David Kordansky

Nicolau Vergueiro

10 May - 21 Jun 2008

"Introducing Salomé"

May 10 - Jun 21

David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to present Introducing Salomé, a solo exhibition of new works by Nicolau Vergueiro. The opening reception will take place on May 10th from 6-9 pm and the show will be on view through June 21.
At the center of the gallery, shadow boxes tilt casually against a freestanding wall. Contained within these boxes are highly ornate objects, presented like poignant yet unidentifiable artifacts from a recent past. The centrifugal placement of the artwork results in an inversion of the standard exhibition space, so that instead of the work surrounding the viewer, the viewers surround the work. We lean towards the objects, which beckon an impossible closeness, but their containment within a frame and the stark background of the wall reminds us of our role.
Mining the rich meeting ground between myth and history, Vergueiro captures the theatricality of a never-before-seen excavation, while hinting at the possibility that these fragments could be part of a greater whole; the work is intentionally arranged so as never to be seen en masse, adding to its powers of seduction. As they are, these visually vibrant objects, made of resin, plastic, glass, metals, feathers and latex mixed with plush fabrics and vivid hues, produce acute moments of sculptural narrative with a polemical thrust, while retaining the secret of their intentions.
Vergueiro’s practice subsumes both the history of New World exploration and 20th century Brazilian avant-garde movements, such as the Brazilian Modernist Anthropophagy Movement. This movement drew on an anti-imperialist strategy of assimilating foreign elements, in a kind of aesthetic “cannibalism”. In his recent work, this notion of a radical inversion of power extends to the symbology of Salomé, biblical femme-fatale and 19th century emblem of exoticism. Countless artworks throughout history recount her story: the seductive teenager dances for King Herod, who, weak with desire, assents to her wish to possess the severed head of John the Baptist, object of her unrequited lust.
At the turn of the 20th century, Oscar Wilde established Salomé as a symbol of female erotic power. Albert Beardsley’s illustrations of Wilde’s novel inspired the Charles Bryant silent-movie adaptation, with costumes and set design by Natacha Rambova starring Nazimova. JK Huysmans’ description of Gustave Moreau’s paintings of Salomé, inspired by Flaubert’s Salammbô and later inspiring Flaubert’s Hérodias, attempted to transform ‘painting’ into prose through ecphrasis. Thus the era of “Salomania” was launched. As Vergueiro mines this rich bank of visual narrative, his allegorical use of material deepens. Fabric is highly charged, mirroring its ambiguous role in Salome’s erotic “Dance of the Seven Veils”. Reflective surfaces level the “hierarchy of materials” as they hint at both precious metals (holy grail of the early explorers), and the glistening treasures promised to Salomé by the lustful King (topazes yellow as the eyes of tigers ... onyxes like the eyeballs of a dead woman).
The exhibition performs around a pictorial moment: Salomé, her seven scarves strewn about her, raises the prophet’s severed head to her lips in a necrophilic- almost cannibalistic – gesture of consummation. But at the gilded core of Introducing Salomé is a syncretism of visual culture that transcends the subject itself. This is spoken through materials - vibrant, plush, handmade, recycled – that have undergone a divine apotheosis in the artists’ hands.
Nicolau Vergueiro lives and works in Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He received his MFA in 2002 from California Institute of the Arts. His work has been recently exhibited at the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO and the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA. He has had solo shows at both the Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France, and was included in the 2006 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art. This is his third solo exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery.