Curator: Isabel Carlos
Hall, Level 0 and Room A and B, Garden of the CAM
Covering twenty years of production, this is the first anthological exhibition of the work of Rui Chafes (Lisbon, 1966).
Chafes' explorations in iron sculpture examine phenomena such as 'dreams', 'death' and 'pain', creating a powerful physical world that demands direct contact with the visitor.
One of the most renowned artists of his generation, Chafes played a key role in the return-to-sculpture movement that took place in the late twentieth century. Over one hundred works occupy the nave of the CAM and the rooms immediately preceding it. Other works can also be found in the garden, either hiding among the bushes or provoking encounters with the visitor.
Indeed, one of the four new sculptures created for the exhibition creates a link between the nave and the garden. A world of black iron in which the concepts of weight and lightness, the floor and the ceiling, high and low, hard and soft, inside and outside, full and empty, and suspension and falling exist alongside each other. These paradoxes lead to a vast output of dense and heavy sculptures that almost always appear to be fragile and light, suggesting an atmospheric gravity, a falling upwards.
The exhibition includes two of Rui Chafes' collaborative works, one created with the Irish artist Orla Barry and the other with the filmmaker Pedro Costa.
Whether stuck to the ground or suspended in the air, Chafes' sculptures are also frequently traversed by light, the key examples of this phenomenon being the works made from iron mesh.
The mesh allows the skin to be evoked as if it were an enclosing wrapping. At the same time, however, its transparency allows light and the spectator's gaze to pass through it, thereby reinforcing one of the most fundamental aims behind these works: that of turning a material as raw and heavy as iron into something organic and fragile which, through its shape, may even point to sexuality as something that simultaneously releases and restricts.
In formal terms, his work is an offspring of minimalism and conceptualism and two names - Richard Serra and Joseph Beuys - are sufficient for us to understand the extent to which this legacy is worked in a way that is highly exact, unique, singular and absolutely characteristic of the artist: no Chafes sculpture recalls anything other than a Chafes sculpture.