Lucas Simões’s “Luscofusco” (on view through August 19, 2023) is extremely satisfying. Masterfully fabricating concrete and steel is one thing, but it’s a poetic feat, another thing altogether, to do so tenderly.
Simões, who is formally trained as an architect, lives in São Paulo, a city known for its form-follows-function buildings. Though his works are deeply informed by São Paulo’s Modernist and Brutalist histories, his works are unburdened by too much rationality. Perfectly molded, dyed concrete forms take on the colors of a sunset—bright, crisp blue; nostalgic, dusty pink; pale, rusty orange. Simões uses these softly colored and curvaceous elements to break the sternness of the carbon steel shapes with which they are paired. The resulting interruptions hint at the unruly organic, from falling raindrops to the bulbous and irregular human body. Significant wall sculptures like Megabyxos, The Phenomenology of Roundness for Artemide No. 3, and Linguaruda—the collective mouth that speaks it all skirt right up next to the biological but never fully break the line of architectural restraint, never fully subvert Modernist control.
The combination of steel and concrete in Simões’s works is an apt meditation on our current cultural moment. Buildings respond to buildings, epoch reacts to epoch: What legacy will architecture aspire to now as the planet heats, melts, and moves according to new, unforeseen factors? Will we see an era of such utilitarian need that extreme ornamentation is the only answer, every new building designed with a brise soleil that can shade hundreds or even thousands at a time?
Other works are less poetic and more seductive. Dormentes n. 2, a languid, sultry composition nesting two curved lengths of iridescent, galvanized steel, hangs from the ceiling by nylon ties, rope, and a pulley, coming to rest on the floor. The title translates to “dormant,” “sleep/sleepers,” or “numb,” depending on the context. The hard metal is riveted into a perma-relaxed posture. Seven other works in the show are similarly titled.
“Luscofusco,” the exhibition title, is Portuguese for “twilight,” or as the gallery statement says, “the magic hour between day and night, where light blurs definitions of color, shape and intent.” There is a mystical delight in the quick shift of the gloaming, when the loss of sunlight begins to slow our rhythms and our bodies, when day creatures give way to night creatures, when we begin to prop ourselves up with the artificial structures of man. The works in “Luscofusco” poke holes in the gridded and girded ideas of architectural function. Though buildings are made to serve a purpose, mostly as altars in which to worship our own egos, nature sticks her tongue out at us by sending dandelions up through the concrete. “Luscofusco” adopts this reclaiming as a playful push-back against the legacy of Modernism, using form, color, and language to highlight its triumphs as well as its many failures, which we are reckoning with today.
Simões has also intervened in the gallery space itself, creating a few gilded ledges that look like shelves, or design mistakes, in the interior doorways. Small gestures, they blend into the existing layout of the space. They seem to be an afterthought, easily overlooked in what is otherwise a tight, confident, and philosophical exhibition.