Lehman College Art Gallery is pleased to present Endless Lines, the first major exhibition in the United States of the work of Brazilian artist Elizabeth Jobim. Itis being presented concurrently with another installation from the Endless Lines series at Lurixs Arte Contemporanea in Rio de Janeiro. Together they offer an important window onto the work of Elizabeth Jobim. Claudia Calirman, the co-curator of this exhibition, first brought Jobim’s paintings to our attention several years ago. The work seemed just right for Lehman. Jobim’s proposal, a large-scale installation of painted canvases placed side by side, would use the gallery itself as an integral part of the work. The Gallery is located in an architectural gem designed by the International Style architect Marcel Breuer. Its exhibition spaces are open with sculptural angles and soaring poured-concrete ceilings. We felt it was a perfect pairing of aesthetic intent and architectural space.
Jobim starts with stones, those bits of earth that are so basic and universal yet particular — from the streets of Rio or, in the Lehman exhibition, from New York City. In geologic time they are ancient, as old as the earth itself. Jobim chooses stones with angular facets rather than round, smooth river rocks. With them, she begins a series of transformations — from the object to line drawing, to maquette, to painting. The initial line drawings loosely describe the facets of the stone. They are skeletal, minimalist shapes that tumble across the paper with the flow of a gesture drawing. Sometimes the paper is torn into smaller compositions or sections, then reshuffled. They are transposed to the surface of painted maquettes and again reconfigured, with their arrangement guiding the large-scale painting installation. In the final stage, as the full scale paintings are being installed, the order of the paintings is still subject to editing and change. With each transition, the image is further removed from original reference—the object, the stone.
Translucent layers of ultramarine blue are applied with rollers using stencils to define the painted shapes. They are built up in five or six applications creating variations in the surface color and texture. Luminescent whites move forward and the dark blues slink back, setting up a slight optical vibration. At the edge of each painting, shapes meet and continue from canvas to canvas, sometimes seamlessly, and at other transitions the shapes intentionally misalign, creating an abrupt disjunction to the flow. There is a tension between the flat, two-dimensional nature of these abstract shapes and the tendency to read the connected diagonal lines as orthogonal representations of architectural space — corners, windows, doors. In the context of the Lehman space these angled shapes and lines suggest the lines of the gallery itself.
Endless Lines runs one hundred and ten feet and one cannot see the work as a whole from a singular vantage point as the installation is configured in the Lehman gallery. It is panoramic and envelops the viewer. The impact of scale is immediately apparent. It is necessary to walk around the room to experience it, making the viewer an active participant in the viewing. As one moves through the gallery, shapes subtly shift and foreshorten.
Using similar imagery and drawing on similar sources, the installation at Lurixs Arte Contemporanea pushes the painting medium into three-dimensional space. At Lurixs the paintings varying in depth from 2” to 7”, expanding their surfaces from one plane to three planes. Shapes distort, spill over the edges, and continue around corners. Here too the viewing is participatory and clearly requires actual movement – the viewer must walk through the space to see the entire work. In this sense the work is kinetic. Shapes on the lateral planes are sometimes concealed and at other times continue over the primary surface. As the viewer passes, shapes appear and disappear. Jobim’s installation recalls the objetos ativos (active objects) of Brazilian artist Willis de Castro, whose work pressed painting beyond the limits of the two-dimensional. Jobim’s intervention in the viewing experience also suggests the phenomenological investigations of the Neo-Concrete artists for whom perception and the sensory experience played a significant role. Both exhibitions—in New York and in Rio— change the relationship of the viewer to the object. Both provide an environment through which the one explores the work experientially.
Special thanks are due to Elizabeth for the month she spent in New York this summer creating the work for this exhibition. We are grateful to Claudia Calirman for helping us introduce Jobim’s work to our audience and for her insightful essay. Lurixs Gallery in Rio de Janeiro has provided invaluable support of this exhibition and has helped make this endeavor possible. Finally, we would like to thank the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for their financial support of this exhibition.