BLOCK, PILLAR, SLAB, BEAM brings together four artists from across Latin America who explore the evocative potential of found objects and the basic elements of the built environment. The exhibition takes its title from a game devised by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that examines the language of building to explore the nature of language itself. The artists included in this exhibition—Jorge Méndez Blake, Alexandre da Cunha, Amalia Pica, and Gabriel Sierra—share a playful approach to both physical and cultural materials, building works that recall the improvised objects of everyday life, objects that derive their meaning from the practical use to which they are put.
Historically, the relationship between the individual to his or her environment has played a central role in Latin American artistic production, from the Neo-Concrete movement’s participatory, performative upending of European modernism to the conceptually and politically inflected focus on materials in the work of artists like Cildo Meireles, Gabriel Orozco, Francis Alÿs, and Doris Salcedo. A younger generation of artists has emerged that mixes these traditions, practicing an Arte Povera that is both pre- and post-consumer: repurposing the raw materials of construction and the end products of manufacturing. Latin America contains a number of the world’s largest urban centers and rapidly growing economies, engines that power tremendous booms in building, manufacturing, and waste. These artists engage the complex social realities at play through the life cycle of their materials.
Jorge Méndez Blake’s works use literature and architecture both as material and as content. Gabriel Sierra’s design objects, sculptures, and architectural interventions blur the lines between art and design, often applying the approach of one discipline to reframe problems in the other. Amalia Pica’s sculptures and installations rework humble materials like confetti and drinking glasses to reflect on the absurdities that exist in the relationship between language and sensory perception, between artwork and viewer. Alexandre da Cunha recycles discarded objects and consumer products like beach towels and mop heads to create formally elegant, witty sculptures that playfully confound our expectations and cultural associations. Collectively, these artists use materiality to critically reflect on the human condition.