The Sensuous Evolution of A Paulistano’s Artistic Voice
The sweeping work of young, splash-making São Paulo-based artist Dias Sardenberg mischievously bends the corners of imagistic surrealism and the mystical experience. Not allowing her audience’s psychedelic trip to stray too far into silliness, though, the artist laterally challenges societal infrastructures and myths via humorous, spontaneous collage (most notably with intricately embedded vintage Japanese kimono fabric), creating an anachronistic, inventive lushness.
This issue’s massive cover work, “Hot Coffee,” (nearly 10 feet tall by 17 feet wide) is a sexy foray into much of the above: Americana meets ergoline subversion. Sardenberg, over Skype from her home away from São Paulo—a jungle chalet/studio–speaks on the piece’s creative founding: “When I first came to America years ago, what struck me was the extent of respect for individualism deep within the culture. America was so surreal. And this perception hasn’t changed; it’s simply evolved. This piece is a tribute to that impression.”
Shamim M. Momin–head of non-profit arts organization, The Los Angeles Nomadic Division, and Adjunct Curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art (co-curator of both the 2004 and 2008 Whitney Biennial)–says of Sardenberg’s work, “The work has intriguing similarities to that of Wangechi [Mutu]–the collaging of images by a semi-brutal cutting and pasting approach, an accumulated, frankenstein gathering of limbs and faces that invariably embeds a kind of violence in even the more sensual and sexual of the images.”
Sardenberg’s latest series, “The Mocambo Suite,” sees departure from mixed media and a shift in focus to figurative, complexly rich portraits solely assembled with her signature kimono fabric. Loosely based on the notorious, Latin-themed West Hollywood nightclub, Mocambo, of the ‘40s–which saw frequenting from mid-century heavyweights like Rock Hudson, James Cagney, Grace Kelly, and Marlene Dietrich–the pieces vibrantly connote a kind of sensual swagger, at once modest and brash.
“In the larger works,” Sardenberg says, “I have to create the characters, and they have to work together, they all need to be in scene. In limiting myself to strictly the kimono silks, I had to be more creative. And I felt more liberty. To me, Mocambo exemplifies the freedom of sensuality.”
Momin comments further on “The Mocambo Suite”: “The much more intimate scale of the series amplifies the intensity of the portraits,” she says. “Barely larger than life, the interaction between the viewer and the individual depicted feels more direct–versus the previous mural-sized scenes–while her more minimal, geometric treatment of forms emphasizes the patterning on the kimono fabric, giving them a more active ‘role’ in conveying individual personality. The artist’s stated desire to use the typically hidden layers of the kimono–though obviously not transparent in the works outright–adds a conceptual layer to the images: a reveal, as it were, of the faces or identities hidden beneath the ‘outer layer’ of one’s public persona.”
In an effort to appropriately display Sardenberg’s “Hot Coffee,” Flaunt has created a removable poster of the piece, with several images from “The Mocambo Suite” on the reverse. This is our testament to Sardenberg’s artistic promise: with a career only five years in the making, we’re confident her output will continue to snowball with complexity and erotic charm.