Three new bodies of work comprising Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo’s Switch on view now at Sean Kelly Gallery continue the artist’s investigation into connections between light, form, and space. Espírito Santo has expressed his interest in exploring “the duality we live in; between the concrete world and that of ideas. It’s an existential human condition; the artworks are a way of negotiating this, a need to deal with immateriality.” Gallery goers may witness three very different series, each exploring light’s interaction with the perception of space.
Iran do Espírito Santo, Switch (2012)
Espírito Santo’s professional interest in visual perception began with a job at a photography laboratory. There he became captivated by the impact of light on photosensitive paper while creating white-to-black test strips. This experience of witnessing the assembly and deconstruction of light developed his enthusiasm for the transformative properties of light as registered on a gray scale.
Espírito Santo’s persistent gray scale appears early on in Sean Kelly’s exhibition in the form of a site-specific wall installation, titled Switch (2012). Seen here for the first time in New York, the work is restricted to the artist’s palette of black, white, and gray, and is part of a larger series that debuted at Brazil’s Mercosul Biennial in 2009. Through a series of finely rendered, hand painted tonal gradations on adjoining gray walls, Espírito Santo constructed two “windows”—one black, the other white. These “windows” generate a dynamic surface and a sense of depth in only two dimensions. With his investigation into the nature of representation, Espírito Santo induces the viewer to consider the ways light and dark manipulate the perception of space.
The exhibition continues with an installation of Espírito Santo’s Globe series. The series originated in the designs of vintage and contemporary light coverings collected from around the world by the artist over the past few years. The artist here recreates the shapes of 14 of these glass light coverings in solid white marble. In the spirit of Duchamp, Espírito Santo strips the industrial found object of function, transforming it into a pure, aesthetically minimalist form.
The main gallery presents a series of three reflective “folded” glass sculptures. With clean, straight lines, the sculptures rest in uneasy geometric shapes around the room. Bent in half between the wall and the floor, these “folded mirrors,” fabricated from architectural glass manufactured in Brazil, invite a zen-like meditation—even encouraging some visitors to plant themselves on the ground before them. While incorporating aspects of industrial design into his practice, Espírito Santo subverts the original intention of the mass-produced in order to create unique objets d’art.
His “mirrors” comprise a layer of reflective coating between two layers of clear glass, creating a surface that is simultaneously transparent and reflective. The artist has constructed a fragmented response to the gallery’s architecture, allowing visitors to both peer through the glass to the wall or floor while also viewing a reflection of the ceiling. Yet, the mirrors’ reflections of the space are never complete. Instead, Espírito Santo manipulates the viewer’s perception of the gallery by transforming the space into an unfamiliar world, offering visitors the opportunity to go “through the looking glass.”