There is something incomplete about Rodrigo Sassi’s sculptures. However, rather than this being an error or a problem, it is a manifestation of how elements of sculpture can be presented to the modern world. Open structures allude to an organicity, and also – in a subtle dialogue with post-minimalism and arte povera, to the idea of a building site. There is a sense of something about to appear, but it is either never shown in its entirety, or it evades the form in which we are accustomed to seeing a work of art. This is unquestionably a condition of how art perceives and understands a fractured, abject, cruel, and yet also fragile and dynamic, world that is criss-crossed by torrents of information. The image of the site is appropriate, as we are presented with a joist and column system of a kind that is familiar in many of our built environments. The materials the artist uses (wood, concrete and metal) also reinforce this idea. They are common-place, robust, industrial materials that are associated with construction processes. His works have nothing ephemeral about them, and their strong, solid presence reveals opposing forces, disparate syntaxes of friction and affnity, incompleteness and construction.
His sculptures work with a verticality that creates a kind of irrational volume: a collection of extra-peripheral elements that lack a constructivist core logic. One is forced to feel the actual weight and dimensions of the pieces of wood and the precarious nature of their relations. These images of opening and incompleteness are also present in the allusions of the titles Sassi gives his works. On occasions he refers to ships, and on others to an urban logic (Treze pares e meio de esquinas [Thirteen and a half pairs of corners] or Esquina de lá # maior [Corner of A# major]) and this way of presenting the world allows one to see that his work is not site-specific, but rather that it extends beyond the place in which it is installed. These are sculptures that invite the onlooker to journey through them. They want to belong to the world as a form of exchange and affinity, like the skin of a city. They are positioned on the border between archaeological fact (and Perspectiva naval [Naval perspective] particularly has an archaic element) and the image of a skeleton, or of bone and cartilage (hence the connection with organicity and incompleteness). In the context of Brazilian art, these “simulacra” have roots in artists like José Resende and Angelo Venosa. As this is still relatively recent, I have no wish to draw comparisons here between Sassi’s work and that of these artists, however, I would like to suggest some markers and references for it.
Whether swift and instant, or dense and convoluted, his sculptures do not require contemplation, but experience. The previously mentioned sense of something lacking or incomplete is in this meeting between the work and the onlooker, in the experience of the senses and touch, and testing and becoming familiar with the material, the irregularity of the surface and its errors and imperfections. The way the works are made, which in general uses folds and angles, again shows their cellular nature. It is in this field of approximation, and using specific allegories on art, city and subject, that Sassi’s work finds its crux. EXPT 04, a piece made of wood, concrete and metal, is fixed to the wall by means of wooden structures and screws, positioning its creased, folded and unfolded planes in articulations that create a space between two- and three-dimensionality. EXPT 04 is a construction fixed to the wall that is born of the form’s contortions, which create a sense of environment. Its folds delineate planes, which tumesce the support: the “plane” is “increased” in volume: it is opened out, “swollen”, and breaks from its two-dimensionality. This creates a geometrical construction in real space: only the raised planes mark the directions in external space. Sassi manages to make wood and concrete malleable; he symbolically transforms rigid materials into “soft forms” and gives elasticity to inert materials. Their twists and turns reveal the flexibility of wood, and show another quality of this material that is nearly always associated with rigidity. His large-scale pieces outside the white cube do not necessarily interact with their exhibition space; however, they show us to what extent architecture is a part of the repertoire of their poetic creation. Sassi’s work is part of a new generation that dialogizes with post-war – and particularly American post-war – sculpture, and which confronts the issues that minimalism has raised for the field of sculpture (its profound effects on sculptural scale, positioning and materials, as well as its creative processes and formal strategy of discontinuity). His work also dialogizes with the world of 1970s Brazilian art in relation to its use of rigid and industrial materials, which organise the world through a phenomenological perspective (in addition to similarities with the work of Resende, one can also point to that of Carlos Fajardo, Carlos Zilio – particularly his exhibition Atensão at MAM-RJ in 1976, Umberto Costa Barros, and Waltercio Caldas among others) that reveals our references and new paths of production.