THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AESTHETIC OF RIMER CARDILLO:
Stratum, Element and Process / Amalia Mesa-Bains
Archaeology, in popular language, is a science associated with unearthing and revealing objects that bring cultural and human understanding. Images of ancient civilizations, excavations and remnants come to mind with the term and in this sense the new sculptural assemblage works of Rimer Cardillo can be placed in an aesthetic that carries the tone of the archaeological.
Cardillo, an award winning printmaker from Uruguay has exhibited in Europe, Latin America and the United States. His movement from print to mixed media sculptures has been a gradual extension of themes and materials refined over time. His concern in the use of his materials has been towards revealing surfaces, textures and sources which can be described as archaeological in their intention.
Cardillo is among a growing number of Latin Americans in the United States who are working with both the ancient and the contemporary in a new vocabulary of forms. This new aesthetic of the Americas must be understood to express a multiplicity of meanings. Rather than a single code or a symbol, his work offers us a complex set of signifiers. In approaching this complexity we can use the concept of a plural text as described by modernist critic, Roland Barthes. In reference to the visual arts, Barthes suggests that the critic must read, or in this case view, the text as holding many meanings and carriers of substance.
This essay seeks to provide a critical discourse which breaks free the elements and experiences from which the artist creates.
Rust - Cardillo's use of rust is reflective of the nature of aging, change and time. It has become a symbolic material for the city of Montevideo as a catalyst or change agent in the sculptures.
Wood - Much of the wood is transformed by additions as well as animal fat. The sense of history embedded in the pieces is carried to new meanings.
Paper - Because of Cardillo's long tradition of paperwork, the paper in his hands returns to its source, the tree bark, and becomes allegorical of old interiors.
Stone - Fossils are most compelling in its metaphor of fragments. Like remnants of time, the chips, the particles and the dust signify the remains of history, destroyed and recovered.
In a reflection of ongoing themes of destruction, conservation and regeneration, Cardillo takes the discarded materials and reinterprets them with additional surfaces and new textures. Painstakingly he reworks the materials and elements in an act of reparation. Found boxes, windowpanes and paperworks are recombined to produce reliquaries and diptychs. Containers gain new life with the addition of latches, closures and corner detailing. The elements assert themselves in his constructions through a process that Cardillo has invested with his own ritual order.
Spiritual regeneration, environmental conservation and cultural preservation are the balance in the artists revisioning of space. In particular, his use of large works on paper act almost as wall maps indicating primordial blueprints of ancient ruins. They serve as companions to locate the placements of remnant structures in the altar constructions.
The holocaust, historic genocide and repression are perilously close to our view as we confront broken pipes, bolted door and the burned ashes. Cardillo affixes disparate objects in the ceremonial aesthetic to code these dualities of ruin and rebirth. In this function the archaeological implication is one of both antiquity and hopeful vision.
In the sculpture "Amazonia Altar" the triptych form brings a monumentality to the sacred site in a large scale wood structure and rubbed paper back. It reverberates like the last standing sentinel facing a force of destruction and acts as a lonely reminder of nature's grandeur. This scale, and relationship become a holy order that silently invokes the gods of another age. Cardillo's form never pursues the explicit but rather provides us a greater language that can only elicit our own private denotations.
"Silent Barrack" present separate elements including print in a large scale, standing frame, metal rod, ceramic sink and wood fixture. The eerie image of an amorphous torso, the repetitious use of the wooden form and the seemingly random placement of the found object require us to draw relations and associations that are both disturbing and compelling.
The artist's memories of a friend's disappearance during the dictatorship and his first childhood view of a hanging slaughtered lamb are fused in a chilling imagery associated with the clamp and sink with its residue of ashes.
In "Memorial Diptych" the metal rod now serves as bolt and lock and the reliquary form is extended in a flat floor piece. Cardillo's handmade paper works retell the wooden surface in river-like patterns where nature is released and recounted as its own mirror. "Memorial Diptych" remembers years lost in the solitude of prisons and a sad homage to an age of survival. Images of tombs, burials, death, mourning, and loss come to us in the memorial view.
The relationships of print to sculpture is one of the most demanding aspects of these new works. Evolving from earlier pieces which included prints of boxes to prints with boxes, the new combinations completely separate the print from the container. Yet we are struck by how integral the print image seems to its companion. Most often the works on paper serve to contextualize the construction like a choreographic pattern of pageantry to which the structures once belonged.