Andrea Carvalho grew up surrounded by the everyday materials used to construct our built environments. Her father was a builder and there were always leftover and scavenged materials around the house that became her playthings. Drywall, lumber and other building bits became her forts and tunnels - her own miniature basement Merzbau*. She has maintained an interest in the built environment and folded that interest into an art practice that takes as its subject our own personal, bodily relationship to it.
In Made to Measure Carvalho focuses specifically on some of Modernism’s iconic architects, ideas and projects and bends them all to her will. She has quite literally created structures, objects and environments specifically tailored to her own particular size. Mining the materiality of the everyday she employs post-minimalist aesthetic and conceptual approaches to disrupt some of Modernism’s clean hard edges into something a little less perfect and a little more messy, transforming mod-cool into warm & cozy.
Chair, a mixed media work that reflects the artist’s interest in nomadic existences, riffs gently on Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, one of America’s first mass produced, and only portable kit houses. Carvalho has built this unit to “function” as a nomadic work station. Side cupboards are handy to store paperwork and a laptop on one side and food, drinks and other supplies on the other. Tyvek (an industrial indestructible paper used as a building wrap) is used to make a pillow to make sure that sitting in Chair is a comfortable and productive experience.
An open road where I can breath is a work comprised of florescent lights, mirror, plexiglass, carpet padding and other everyday materials. The title refers to Carvalho’s experiences of wandering through cityscapes and has been constructed as a kind of topographical map or scene. Other quirky elements in this work include a styrofoam iceberg and plastic bags filled with hardening clay that prop up a large golden arch that seems to announce “welcome” to unsuspecting wanderers.
In 2011 Carvalho participated in a residency at the University of Windsor. There is a part of Windsor called Sandwich Town that is an area in decline as buildings are bought up and left abandoned by the private backer of the new Windsor/Detroit bridge – still in the planning and approval stages. The artist spent many days exploring and wandering Sandwich Town and with an array of found materials scavenged from the decaying buildings there she constructed Engineering, a work comprised of wood, plaster and Styrofoam. The piece reflects some of the architectural features found in the new engineering building being built at the University of Windsor with its progressive eco features such as a green roof and its low energy light systems. (Sandwich Town is directly adjacent to the U of W) The forward march of progress always has its casualties and with Engineering, Carvalho seems to be affectionately paying homage to those displaced and at the same time holding a critical lens over the “Ever Forward!” battle cry of progress.
The three untitled wall works are all hand-cut paper renderings of famous spaces created by iconic Modernist architects, Mies Van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Moshe Safdie. They betray the messy, rough-around-the-edges and pink that Carvalho imbues within her sculptures in this exhibition (yes there is a lot of warm and rosy pink in these works). The minimal execution of these three pieces function as a brilliant counter weight to the objects arrayed around the room. Their purity of line and simple forms embody and confirm some aspects of the Modernist project that perhaps are worth retaining.
*Merzbau was the lifelong project of German artist Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948. It was a vast architectural-sculptural installation - a fantastical built environment, filled with impossible angles, grottos and hidden rooms that was built within the walls of his own house.