Leonardo Damonte, a young Argentinian sculptor, had his first solo exhibition at the Sicart Gallery, in Barcelona in 2007; just one year later, he received his first international award—first prize at the Art Biennial of Bahía Blanca in Argentina. Even though he has had a successful academic career, Damonte has always preferred to learn more independently, following a personal and intuitive creative guide. His formal know-how, however, serves as a starting point to structure his work, including installations in which space itself becomes the main protagonist.
Sculpture and installation allow Damonte to play, explore, and experiment. Though he cites Jessica Stockholder, Tony Cragg, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Reinhard Mucha, and Jason Rhoades as important influences, his trajectory is distinctly personal. His work synthesizes two distinct plastic languages—assemblage/readymade elements and sculptural objects solidly planted in space—into a personal syntax. In his hybridized creations, these two modes of working nurture each other. There’s a permanent and stable tension between ordinary objects and their insertion into the final form of the larger artwork. As Damonte explains, “I [study] the different instances of intervention, resistance, or transformation that might be produced by an aesthetic discourse regarding a given objective reality, and at the same time, I always try to find new sculptural possibilities using a variety of materials such as plastics, rubber, glass, wood, and everyday objects, attending especially to the relationship between these materials and their compositional organization in terms of size, location, scale, and proportion of the objects in space.” A little skeptical about “inspiration,” as a source of creativity, Damonte believes that the creative process is developed over time and requires hard work and study in both practical and conceptual terms. The sources that feed creativity, however, are infinite and unexpected. With this idea in mind, he sets an interesting challenge for himself, articulating a particular discourse in order to make other, invisible discourses manifest. The finished work becomes a place in which different languages converge to reveal something new. Damonte begins with sketches of the general idea—nowadays, usually in digital format—but the work itself materializes in situ. As with any site-specific work, results are achieved as the sculpture is realized.
Color plays an increasingly important role in Damonte’s recent works, contributing to a sense of monumentality. Speaking of the sculptures for which he received the 2013 Braque Award, he explains: “The project consists of three modules, assemblages of different materials and shapes, which are disposed in space in such a way that colors lead from one piece to the other, creating a chromatic sequence that establishes a dialogue and a dynamic vibration between the parts integrating the installation, and also allowing the spectator to approach and develop multiple readings. In this work, yellow leads. There is a color related to the forms, and then I add other materials to complete the different elements that together make the piece. In addition, electrical devices such as fluorescent tubes generate a certain rhythm, as well as an inter- esting visual effect. Cables provide a sense of untidiness that contrasts with the tight control in the distribution of the elements in the space. My work proposes a system of organization based on chromatically related objects in which we lose the perception of individual elements as they become one. Sculpture allows me to create a universe based on an arbitrary organization and to establish a certain tension between the natural state of disparate parts and the necessity of an imposed order. This game between order and disorder, between stability and the instability, becomes the essence of the sculpture. The creative process is one of violence from the moment when the object’s individuality becomes subject to an order. The common factor linking the parts is the procedure of construction itself: the sculpture grows where it is placed, and the instance of its creation becomes a record of that process.”
It is interesting to notice how objects gain new meanings in Damonte’s works, which are conceived in terms of possible relationships between the different parts. He seeks to connect the elements, to find those places where they make contact and where they share some associated empathy; but he is also interested in the tensions that put distance between them. In this, his work could be said to refer to Aristotle’s famous notion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” There is an order within each one of the elements and a supreme order that integrates them harmoniously. The identity of each part relies on the others and loses its individuality in the effort to consolidate a new meta-identity that contains all of the others and challenges the viewer to develop new interpretations.