A wide-ranging selection of some of the artist's finest pieces, addressing the natural world and our relationship with it.
Waddington Custot, London
4th September – 25th October 2020
“FOR ME, THIS is going to be the first time I don’t see my own show. I feel as though I have already died and things are happening without me. It is a warm-up for that.”
Pablo Reinoso is dismayed. The London gallery Waddington Custot has just opened a solo show of the Franco-Argentine sculptor’s work, supported by two consecutive online exhibitions, and, because of quarantine regulations, Reinoso cannot be in London. “This show represents something very deep for me,” he says. “We chose some very special pieces. If I would say there is one show that is going to represent me well, I would say it is this one.”
The special works range in date from 2006 – when his excitement about the possibilities of wood and the traditions of furniture-making inspired his hanging sculpture, ‘AP 2006 Silla Peluda’ (a homage to the iconic bentwood chair by Michael Thonet) – to 2019, with ‘Marco Paris I’, a classic picture frame invaded by spiralling strands of carved wood (an anarchic descendant of Grinling Gibbons’s baroque carved picture frames). The show includes his large sculptural installation of three similarly entwined large frames, entitled ‘The Three Graces’, from 2012, and examples of his exuberant benches, such as ‘Curly Bench’ (2019; in wood and steel) and the practically animate painted steelwork, ‘Spider Bench’ (2011).
Reinoso learned carpentry at an early age from his grandfather, before going on to study marble sculpting in Carrara, Tuscany, in 1978. While he works across the range of natural materials, including stone, marble and slate, it is wood that is his primary medium and which has transformed him from a fine craftsman into an artist who champions nature and the environment. He tells me, “When I started to be a sculptor I was very young and, for me, wood was like being in a candy store. It was a pleasure to work with this material and I never thought that one day it might run out.”
Gradually, however, Reinoso was driven in his work to release wood from its confines within strictly human designs, encouraging the material to spill out in natural tangles into the surrounding area, mimicking the organic forms and patterns of its origins. The most famous examples of these are Reinoso’s ‘Spaghetti Benches’. As Reinsoso puts it, “When I started to work with this idea of giving the material the freedom to decide where it was born to go, this was the first step in my consciousness of the ecological situation. After that, I started to work with branches or trees that had fallen naturally. I try to restore them, to re-permit them to remake a life in a new situation.”
New work taking his ecological thinking further, viewable online, include ‘Galpon Quarantaine’ (2020) and ‘Articulation 6’ (2019) where, respectively, a truncated tree and a rotten branch are supported and protected – indeed given extended life – by that man-made material, steel. There is a fragile balance here between acceptance of man’s culpability in face of nature’s frailty, and a sense that man’s ingenuity might offer hope of repair.
Steel as a material has been critical also in allowing Reinoso to make work for the public realm. His sculptural benches have been installed at locations beside the Quai Gillet in Lyon, on the south terrace of the Elysée Palace in Paris and alongside the River Thames in London, just metres from the sculpture ‘Knife Edge Two Piece’ (1962) by Reinoso’s hero, the British sculptor Henry Moore. In these recent times, Reinoso’s benches take on added significance. We recognise that, in the public realm, they facilitate not just our human relationships with nature and the space around us but also with strangers, a pleasure reduced during lockdown. Reinoso says “For me today, to imagine a sculpture in a public space, permitting people to sit, is a sign of hope. I hope you will soon be back with somebody you don’t know beside you, able to talk.”
Pablo Reinoso at Waddington Custot.