Catalyst Contemporary - "Have & Have-not" a Solo Exhibition by Alberto Cavalieri

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Alberto Cavalieri (Venezuelan, born 1969) has been using sculpture to reconstruct conceptual problems into tangible form for three decades. He is best known for his large-scale metal sculptures that emulate the shape of untethered knots, twisting fluidly and balanced precariously in direct opposition to their weight and materiality. These sublime monuments directly allude to and reappraise the narrative of the twisted, dilapidated, and crumbling civil projects from his native Caracas. In the past decade, he has turned his attention to symbolic sculptures that examine monetary structure, the network of cultural values, and the global consumption of goods. In one iteration of these sculptures, ingots of actual commodities (e.g. peas, corn, beans) are suspended in transparent resin, ready for warehousing and commercialization in a perceived future. The same familiar shape (the gold bar) is molded to appear as oxygen tanks -with the familiar green exterior, precious wood, and other building materials, as if these stockpiles are part of a destiny where these valuables will be exchanged directly, rather than bought and sold.

Alberto Cavalieri, 2017, Miami, Florida
Artists Stock, 2022, Concrete blocks, 36 x 22 x 20 in. Artists Stock, 2022, Bloques de concreto, 91.44 x 55.88 x 50.8 cm.

Personal Reserve 1, 2015, Wheelbarrow and concrete ingots, 56.9 x 57.1 x 25.6 in.

Personal Reserve 1, 2015, Carretilla de construcción y lingotes de concreto armado, 144.5 x 145 x 65 cm.

In his most recent works, Cavalieri moves this idea of valuation even further from the imagined currency of the ingot and the transfiguration of forgotten municipal fiascos. In a new typology of the stackable block form, he demotes the bullion to a 6 x 6 x 20 inch poured concrete blockbanal, gray, both useful and useless - and imbued only with the power of recognizable symbols, trademarks, or proper names of art and cultural aristocracy, or anonymous phrases that beg reply from the viewer. From commodities, to concepts, from corporate brands to cryptocurrencies, Cavalieri’s conceptual cuboids comment on human utilization, exploitation and consumption of resources, and especially our predilection to hunger for more. These multiple bodies of work, purposefully tied together for the exhibit at Catalyst Contemporary, trace Cavalieri’s concerns about human relationships and our responsibilities to each other. The exhibition points to the artist’s deep interest in oppositional forms and function in his representation of a personal vision, as well as very real objects of desire in our obsessive, consumer economy, effectively pointing out deep social divisions.


Knots are “an element created by man to solve for a given situation,” says the artist.1 Cavalieri’s knot sculptures run the gamut in material and style from the earliest welded and painted steel forms, which seek to hide the method of their making, to highly engineered loops that reveal their fabricated construction. Contorted forms balance precariously defying the possibilities of such heavy and solid structures. At times elegant and polished and other times conveying a look of decay and mangled parts, the artist seeks to reconcile oppositional forces not only materially but also

Anemoi, 2008, Cast Iron, 61.8 x 60.2 x 30.7 in. Anemoi, 2008, Hierro fundido, 157 x 153 x 78 cm.

symbolically. These decaying construction forms can be understood as a clear nod to the proliferation of abandoned public projects seen throughout Venezuela. They point out the chasm that exists in that region’s society and directly reflects that mundanity of their real-life counterparts. The haves have plenty; the havenots have only broken dreams. Yet, his sculpture creates an opportunity to bring a spiritual harmony to the unfulfilled promise by turning the concept of the failed commitment into a shining symbol of affirmation.

Knot Beam, 1997, Steel and concrete, 11.8 x 27.6 x 15.3 in.

Knot Beam, 1997, Acero y concreto, 30 x 70 x 39 cm.

Cavalieri’s knot sculptures fall into several categories of materiality. The earliest knots are smooth, impossible structures that play with balance and equilibrium. A series of sculptures made of distressed wood and giant steel nails confound expectation of function and elevate cast-off scraps of bent metal and wood into monumental works of art, echoing exaggerated explosions of urban detritus in his hometown. In the same way, steel molds still attached to the concrete that filled them — complete with visible rebar — take viewers on a journey through their making, clearly showing the process and materials that produced them. These sculptures are not the result of tying metal into a knot. The materials cannot be physically bent to form the configurations.

Not to be deterred, in a group of subsequent forged steel sculptures, Cavalieri bends the metal into knots through thermal energy. This feat draws attention to both the maker as well as the supreme statement of the object itself. The smoothness and urbanity of his earliest knots returns in work from the late 2000s but this time all the joints and hardware are visible - precise and purposeful - a reminder of the human involvement in their making. Some of these geometric, aluminum forms even have non-functional vents at the open ends, as if they are exhaust ports extracted from a building and twisted into aesthetically pleasing and slightly absurd forms. The knots transcend the reality of the previous raw and referential works, moving towards a sophisticated, purposeful re-conceptualization.

In an effort to scale-up his vision and make monumental, holistic works, Cavalieri began conceiving of his sculptures through careful engineering via a computeraided-design program (CAD). The different prefabricated parts, in theory, enable anyone to construct their own forms - a type of highly engineered democratization

and standardization.

Sculptures constructed of modular units with visible, precisely fitting hardware, enable the artist to create myriad forms using an economy of elements. These modular pieces may represent the potential of future constructions and be a beacon of hope for all the have-nots, to construct necessary public spaces to suit their needs.

These knot sculptures adhere to a Minimalist construct: it is all about form, weight, balance, and texture. To these considerations, Cavalieri adds layers of conceptual meaning: his concern about the constant quotidian reminder of abandoned promises brings deeper human significance to the works. The knot sculptures take viewers on a journey from beautiful potential in the first elegant knots, through the deconstructed versions, and finally offer a solution to the problem of disparity: design a method using modular elements that could allow anyone to construct a sculpture.

Cavalieri’s CAD drawing Inoxidables (Stainless) exhibition view, 2014, Espacio Monitor, Caracas Vista de la exposición Inoxidables, 2014, Espacio Monitor, Caracas


In the same way that Cavalieri’s ideas about the knots progress through each type of sculpture, so too do the heaped, stacked, and mounded ingots of his more recent work. Ingots are traditionally used with precious metals to create standardized forms for storage, transportation, and to bring to market. Not only do Cavalieri’s ingots contain natural resources that sustain life instead of a highly safe-guarded metal commodity (reminding us of the limited resources on the planet), but they also nod to systems of consumptive economics and financial performance. In these ingots, the artist imagines a future scarcity where lifesustaining commodities will take the place of gold as an exchange value. Their potential as stores of food to be reconstituted and used to feed people in the future is a twist on our understanding of currency. This shift would affect the gap between the haves and have-nots as conspicuous consumption for its own sake would be anachronistic. Cavalieri creates many forms of the ingot including oxygen tanks, precious wood, concrete for building, water canteens, and more, to prepare for a future of limited resources, where direct exchange of these items becomes the dominant medium of social economic reciprocity.


In 2021, amid the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cavalieri expanded the symbolic construct of value and currency by focusing on conce pts surrounding objects of desire. In the sculptor’s hands, ideas are contained within modest concrete blocks that are the scale of generic construction materials. During the molding process, he uses 3D printed objects that he has designed, to deboss the surface of the blocks with names, symbols, or phrases. This might include a type

O2 Stock, 2017, Painted steel, bronze and aluminum valves, 59.8 x 165 x in. O2 Stock, 2017, Acero pintado, válvulas de aluminio y bronce,
152 x 419 x 6 cm.

Fashion Wall, 2021, Concrete blocks, 19.6 x 5.9 x 5.9 in. each Fashion Wall, 2021, Bloques de concreto, 50 x 15 x 15 cm. cada uno

of art (dripping, ready-made), the name of an artist (Bourgeois, Duchamp), the names and logos of luxury brands (Bulgari, Christian Dior), or the names of a global social networks or cryptocurrencies. In using the brand, label, or an artist’s name, no tangible object is identified. Instead, the labels represent an idea of any number of objects that make up the entity (one cannot buy a Bulgari, one must buy a specific item like a watch). These sculptures are satirical plays on the insatiable appetites of society and the overwhelming materialistic values that propel it. More deeply, they comment on the dynamics and socio-economic abyss generated in our psyche between having and not having certain things, to the point that this brings on feelings of inferiority, or conversely - superiority, envy, a sense of failure, and an existential emptiness.

While blocks made of the humblest and most ubiquitous building material — concrete — bearing the marks of luxury commodities points to societal hubris, Cavalieri also makes blocks bearing labels of virtual commodities that by definition will never physically exist in any sense. These concrete blocks bear the names and logos of various digital entities like Facebook and Instagram and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Cavalieri’s concrete blocks obviously contain nothing the labels suggest but represent an idea of consumer goods. Concrete is ubiquitous because of its versatility, strength, and cheapness, and there is no better material to use to confound the idea of rarity and luxury.

Have & Have-not is a culmination of three decades of Cavalieri’s work to artistically reconcile social, economic and cultural mechanisms of our time. The variety of work provides a framework to grasp the intangible. There is an opportunity to understand and visualize Cavalieri’s enduring effort to confront, redefine and even resolve, through thoughtful consideration, social dissonance within highly industrialized and technological world. By emphasizing the positive and recreating with beauty, the past is resolved and the future, redesigned. In their outward, visual discordance, the artist questions not only the limits of materials, but also what they can symbolize. Cavalieri draws attention to the structures of our cultural desires and how they relate to systemic societal failures, as he lays out a path for us to contemplate the future of our value systems.

1 Alberto Cavalieri, Amerant Art Program: (
Apeliotes, 2014, Welded and painted steel, 40 x 35 x 14 ft. Apeliotes, 2014, Acero soldado y laqueado, 11.64 x 10.48 x 4.20 mt.

Tener y no tener Durante casi tres décadas, Alberto Cavalieri (Venezuela, 1969) ha utilizado la escultura para plasmar formalmente problemas conceptuales. Este artista es ampliamente conocido por sus esculturas metálicas a gran escala que emulan nudos y que, a pesar de su fluides, mantienen un frágil equilibrio que contradice su peso y materialidad. En la última década, Cavalieri ha desarrollado esculturas en las que trabaja con la forma de pirámide truncada característica de los lingotes, utilizándola como un medio que le permite establecer relaciones simbólicas y examinar problemas actuales como las estructuras monetarias, los circuitos de valores culturales y el consumo global de bienes. Algunas de estas esculturas están hechas de resina transparente en la que se han encapsulado productos alimenticios básicos, como guisantes, maíz o frijoles. El artista también ha realizado lingotes en acero pintado que representan pequeños tanques de oxígeno, en maderas valiosas

Work in process, 2021, Artist’s workshop, Caracas Obra en proceso, 2021,Taller del artista, Caracas Detail of Carob Stock Carob wood ingots, Detalle
, 2013, 486
3 x 17.7 x 5.5 in. each
de Carob Stock, 2013, 486 lingotes de madera de algarrobo, 7.62 x 45 x 14 cm. cada lingote

y otra variedad de materiales vitales. En sus obras recientes, Cavalieri reitera su idea de bloques apilables realizando paralelepípedos de hormigón de 50 x 15 x 15 centímetros insubstanciales, grises, y tan útiles como inútiles en los que inscribe símbolos reconocibles, marcas, nombres pertenecientes a la aristocracia artística y cultural, o frases anónimas que interrogan al espectador. Desde productos básicos hasta conceptos, desde marcas corporativas hasta nombres de criptomonedas, los hexaedros conceptuales de Cavalieri hablan de la cosificación del ser humano, la explotación, el consumo y, especialmente, de nuestra desmedida avidez. Estos cuerpos de trabajo, puestos en conjunto para la exhibición en Catalyst Contemporary, muestran el interés del artista por los objetos de deseo de nuestra obsesiva economía de consumo, por el tejido relacional humano que la actualiza y por nuestras propias responsabilidades en las profundas divisiones sociales existentes.

Los nudos

Para el artista, el nudo es «un elemento creado por el hombre para dar solución a una situación dada».1 Sus esculturas de nudos son formas contorsionadas que se equilibran desafiando sus posibilidades físicas reales. A veces elegantes y pulidas, y otras, dando expresión al desgaste de los materiales, estas esculturas de Cavalieri han buscado reconciliar fuerzas opuestas tanto material como simbólicamente. Abarcan, también, una amplia gama de materiales y estilos, que van desde las primeras piezas hechas en acero soldado y pintado, donde se buscaba hacer imperceptible las huellas dejadas en su construcción, hasta los bucles de alta ingeniería en los que, por el contrario, se enfatiza la manufactura. Sus primeras esculturas de concreto dejaban expresamente al desnudo el proceso y los materiales que intervinieron en su realización, incorporando los moldes de acero en los que fue fraguado el hormigón, aún adheridos a éste, y dejando visibles las barras de refuerzo estructural. Estas formas de «construcción en

Gallow, 2002, Forged steel, Gallow Acero forjado,
10.72 x 3.90 x 3.25 ft
, 2002,
3.27 x 1.19 x 0.99 mt.

descomposición» quizás efectúan un guiño crítico a la proliferación de proyectos arquitectónicos públicos que han quedado abandonados en toda Venezuela. En esta trayectoria surgió igualmente una serie de esculturas hechas de trozos de madera envejecida y clavos de acero gigantes, que generaban confusión respecto a sus funciones reales y simbólicas, al tiempo que elevaban el material de desecho a la categoría de obra de arte monumental.

No por ser obvio hay que dejar de decir que estas esculturas no son el resultado de hacer un nudo de metal. Los materiales no pueden ser físicamente doblados para formar estas configuraciones, y menos a gran escala. Sin embargo, en un grupo de esculturas posteriores hechas en acero forjado, Cavalieri consigue doblar el metal en nudos a través de la energía térmica. Esta hazaña llama la atención tanto por la intrepidez técnica del artista, como por la enunciación misma de la obra como objeto posible.

A finales de la década de 2000, Cavalieri retoma la suavidad y el refinamiento de sus primeros nudos, pero dejando decididamente visibles las uniones, en una

Aspirational Yellow Yellow
Wall, 2021, Concrete blocks, 19.6 x 5.9 x 5.9 in. each Aspirational Wall, 2021, Bloques de concreto, 50 x 15 x 15 cm. cada uno
Corn Stock, 2020, 22 of ignots encapsulated Yellow Corn in epoxy resin, 1.5 x 9.4 x 3.14 in. each
Corn Stock, 2020, 22 lingotes de maíz encapsulado en resina epoxica, 3.81 x 23.88 x 7.97 cm. cada lingote

Pipeline Frame 4, 2014, Stainless steel, 63.8 x 49.6 x 25.2 in.

Pipeline Frame 4, 2014, Acero inoxidable, 162 x 126 x 64 cm.

especie de recordatorio de la participación humana en la fabricación de la pieza. Algunas de estas formas geométricas de aluminio y acero inoxidable tienen respiraderos no funcionales en sus extremos abiertos, semejando ductos de extracción tomados de un edificio y posteriormente retorcidos en formas estéticamente agradables y ligeramente absurdas. Estos nudos trascienden la realidad de las obras crudas y referenciales anteriores, avanzando hacia una reconceptualización sofisticada y propositiva. En un esfuerzo por ampliar su visión y hacer obras monumentales y holísticas, Cavalieri comenzó a concebir sus esculturas a través de una cuidadosa ingeniería usando un programa de diseño asistido por computadora (CAD). Las diversas partes prefabricadas resultantes, le permiten, en teoría, que cualquier persona pueda acceder a construir sus propias formas, proponiendo una estandarización democratizadora de alta ingeniería. Las esculturas construidas a partir de estas unidades modulares con uniones visibles que se ajustan con precisión, permiten al artista crear innumerables formas con una inusual economía de elementos.

Los lingotes

Los lingotes se usan tradicionalmente como formas estandarizadas que facilitan el almacenamiento, transporte y comercialización de los metales preciosos. Cavalieri se apropia de estas formas para llevar a términos monetarios el valor de ciertos elementos fundamentales no comercializables. Sus lingotes no solo contienen, simbolizan o son hechos de materiales naturales indispensables para la vida recordándonos los recursos limitados del planeta , sino que aluden críticamente a los sistemas de economía consuntiva y a su rendimiento financiero. En los lingotes que encapsulan víveres básicos, el artista proyecta un futuro de escasez alimentaria en el que las materias primas, necesarias para la supervivencia, tomarán el lugar del oro como valor de cambio. En 2021, Cavalieri amplió esta construcción simbólica al centrarse en los mecanismos ideológicos que encierran los objetos de deseo. El artista inscribe nombres, símbolos o frases en la superficie de modestos bloques de hormigón hechos a escala de los usados genéricamente en la construcción. Los nombres se refieren a tipos de arte dripping, readymade o a artistas Bourgeois, Duchamp ; los símbolos copian los logotipos de marcas de lujo Bulgari, Christian Dior , redes sociales ―Facebook, Twitter

o criptomonedas Bitcoin, Ethereum . Estas esculturas apuntan con cierta ironía a la sociedad de consumo y a los valores abrumadoramente materialistas que la sustentan. Más profundamente, hablan del «tener» y el «no tener» y de las dinámicas que los abismos socioeconómicos generan en nuestra psique: sentimientos de inferioridad/superioridad, envidia, sensaciones de fracaso y vacío existencial. Así como los bloques hechos del humilde y ubicuo hormigón llevan impresas marcas de lujo que señalan la arrogancia social, los realizados con logotipos de redes sociales o criptomonedas aluden a productos virtuales que, por definición, nunca existirán físicamente. Los bloques de hormigón de Cavalieri obviamente se distancian de lo que sugieren los logotipos impresos en ellos, pero representan la idea que acompaña la posesión o no posesión de esos bienes de consumo. El concreto es omnipresente debido a su versatilidad, resistencia y bajo costo, y quizás no haya un material más idóneo para confrontarnos con nuestros conceptos de rareza y lujo.

Tener y no tener es la culminación de tres décadas de trabajo utilizados por Cavalieri para abordar artísticamente ciertas dinámicas sociales, económicas y culturales de la contemporaneidad. La variedad de piezas presentadas proporciona un marco para visualizar el esfuerzo constante de este artista por encarar, a través de una consideración reflexiva, la disonancia social dentro de un mundo tecnológico y altamente industrializado, obligándonos a repensar críticamente el materialismo. En la versatilidad de sus piezas, sus juegos formales y oposiciones materiales, el artista no solo cuestiona los límites de la materia sino lo que esta puede simbolizar, llamando la atención sobre las estructuras psíquicas de nuestros deseos culturales y cómo estos se relacionan con los fracasos sociales sistémicos.

Por Katherine Chacon, Brian Miller y Ann Shafer Hephaestus Magnus, 2016, Stainless steel, 12.99 x 13.81 x 6.6 Hephaestus Magnus, Acero inoxidable, 3.96 x 4.21 x 2.01 Amerant Art Program Alberto Cavalieri Artist. [Archivo de Vídeo].
mt. 1
Artist Alberto Cavalieri with Suspenion IPN-200, 2002, Forged steel, 39 x 216 x 35 in. Artista Alberto Cavalieri con Suspensión IPN-200, 2002, Acero forjado, 99 x 556 x 89 cm.
CATALYST CONTEMPORARY is a fine art gallery focusing on contemporary art that tells stories. Located in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood - the cultural heart of the city, Catalyst forges relationships between artists, collectors, and both creative & civic minded individuals. 523 N. Charles St Baltimore, MD, 21201 410.905.0089 CATALYST CONTEMPORARY Cover: Iron and Epiphanies exhibition view, 2009, Freites Gallery, Caracas Portada: Vista de sala de la exposición Hierros y Epifanías, 2009, Galería Freites, Caracas

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