If the world is not black and white, perhaps love is. In his new show at Kumukumu, Fernando Mastrangelo renders the rawest of human emotions in dichromatic figures and shapes. This is not to say that love is simple, of course—only that it eschews gradation. Like fellow-Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, Mastrangelo uses ‘symbolic’ media: in this case, sugar. Many of the sculptures are made of this substance, hard-cast and dyed black, and the irony of a sooty heart carved out of something sweet need not be expounded here.
Kumukumu is an oddly proportioned gallery, no more than eight feet wide, no less than thirty-five long. Such dimensions suggest the narrow run of a nautical ship, and, once we observe the supine anchor and porthole-shaped paintings, we can have little doubt that we’ve stumbled onto a floundered Love Boat. But the space also recalls the cramped run of a New York apartment, and it’s more fun to imagine ourselves in someone else’s private quarters. Sure, most lovers have tiffs, shriek, curse, cry, and crack the occasional dinner plate—but how often has your quarrel ended with a charred raft in the middle of your living room, or, for that matter, the severed lower half of a female body? It takes us only a moment to recognize what sort of scene this is, and once we do, it feels like one we’ve visited before, if only in imagined form.
This is love expressed in both the bleakest and brightest terms. The word itself, wall-hung in high-watt fluorescent bulbs, casts a mean white light on the debris below it. In a very strange way, Mastrangelo prods our own sense of responsibility. We’ve come into this nice, hygienic gallery and found a mess. Our first impulse is to start cleaning up, to sweep the scattered sugar and chunks of human torso, to restore the strewn objects to their proper places. The desire to nurture stands in dramatic contrast to the urge to destroy, but, like black and white, both might mean the same thing.