Of stone and cloth

Sculptures and drawings of the artist Cabelo, full of circularity and repetition, suggest a powerful visual mantra

Juliana Monachesi

Bravo! magazine nº 107 | July 2006

The art world was perplexed by his sculptures. How can an artist of lightness and fluidity hold a solo show with 25 stone sculptures? Can this be the same artist of the well-known drawings of the flow of consciousness on fabric? Wasn’t it the vestiges of his performance, at the 1997 Documenta of Kassel, which were mistaken for trash and swept up on the day following the inauguration of the pompous German show of contemporary art? Aren’t the ephemeral installations and improvised music, which are totally opposed to a static culture his hallmark? So then why did Cabelo decide to fix his unmistakable language in stone? Or would it be more correct to ask, how by some stroke of lightning did he manage to do this?

Escrito pelo raio [Written by Thunderbolt] is the title of his show at Galeria Marília Razuk, in São Paulo. “Raio” [Thunderbolt] is the translation of the Sanskrit word vajra, an indestructible material (which can also mean “the void of all things”). Besides the sculptures, the show features two drawings. In green, on black fabric, the organic shapes characteristic of the artist are there, familiarly. But these two works are not hung on the wall. They lie on the floor of the gallery, as an invitation to look down. Or to sit down. And when observed from this perspective, the “sculptures” in stone reveal what they actually are: drawings in low relief, more disconcertingly fluid than the drawings on fabric.

One by one, and according to the specific path taken through the exhibition, there arise rastafaris smoking their joints, yogis meditating in the lotus position, turtles, Buddhas, larvae, loose words, haikus, archaic inscriptions, hovering beings, heads under the shape of a cartoon thought-balloon in which with another head is also “thinking.” The circularity and repetition gain the power of a visual mantra.

The truth is that the drawings in stone make the drawings on fabric appear very static, because the surface of the latter is flat, graspable at a single glance. The stone has its veins, which the artist skillfully explores, whether to mimic the back of a meditative being, or to refer to the face of an enigmatic (divine?) figure, and has an organic shape that Cabelo takes advantage of to model the twisting of a serpent or the smoke from a joint of marijuana – which for its part can also be a river gushing out of the head of Shiva. Yes, Buddhism and Hinduism, among other sources of vital energy and Zen willingness, fuel the artist’s production until the core.

The more figurative works featured in the show are not those in the shape of a turtle or a Buddha. The pieces of greatest density are the ones least worked sculpturally, which in their raw form harbor the mystery of Cabelo’s hallucinating narrative: when we come across inscriptions on the stones, the exhibition path becomes more syncopated. We read “idade da pedra” [stone age], “idade da luz” [age of light], “aqui agora” [here and now] “amanhontem” [yestermorrow], “daqui pra diantes” [from here backwards]. Is the artist talking about enlightenment or darkness? About transcendence or finiteness? It seems that Cabelo’s vocabulary does not contain the conjunction “or”. Stone and cloth and art and trash and let’s go ahead.