Of the 30 or so paintings involving textiles that I saw at this year’s Armory Show, there was one very distinct from the rest—Delson Uchôa’s Inhabited Painting (2016). “You can touch it, too,” the representative from Curitiba, Brazil’s SIM Galeria, Simões de Assis, said when she caught me eyeing the piece. “Go on,” she added, caressing the work’s glossy surface. “It’s an interactive installation.”
The piece, constructed of ten resin panels suspended by overhead rails, is shaped like a room, with the semiopaque overlapping segments acting as walls. The viewer is encouraged to enter and rearrange this room-like space, sliding the different panels along the tracks to make new compositions. As the light travels through this enclosure, the sheets act like stained glass, altering the light’s hue. The arrangement of the panels then dictates the color of the room, and different configurations of different palettes and light result in a fluctuating ambiance. (However, this effect isn’t apparent at the fair itself, due to the venue’s static fluorescent lighting.)
The panels that comprise Inhabited Painting are all cast from Uchôa’s floor. “The artist,” di Assis explained, “pours resin on his floor and just leaves it there for the dogs to walk on.” She began fingering the panel again and continued, “It has history. You can feel it.”
The piece’s grid-like pattern is a direct index of this surface, but more of Uchôa’s floor can be found on the work, imbedded as a textured residue. De Assis took me around to the “backside” of the painting to see this residue in detail. In the narrow, dimly lit space between drywall and panel I could just make out places where the tile had been lifted.
The process Uchôa employed to make Inhabited Painting is pretty standard for the Brazilian artist, who has worked primarily with painted resin for the past three decades or so. However, the piece does feel a little more grunge than his previous works.
In a video the artist shows the behind-the-scenes process that went into making Inhabited Painting—casting the floor, pouring the wet polymer, peeling back the skin-like sheets, cutting and folding this firm yet malleable material, and cleaning the surface (which he does with soapy water and a dust broom). Each of these steps has a distinctive sensory profile—a particular sight, sound, and texture—and when amassed they create an almost synesthetic buffet.
The experience of Inhabited Painting is an experience of collapse—of the folding in of window, walls, floors, and doors to create an undefined polychromatic cavity in which the viewer can internalize their exterior world through subtle fluctuations in color.
Despite the implied interdependence of the panels in creating this space, you can purchase each piece (distinct in color, opacity, and set of fingerprints) for $40,000 to $80,000, depending on its size.