julio villani: black board

aug 03 - set 16_ 2023

julio villani: black board

Colorful sketches of trunk and twigs, or pure geometric figures in unstable balance? There is a clear mood of dubiousness in the works presented by Julio Villani in this exhibition. There is something that oscillates not only between abstraction and naturalism, but also between the visual and the verbal. For the artist attaches great importance to the titles of his works, and invites friends to enhance the semantic experience by asking them to write blind word-association phrases, in the absence of images. These texts are then incorporated into the exhibition, embracing the surrealist principle of the game cadavre exquis: the collaborative and somewhat random assembly of figures (graphic or textual), because at random – objective or subjective – the order also pulsates. It is a unique kind of reverse order.

Born in the countryside of São Paulo state over four decades ago, Julio has spent most of his years in France. As a bricoleur, he skillfully assembles sculptures from found objects. He affectionately refers to these strange yet familiar creations as Almost Readymades. This clever inclination towards appropriation is evident in his collages, which are predominantly made from 19th-century notarial documents. In these compositions, the verbal realm serves as the backdrop, featuring elaborate calligraphy and prints that create a pattern. Contrasting against this backdrop are colored figures, drenched in oil paint, acrylic, or rendered with crayon. Unlike the cubist collages of Braque and Picasso, which incorporated newspapers into their paintings, Julio’s approach involves the paintings themselves invading the graphic and textual elements of the old documents. This overlapping arrangement transforms the calligraphic background into a visual dialogue.

In these larger-format paintings, created with acrylic paint, coal, and kaolin on canvas, the dominant theme revolves around the study of spatial structuring. The artist refers to them as Collapsible Architectures, featuring hollow and transparent prisms that organize the space. These compositions evoke the notion of temporary, unstable, and impermanent constructions through delicate lines and colored areas. While the clarity of the geometric planes draws parallels to Suprematism’s ideals, the more tonal colors and well-defined brushstrokes, similar to Volpi’s tempera technique, infuse these paintings with a reflective, delicate, and handcrafted dimension, expressing a closer connection to the Brazilian context

This desire for a fluctuating structuring, which only organizes temporary and imprecise orders, finds its perfect translation in the “quadro negro” (blackboard). In this stark contrast between light and dark, everything can overlap while simultaneously tending to disappear. The accumulation, scribbling, and the submission of one order to another establish a permanent playing field in which Villani feels at home.

The scenes of ongoing fires in his collages, emphasizing the concept of “deceived nature” – one of his titles – echo the dark and recent times of misgovernment in the country, when these works were created. However, within the artistic context of this grand Quadro negro by Julio Villani, the challenges redeem themselves in the ever-present notion of a new beginning. Not as a blank slate, starting from scratch, but as patient sketches of a structure that constantly seeks its best form. A structure where nature and geometry are not opposed. And where the “will of form” operates, par hasard, through the act of play.


Guilherme Wisnik, 2023


Exhibition: Julio Villani: Black board

Visiting hours: until September 16, 2023 (free entry)

Telephone 11. 3083-6322, e-mail info@raquelarnaud.com


Galeria Raquel Arnaud

Rua Fidalga, 125 – Vila Madalena – telephone: +55 11 3083-6322


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