The premature death of Carlito Carvalhosa last May, at the age of 59, aroused a strong feeling of sadness and impotence, expressed forcefully on the social networks of admirers, artists, critics, collectors, dealers and all these categories that make up the diffuse group known as the “arts circuit”. The impossibility of holding a farewell ceremony and collectively elaborating the mourning added to the feeling of hopelessness experienced in the country as a result of the health, social and political tragedy in which we are immersed. It is known that the artist did not die of Covid-19 and that he had been fighting cancer for many years, but there was a feeling that losses like this sum up the fraying and destruction of a civilizing project in which art would play a fundamental role. Object of intense expressions of affection and admiration, Carlito and his work ended up embodying this notion of art as an element of reflection and transformation, today so violently threatened.
If there is something that characterizes the artist's work more generally, it is his desire to act on the perceptive frontiers, transforming our apprehension of the world and reaffirming the transitory character of things. His career began in the 1980s, linked to a project with a collective bias, together with a group that included Fábio Miguez, Nuno Ramos, Paulo Monteiro and Rodrigo Andrade. The group, known as Casa 7 (a reference to the number of the studio they shared), shared common interests such as the connection with neo-expressionism and the use of less noble materials such as Kraft paper and industrial paint. Carlito's initial experiences with drawing and painting gradually gave way to more sculptural research, to a growing interest in the occupation of the surroundings. He began to explore the environment, incorporating simple and raw elements, but with a strong symbolic charge, such as light, translucent fabrics, wood and plaster, materials that became frequent in his production.
“I wanted to tie a knot in this space”, he confessed during the assembly of his first large site-specific installation, held at the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture and Ecology (Museu Brasileiro da Escultura e Ecologia).MuBE), in 1999. In this work, entitled Two Waters, Carlito literally transferred his studio to the museum and clashed with Paulo Mendes da Rocha's strict and straight architecture (another great loss in recent weeks), creating on the spot a series of monumental plaster structures, with organic shapes, which inverted the notion of interior and exterior. Light in appearance, but weighing eight tons, these pieces maintained that paradoxical, unassailable aspect that the artist claimed to seek in his work.
This work inaugurates a series of dialogues he had with museological environments of great institutional and architectural importance, considered as milestones both in his production and in the growing importance of large installations in Brazilian contemporary art. This is the case, for example, of the show Waiting Room, which opened in 2013 the annex to the new headquarters of the Museum of Contemporary Art of São Paulo (MAC-USP), of the facilities The Sum of Days, with similar versions presented in the octagon of State Pinacoteca (2010) and in New York Museum of Modern Art (2011), or even the monumental sculpture It was already like this when I arrived. The piece, originally shown on MAM Rio in a temporary exhibition held in 2006 and later incorporated into the Sesc Guarulhos collection, it refers to the image of the Sugar Loaf in reverse, a voluminous mountain that floats inverted in the air, provoking the visitor with its unstable and precarious character. A secondary but thought-provoking aspect of Carlito's work is the attention he gives to the word. His titles always bring a poetic dimension, a temporal or narrative suggestion that adheres to the work, adding to the formal aspect and generating another layer of meanings.
There is in common in all these projects, which play with light, balance, volume, depth and transparency, a permanent desire to subtly transform our apprehension of what surrounds us. By activating these spaces through small interventions (such as when he erected the Eva Klabin Foundation's heraldic furniture, placing fragile glass cups under them) or actions with greater visual or sensory impact (such as the large spirals of translucent fabric that make up the scene in Soma dos Dias), creates a kind of place outside of time, in which feelings of belonging and absence overlap. Something that Lorenzo Mammì defined as a “non-place”. Or, in the words of Marta Mestre, a situation that is extremely ambiguous, “because it permanently vacillates between contemplation and experience, between distance and approximation, between optical and haptic”. In other words, Carlito Carvalhosa's work goes beyond challenging the viewer with provocative temporal and spatial provocations. Over more than three decades, he problematizes the relationship between the work of art and the public, incorporating himself into the best tradition of Brazilian contemporary art.