Erika Verzutti



Not on display

Erika Verzutti born 1971
Original title
Copper alloy, paint and wax
Object: 2830 × 190 × 170 mm
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2019
On long term loan


Pencil 2014 is a monumental totemic sculpture by the Brazilian artist Erika Verzutti. It was made by carving and casting fruit in bronze – a process that Verzutti began around 2007 and that has arguably become her artistic signature (see also Tarsila with Orange 2011, Tate L04292, and Brasília Tile 2011, Tate T15433). The vertical stacked structure of Pencil is a direct formal reference to Constantin Brancusi’s (1876–1957) Endless Column 1918, an icon of modern art and a form that the French artist explored at various points in his career. Verzutti has replaced Brancusi’s more uniform stacked pyramidal shapes with bronze casts of organic, irregularly shaped jackfruit placed top to toe. The artist applied blue pigment mixed with black wax to certain facets of the form to further heighten the sense of variation. Visually seductive, the sculpture is at once homage and humorous reworking. The title of the work is perhaps Verzutti’s most outright instance of wordplay: ‘Lapis’ refers to the colour blue (being the common shorthand for the deep blue metamorphic rock, lapis lazuli), but in Portuguese ‘lapis’ more commonly means ‘pencil’, the form of which the sculpture’s thin shape and pointed ends loosely echo. According to the artist, the most common pencils of her childhood were black with blue bodies (conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 11 November 2018).

Verzutti has spoken of 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kind of circle: her starting point can be the materiality of her chosen medium, an aspect of her personal life, an art historical reference, as here, or an interest in a certain pop culture phenomenon; through the process of making a sculpture she then connects these references (conversation with Tate curator Michael Wellen, 24 September 2018). While Verzutti often works with the tradition of bronze casting, her emphasis is consistently placed on tactility and the handmade, triggering humorous and at times unlikely associations between form, materiality and personal narrative or cultural reference.

Pencil (Lapis) exists in an edition of three with on artist’s proof; Tate’s copy is the artist’s proof.

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,, accessed 6 November 2018.

Michael Wellen and Inti Guerrero
November 2018

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