Glaze (Savana) (2005) is an assemblage of found materials: a car wheel, a tire, and a wooden plinth of the type traditionally used to display sculpture. It directly engages with the readymade, a subject that Alexandre de Cunha takes up throughout his practice, often inflecting it with a tropical, and South American–inspired materiality and painterly style that could potentially come across as a stereotype. Here, da Cunha transforms the component parts into a composition that highlights often-overlooked materials of artistic production and cultural mass-production.
The series West (Flag 1), West (Flag 3), and West (Flag 6) continues da Cunha’s ongoing exploration of the form’s various vertical, horizontal, and diagonal stripes. Here, da Cunha overlays thick bars of color (blue, green, and red) on photographs of the ocean at sunset with surfers in floating on the horizon. The solid colors contrast with the fading colors reflected in the sunset, and the tilted orientation suggests a familiar California beach scene.
In Laissez-Faire (Rainbow Flag) da Cunha has turned a beach towel into both a painting and a flag. Where the printed surface of the towel originally served to enliven this commodity, here the pattern—now stretched and re-presented—suddenly refers to abstract painting’s promises of transcendence. And its crisply painted shape pulls the printed colors into the rectangularity of the canvas and, as da Cunha notes, the graphic iconicity of flags.
Alexandre da Cunha reinvents found objects in surprising ways that combine the material characteristics of Arte Povera with the concerns and techniques of painting. Da Cunha’s work often features flags—either as a found material per se or as a constructed form—that reflect the artist’s interest in issues of nationality, governmental politics, allegiance, and culture.