On October 27, the Blanton will open The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas. The artist’s first career survey, the exhibition will explore Caldas’s full body of work from the 1960s through the present. It will investigate his centrality within Brazilian art, his role on the international stage, and his unique position on art and its ethos. Following two recent presentations in Brazil —at the Fundação Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo—the Blanton will serve as the only North American venue for the exhibition.

In Summer 2003, Donna Conwell interviewed Waltercio Caldas for Latinart.com. The Christopher Grimes Gallery has graciously allowed the Blanton to post an excerpt. To read the entire interview, please click here.

DC: You have said that you create the maximum presence from the least amount of materials. Could you tell us what motivates your selection of materials?
Waltercio Caldas in galleryW.C: I don’t have a preferred type of material. I have worked with diverse kinds of materials. Materials are not a problem for me. The most important thing for me is the relationship between them.
Each material has its own story and each one has its own usefulness. It depends on the subject that I am dealing with. The material is chosen for a specific situation. I don’t begin with a material and then create something. I try to make the works as different from one another as possible. Each time I work it is as though I were beginning from zero all over again. I never try to make a piece that would be exactly the same as something I have done before. They do have a kind of signature though. We are condemned to be ourselves I suppose. (laughs)
D.C: You have said that you want to give a name to the space between things. Could you talk about your use of empty space in your work?
W.C: I don’t like things that are opaque. I like things that are transparent. Sometimes, even when the work is made in metal it is transparent because I use metal in such a way, in such a linear condition, that the light reproduces more than the material. That is to say, that there is more light than material. Light bends the object in a sense.
When you look at something you always have the feeling that your sight is going into the object, but with a transparent object your sight passes through the object and returns to your eye. My idea is that you see my work not through the first gaze going in but through the second one coming back.
Waltercio Caldas Garrafas com rolha/ Bottles with cork

Waltercio Caldas
Garrafas com rolha/ Bottles with cork, 1975
Chinaware and corks
Collection Ruben Knijnik
Photographer: Miguel Rio Branco

DC: What do you think is arts place in society today?

W.C: Godard said that culture was made to kill art because culture is a rule and art is not a rule; it is against the rule. So of course the nature of the rule kills the anti-rule right? You have to resist that.
I think it would be impossible for me to do my work outside of Brazil because I think we [Brazilians] were born modern in a sense. It is quite natural for us to be modern because we are from a very new country. I think we have a sort of freshness and this is very important. I grew up in a community of artists that spoke about art all the time. They weren’t in competition with one other. It has been wonderful to be an artist in a place like Rio because we don’t have that pragmatic relationship with the market that other places have. We can relate the process of doing to something very pleasant and this is something that I think people are losing because we are transforming a kind of spiritual inclination into a profession. I think we have to preserve the possibility of the language of art. We have to fight to preserve the freedom of the language of art.
D.C: Finally, your work has received considerable international acclaim and has been included in Documenta 11 and the 47th Venice Biennial as well as numerous international shows. What are your thoughts on how Brazilian art is received internationally?
W.C: If I can put it in a sentence: I think we were unknown for a long time but now we have the chance to be misunderstood. (laughs)

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