[text writen for the Ascanio MMM’s solo exhibition at the Institute of Architects of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, from November 22 to December 13, 1989]
Constructivism has rather been seen as an aesthetic strategy inside the artistic Modernism. From the Russian Constructivism to Mondrian’s Plasticism, its processes spread the only plastical to a decisive social dimension, defining through its works, a deontological value. Constructivism connects subject with work, artist with product, enjoyment with spectator, in order to eliminate the vitalistic beam which a fair part of Pre-Modernism and Modernism sank in.
However, Vitalism would free modern spirit to a kind of id nudity – using a word dear to freudians. That operation would also melt into what is generally nominated as disrepression of modern life, so that vitalistic character works or movements, in their economy, used to compel subject to immerse in the precariousness of the world, which could be the Evil, the Abyss or the Flaw.
Subjectivism, sometimes the most radical one, would illustrate the possible way of restoring or auscultating the rhythmic beats of a hollow world, flawy in its nature. Undoubtedly, constructivism has recognized the world irreality, this scene in the way of T.S. Eliot, but it did attack whatever was sensory, emotional, fugacious or served as a platform for the impulse of instincts.
Constructivism direction, in contrast to modernist Vitalism, was marked by a steady faith in modern man. That optimism was ethical and fought with the abysmal bottom on which the human condition had been seen by Modernism. The constructivist Modernity was inspired by an ethical optimism: man, art, form would have a sense. Still better: against the existential crisis of modern man, Constructivism introduced the beauty of order as an ethical axiom. Art was not an utopia of salvation but a realization one.
Constructivism attained a vital importance in Brazil on and after the 1950’s, since it was basically characterized by two facts: at first, the revaluation of the modern art history. The Russian Constructivism influence, whose productive interpretation made by the Brazilian neoconcretists, brought on both modernization and new procedures for the Brazilian art; it was there the first positive interpretation of Cubism, expelling mimesis from modern form and trying making new formal standards as it has revived, in its way, the connection art-life without being a mere paradigma of Surrealism which had ever aimed at that. The second fact is the foundation of Brasília, whose emblematic iquality would chake the country retrogression and send it to the oven of industrialization.
As from Brasília, Constructivism worked as an ideality of a country destined to the future, basically optimist, a social reformer and economically armed with an impregnating objectivity, lastly becoming a way of seeing and producing art, suturing the modern subject’s and the Brazilian reality chaos. The Brazilian Constructivism was not even directed neither to a pure ascetic formalism nor to a religious mysticism somewhat peculiar to a certain geometric plasticism.
It objectifies and idealizes the Brazilian reality, but with a particular addition: paradoxically, Constructivism here introduces a kind of madness into its project. A sort of gamewise torsion makes it diferent from the two international paradigms of the same species. The Brazilian Constructivism assumes an ethical character before the producing, but also a pleasant sensualness when eyeing: it seems a geometrician dicing.
It needs to place the strategy of Ascânio MMM, one of the constructivists without a manifesto, as it was proposed by the critic Ligia Canongia at a very recent show, before that Brazilian context. In the 1960’s, he is an artist who firmly refuses the course of New Figuration then in effect. By emphasizing the construtivist process, he keeps it on. The critic Frederico Morais calls it poor in a sense like Volpi’s painting, whose workmanship appearance attains a primordial importance. In spite of the ancient technique he works with (the distemper made up of eggs), Volpi gets formally ultra-sophisticated results.
At that time, Ascânio made just use of one element: the lath. Through that minimum materiality, he would create winding movements: bends, semi-bends, sinuosities, volutes. A constructivism from torsion and balance as a suspension for a flight, for the material sophistication that penetrates space as if it was fated to blow up and, simultaneously, produce tension and harmony. The calculated torsion used to unsettle the eye, introducing the spectator into a game between rigour and order. There comes the strategy of the artist from: a structural baroquism. Notwithstanding, such works are deprived too; they articulate their proper rhythm and are confined to no illusionism. In contrast, the formal tension of his works is due to a structural ordering.
The laths, sawn and glued, make a non-previously-determined space, through their ordinance. Space is not an order already given, in which objects are set. In contrast, its structure is caused by the ordination of the work elements, as the painter Ronaldo do Rego Macedo would say in 1981. Even what is optical in his reliefs depends on those structures in progress synthesized almost didactically is his famous gamewise boxes of 1968/69 – objects that bring complex forms about as from the spectator’s handling.
On the other hand, the prosecution of Ascânio’s work has unfolded to a sort of material’s phenomenology. One can observe a revealing of the material in his last pieces. Neither he paints white his sculptures and reliefs nor he catches light and shadow anymore. The artist lets wood decant, making it appear at its proper colours and veins. Then, wood is the very aesthetic object of this sculptures, whose forms were structurally conceived.
For revealing or approaching wood as it is, the thing itself – using a term by the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl – his art reaches a frontier divestment. At the same time, as one can see at his present works so-called Piramidais [Pyramidals], the tension between rigor and game is kept, but a difference occur. The pyramidal form, in its turn, underlines a solemnity. Hieratical, able to expand up to the infinite if enlarging its base over and over, a Piramidal [Pyramidal] expresses its force through a mystic and almost religious quality. Like the Infinite Column by Constantin Brancusi, that form aspires to the Absolute, the desire of unfolding in the course of the sky, the Wholeness. Thence, the power of that four-meter-high work made by aluminium plates. Raised to the infinite, with its large hollowed-out triangles, the great pyramid emphasizes, in a lofty way, the current process of Ascânio MMM.
Although Piramidais [Pyramidals] reveal an outstanding quality owing to their form – an archetypal one, present in the archaism of the unconsciousness and in the mythical sagas – they just intend being the poetics of object. Expressing nothing but the thing at all, the pyramidal form makes Ascânio’s art near the purity of object. With their sectional forms, unresting openings, abrupt cuts, those new sculptures can be valued by two processes: the reduction in the baroque quality from his first works and an increase in the rigor of structure.
Besides the heat of wood or the aluminium ascetism, the work still operates through the opening, which breaks the heavy structure of the pyramid and makes it lighter, evoking an inner space, an introspection relative to its portentous and mythical form. The great aluminium sculpture, proper to public sites and gardens, retains two movements at last: the one that comes from outside, expressed in its monumental presence, its hieratical figure full of symbols; and another that comes from inside – as an effect of the openings – allowing the great mass to join the lanscape, to interpenetrate the perception of the spectator whom it confronts with. So, the power of the mythical image is subjectified.