ALEXANDRE DA CUNHA
“It’s about improvisation and make-believe,” says Brazilian-born, London-based Alexandre da Cunha of his multifarious sculptural practice. His work generates sparks of beauty with the least-expected materials: toilet plungers, salad bowls, truck tires. He explores his hybrid and complicated national identity. Da Cunha makes freestanding, wall-mounted, and architectural sculptures using transformed everyday or found objects, which remain identifiable within the abstract assemblages. His practice is influenced by both systems of mass production and artisanal craftsmanship, such that the final objects appear to be a mix between popular consumer object and archaeological relic. The artist once summarised: “By highlighting specific aspects of objects that surround us, I impose a possible entry for them in what is known as the art world.” Da Cunha’s influences include Marcel Duchamp.
Seeking an alternative to representing objects in paint, Duchamp began presenting objects themselves as art. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “Readymades,” as he called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”
The readymade also defied the notion that art must be beautiful. Duchamp claimed to have chosen everyday objects “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste….” In doing so, Duchamp paved the way for Conceptual art—work that was “in the service of the mind," as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye.
© Harriet Grace Abbott, all rights reserved