Erika Verzutti has been making sculptures that she refers to as ‘Pet Cemeteries’ for a while now: in 2008 for an exhibition at Fortes Vilaça in São Paulo she showed a series of floor- and plinth-based sculptures that dotted the space like a disorderly graveyard. These monuments in a variety of materials took the shape of animals; totems, it seemed at the time, to the absent bodies of pets loved and lost. A favoured cat venerated in bronze, a family poodle whose soft, warm body was faintly recalled in a sculpture made of hard pebbles.
The ‘pets’, however, at this new exhibition of wall-based sculptural assemblages, in which disparate elements have been encased in blocks of rock clay, are the lumps of material that make up the works themselves. The entombed fragments are culled from older artworks, or from works half-finished but abandoned (works that, perhaps, might have otherwise ended up in the artist’s current show at Andrew Kreps, New York, which closes Saturday); general studio detritus which had hung around so long in Verzutti’s workspace that she had started to grow fond of it. Curls of dog-turdlike papier mâché and ceramic nestle in these deathly blocks; egg- and tongue-shaped forms lie in the hollows. The artist decorates these resting places with finger marks in the clay and daubs of colour on top (mostly earthly, but with the occasional pink, almost sacrilegious in its brightness), childish actions that speak of fondness and intimacy.
There is a subtle difference between the gravestone and the mausoleum. The former is a marker of the body, which rests six feet under; the latter however contains the body. These new sculptures mark a shift in the artist’s ‘Pet Cemeteries’ from one to the other: they speak not as signs for something afar or missing (an idea, perhaps, or a narrative) but about a material presence, one preserved.
Erika Verzutti’s Chunk runs to 22 April at Misako & Rosen, Tokyo
Published on 30 March