Unknown to the world: Galeria Luisa Strina


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Galeria Luisa Strina is pleased to present Unknown to the World, Tonico Lemos Auad’s fourth exhibition at the gallery. Bringing together textile works and sculptures made of reclaimed beams and railway sleepers, the show explores the relationship of these materials with architecture and landscape. The notion of ‘repair’ is central to Auad’s practice, both in terms of the methodologies employed in the making of the textile works (darning, tying, unthreading) and the choice of reclaimed wood as primary material for sculptures. Another important focus of interest in his work are the practices and techniques associated to different types of craft passed down through generations; many of which currently facing extinction in a global economy. 


Amongst the works presented is Unknown to the World – a sculpture that gives the title to the exhibition -, formed by four reclaimed beams with varied heights placed vertically on the floor. The pieces retain the worn-out marks accumulated during their previous life and in some of them the artist has placed pieces of linen in warm colours whose materiality contrasts with the solidity of the wood. Furthermore, the subtle carving performed by the artist on their surface gives the timber a simultaneously anthropomorphic and abstract appearance.  


Over the past decade, the work with textile materials has become one of the main axes in Auad’s work. The artist works with a wide variety of techniques and methods – including traditional weave, tricot, crochet, embroidery, amongst others -, mixing hand and machine stitches to create hybrid surfaces where different traditions and ancestral knowledges are blended together. Although the recovery of artisanal practices is fundamental to his research, the subversion of the rules of ‘good craft’ is at the heart of his work. The weft’s rigid orthogonal structure is unmade and disorganised through thread-pulling and subsequently embroidered in order to create images or patterns that are fully integrated into the original fabric.


 The wall textiles presented in the exhibition are mostly executed in Tunisian stitch, a hybrid form between tricot and crochet, and include a variety of types of wool and threads in a single composition. In these works, Auad explores a vast array of tonal variations that are made visible only when the different kinds of thread are placed side to side in semi-abstract images that evoke nocturnal landscapes. Moreover, their purpleheart frames become an integral part of the composition, adding yet another layer of contrast and framing. They also serve to reinforce the idea that wood, in Auad’s practice, is never a neutral material.


Textiles also feature in the handmade ropes created by the artist, which are used as sculptural material in tying systems based on the shibari tradition – a millenary Japanese tying technique that was originally developed to restrain prisoners and was later incorporated into bondage culture.


In Unknown to the World, Tonico Lemos Auad continues his long and consistent research with fabric and wool, producing works which highlight ideas related to artisanal knowledges and the eulogy of reuse and repair that offer an alternative to the current model of mass-produced goods and planned obsolescence. Ultimately, these works propose an extended temporality which goes against the economic model of advanced capitalism. Rather, they point to the environmental and psychic dimensions of cure through restoration and the reutilization of the resources around us.


Tonico Lemos Auad was born in Belém and lives and works in London. His works explore the cultural and personal meanings attributed to everyday objects. Often incorporating notions of landscape and architecture, Auad’s works subvert the traditional techniques associated to different types of crafts. Recent solo exhibitions include Unknown to the World (Cample Line, Nithsdale, 2021); Tonico Lemos Auad (De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 2016) and O que não tem conserto (Pivô, São Paulo, 2016). Amongst his recent group shows are Biennale Gherdëina (Ortisei, Italy, 2020); Sharjah Biennial 13 (Sharjah, 2017); Folkestone Triennial (Folkestone, 2011). In 2019, Auad was awarded the Frieze Stand Prize at Frieze London. His work is represented in important international collections including Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, New York, USA; Pizzuti Collection, Ohio, USA; The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, California, USA; West Collection, Pennsylvania, USA; FLAG Art Foundation, New York, USA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, USA; Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK; Tate, London, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art, Vigo, Spain; British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; e Instituto Inhotim, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

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