Utilitarian objects have the potential to trigger off narratives about their cultural use, their methods of production and distribution, their relationship with labour, their design and materiality. I am a facilitator rather than a maker.

I am not directly addressing any environmental issues through the concept of the works, but I have been changing practical things in my personal and professional routine for a while, in order to address the crisis that we are going through. I am making changes in my relationship with materials and traveling for instance. There is a tendency in the art world to celebrate aesthetics through a lot of excess and waste. It is a cultural aspect and we somehow learnt to live with it and accept it. It simply does not work any longer and we are all struggling to find a new model.

The process has many facets and goes through distinct phases. Usually it starts by my curiosity about types of mundane utilitarian objects that have the potential to trigger off narratives about their cultural use, their methods of production and distribution, their relationship with labour, their design and materiality. A part of that phase involves collecting stuff and not doing much to them. On another stage, the objects start to find their place and take shape in combination with others but often I feel that I am a facilitator rather than a maker. My role is to give some guidance to this natural encounter between objects and surfaces in a given space.

Other phases of production sometimes include collaboration with other people, assistants, fabricators and so on. Whether small or large, indoors or public, all the works have an element in common: they are sorts of reminders of things we already know well and perhaps did not invest enough time to look at them properly.

Recently I used a t-shirt that I happened to be wearing at the studio in one of the works as it seemed to be the best possible fabric for what I was trying to achieve technically at that moment. I still regret it and miss the t-shirt. In my process of making I often feel that the works speak to me and give me clues about when they might be completed. It is a negotiation with each piece and usually the best ones are the works where I achieve a balance between listening to them and going beyond. It is similar to a relationship with someone you care for. Perhaps the works are never totally ready. When they leave the studio, they are still changing, breathing, growing or failing. I like that idea that I am a part of this system where there is not total control although this is what I am constantly reaching for.


Alexandre da Cunha was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1969 and lives and works in São Paulo and London. He has exhibited widely throughout the world with selected solo exhibitions and presentations including: Figurehead II, The Box, Plymouth, England (2020); Arena, Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples, Italy (2020); Duologue with Phillip King, Royal Society of Sculptors, London, England (2018); Boom, Pivô, São Paulo, Brazil (2017); Free Fall, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, England (2016); the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago IL (2015); Dublê, Centro Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2011), and Laissez-Faire, Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2009). Alexandre da Cunha’s work is included in major private and institutional collections including the Tate, England; ICA Boston, U.S; and Inhotim, Brazil.

Major outdoor sculptures by da Cunha are on permanent view at the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MI; the Monsoon Building in London, and the Rochaverá Tower in São Paulo.

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