THE COMPLEXITY OF A BOX
Between 1962 and 1963, Lourdes Castro made a set of boxes full of objects linked by families, covered by a layer of aluminium paint that granted them a paradoxically precious and slick appearance. The word might be pop, because the presence of these boxes is very close to the atmosphere of assemblage in some works by Richard Hamilton, one of the creators of the movement in England.
In Paris, where Lourdes Castro lived with René Bertholo, and where both of them participated in the small community (with João Vieira, Christo, Jan Voss, Costa Pinheiro and José Escada) that published the magazine KWY, the froth of time brought the winds of nouveau réalisme. This movement, the members of which included Yves Klein, Pierre Restany, Raymond Hains and, later on, Christo (among many others), started out from the principle that reality could be appropriated into the world of art – everything could be turned into an artistic image, from the posters half torn off the walls to daily waste.
It was in this atmosphere of creative democracy, at a time when art risked losing its aura of the exceptional in order to embrace the everyday, that Lourdes Castro made her boxes. Her refined sensitivity, however, would appropriate these influences in a sophisticated manner, granting them a turn of meaning coming from their sacralisation: starting from a process usually used for relics or religious memorabilia (the gold or silver plating), she decided to plate the objects and the boxes with aluminium paint, which granted them a unique and precious quality. Yet that unique and auratic quality was achieved through a process that removed their manual presence, which was suited to the artistic, and then gave them an impersonal and industrial appearance. It is this paradox that makes them so interesting, because it sets off a pop art realism in the sense that the fascination for the everyday acquires an impersonal glamour, as happens with most of the works by the artists who made pop art.
These (paradoxical and strangely co-existing) characteristics are joined by a third one: the type of objects gathered in each of these wall boxes – yes, they are three-dimensional paintings, which also grants them a specific originality – can be brought together under the category of the “domestic”, belonging to different moments, or forms, of domestic life and here placed as if in a temporary tidying up, in transit. They are therefore the work of a displaced, emigrated artist, thinking about her condition – and also about her female condition.
In the simplicity of putting some things together with others, Lourdes Castro manages to produce an enormous complexity.
And to place us, without any moral discourses, in front of it.