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Alexandre da Cunha - Artists - James Cohan

Photograph by Mel Castro Duarte.

Grounded in material aesthetics the Brazilian-born artist Alexandre da Cunha (b.1969) creates monumentally scaled sculpture and playfully constructed wall-mounted work using metamorphosed every day and found objects. Given their renewed possibility and playing with the visual language of art historical movements such as Arte Povera and Tropicália, da Cunha’s sculptures inspire lush potential, elevating our everyday encounters with ordinary materials to sociocultural events. 


da Cunha has referred to his practice as ‘pointing’ as opposed to ‘making’. For da Cunha, the idea of ‘pointing’ is akin to the work of a theatre director activating different elements – which are like actors – creating new and exciting interactions and possibilities. By ‘pointing’ at existing objects in plain sight, da Cunha highlights heretofore unseen and unexpected meaning within the objects he chooses. Often imbued with a keen sense of humor and visual punning, da Cunha’s work tells a continuously unfolding story; a tale filled with clever quips and colorful anecdotes of his travels, observations, encounters, and environments. A mop becomes a richly hued hanging tapestry, a suite of nail files transforms into a tropical geometric abstraction, a walking stick reveals itself as a brilliantly chromatic perch for a passing bird. 


Working between São Paulo and London, da Cunha’s unique point of view is amplified by his urban surroundings. Concrete, a seemingly mundane or utilitarian material, is made lyrical and almost delicate in da Cunha’s hands. Engaging with the language of modernism, Brazilian neo-concrete movements, and architecture the artist’s elegantly constructed concrete sculptures undo any preconceived notions about the medium’s materiality or functionality. 


Large-scale commissions and outdoor sculptures are integral to da Cunha’s practice. For his public commission in 2016 in São Paulo (Mix II), da Cunha presented the found drum of a concrete mixer truck placed on a giant plinth of cast concrete. Here, the materials and processes traditionally used in the construction industry are exalted to the status of artworks in their own right. In 2021, da Cunha’s permanent commission for Art on the Underground, titled Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset, was unveiled at the newly opened Battersea Power Station Underground Station. Drawing on the rotating advertising billboard, da Cunha’s kinetic sculpture runs along the ticket hall in the form of two monumental friezes composed of panels in various colors extracted from photographs of London sunsets and sunrises; throughout the course of the day, the panels rotate and change colors, creating an ever-changing environment within the station. 


Selected solo exhibitions include: Travessia, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil (2024); Quebrada, auroras, São Paulo, Brazil (2023); Broken, Thomas Dane Gallery, London; Duplex, Brighton CCA, Brighton, England (2021); Arena, Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples, Italy (2020); Portal, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil; 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, USA (2015); Dublê, Centro Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2011), and Laissez-Faire, Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2009). 


Selected group exhibitions include: Each now, is the time, the space, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore (2024); Material World: Contemporary Artists and Textiles, Warwick Arts Center, Coventry (2024); Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2022); Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2020, South London Gallery, London (2021); A máquina do mundo: Arte e indústria no Brasil 1901 – 2021, Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo (2021); MECARÕ. Amazonia in the Petitgas Collection, MO.CO. Montpellier Contemporain, Montpellier (2020); Plymouth Box, Plymouth (2020); Everyday Poetics, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2017); Histórias da Sexualidade, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo (2017); Soft Power, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2016); Decorum, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2013); 30th São Paulo Biennial (2012).


Da Cunha’s work is included in major private and institutional collections including the Droom en Daad Foundation, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; ICA Boston, Boston MA, USA; Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago IL, USA; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil; and Tate, England. Major public and outdoor sculptures by da Cunha are on permanent view at Battersea Power Station Underground Station in London, the Monsoon Building in London, the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis MO, USA, Pierce Boston Tower in Boston MA, USA and the Rochaverá Tower in São Paulo, Brazil.

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