not direct.’ (Conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 11 November 2018).

Verzutti has also spoken of the importance of the egg motif for her work: ‘I have this fantasy of making my work permanently “fertile” by creating a forest of knowledge and affection out of which works would blossom or be expelled or excreted.’ (Quoted in D’Aurizio 2015, accessed 6 November 2018.) Referring to Brazil specifically, she has commented how the work encourages visitors to imagine its making, explaining that ‘The thing I like most is it is so tactile, you retrace the steps.’ (Conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 11 November 2018.)

This emphasis on tactility and the handmade, as well as organic imagery, are consistent threads running throughout Verzutti’s sculpture. In earlier works such as Tarsila with Orange 2011 (Tate L04292) and Brasília Tile 2011 (Tate T15433), she worked with traditional bronze casting methods but applied them to casting fruit and other organic forms, triggering humorous and unlikely associations between form, materiality and personal narrative. She has described her creative process as a kind of circle: her starting point can be the materiality of her chosen medium, an aspect of her personal life, an art historical reference or an interest in a certain pop culture phenomenon, which she then combines within the form of her sculpture (conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 24 September 2018).

Further reading
José Augusto Riberio, Erika Verzutti, Rio de Janeiro 2013.
Ian Berry (ed.), Erika Verzutti: Mineral, exhibition catalogue, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York State 2015.
Michele D’Aurizio, ‘Echoes of Touch: Erika Verzutti talks about sharing the experience of making’, Flash Art, no.323, January–February 2015, https://www.flashartonline.com/article/echoes-of-touch/, accessed 6 November 2018.

Michael Wellen and Inti Guerrero
November 2018

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like