Ocula Magazine   |   Insights   |   Exhibition

Creating figures, forms, and props from a minimalist toolbox of wood, wax, paint, and found objects, Ana Mazzei doesn't create works so much as she makes stages out of them.

Ana Mazzei Sets the Stage for Action

Left to right: Ana Mazzei, Cadeiria Trono (2021). Wood and cushion. 100 x 43 x 33 cm; Cadeira Meditacao (2021). Wood and cushion. 72.5 x 47 x 31 cm. Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery.

The results are always activations of body and space through the distillation of their architectures, whether scaffolding or bones.

Exhibition view: Anna Mazzei, Antechamber, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (12 November 2018–5 January 2019).

Exhibition view: Anna Mazzei, Antechamber, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (12 November 2018–5 January 2019). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Take the 'Templo' series, presented at Galeria Jaqueline Martins as part of the show Vesuvius (26 September–18 December 2020), which drew on the archaeological forms and memories of Pompei.

In the gallery, wooden panels cut into shapes extracted from the forms of a citadel—a circle standing on two slim rods and a column with the edges of a graphic cloud, in the case of Templo – Face Norte (2020)—were arranged to create a dynamic enclosure.

Ana Mazzei, Cogumelo VI (2021). Wood. 33 x 29 x 7 cm.

Ana Mazzei, Cogumelo VI (2021). Wood. 33 x 29 x 7 cm. Courtesy the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Space is what charges Mazzei's work. Whether references to the cosmos, as in Cometa (2020), a blue wooden comet poised on the tip of a slim wooden pole fastened to a block painted the colours of a sunset; the rooms in which such works are positioned; or the gaps in each composition.

For Corpo Parede (2018), viewers were invited to activate four wooden stick figures arranged on a blue wall of the Museum of Modern Art São Paulo, seemingly paired off into one-on-one duels, by positioning their bodies between the lines.

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Antechamber, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (12 November 2018–5 January 2019).

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Antechamber, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (12 November 2018–5 January 2019). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Mazzei's triangulation between body, prop, and set creates a potent tension that fuses fragments into cohesive yet untethered tableaux, as demonstrated by the artist's recent show Drama O'Rama at Secs Pompeia Sāo Paulo (16 October 2019–2 February 2020), where installations acted like prompts to ignite a field of imaginations.

The artist's latest show at Green Art Gallery in Dubai, Sleepwalk (15 November 2021–31 January 2022), is no different, with works (all 2021) conjuring a nocturnal realm of waking dreams through which viewers are invited to walk.

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022).

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

A thin black curtain stitched with small golden pieces reminiscent of votive offerings cuts across the room at the entrance, creating the sense of a private ecclesiastical or monastic corridor preceding an inner sanctum.

Hung on the wall in the far corner are Cogumelo V and Cogumelo II: small wooden assemblages depicting minimalist architectural structures evocative of de Chirico's surrealist settings. In the former, dark blue stairs descend from the side of a blue tower, while the latter shows a rainbow-striped arch reaching up from a rectangle that continues the colour gradation.

Left to right: Ana Mazzei, Cogumelo V (2021). Wood. 22 x 22 x 7 cm; Cogumelo II (2021). Wood. 27.5 x 28 x 6 cm. Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022).

Left to right: Ana Mazzei, Cogumelo V (2021). Wood. 22 x 22 x 7 cm; Cogumelo II (2021). Wood. 27.5 x 28 x 6 cm. Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Positioned below these works is a chair, Cadeira Trono, and floor sculpture, Cadeira Meditacao, defined by pyramidal wooden frames. Each bears a red velvet cushion—at the seat and base respectively—with an appliquéd hand elegantly poised amid gold threaded lines stitched to show rays of light in one, and stars and waves in the other.

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022).

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Cross over to the other side and the curtain becomes the backdrop for a stage, with four sculptures, what the artist describes as 'shadows', positioned in a line. Among them is Sombras V, a geometric front-facing bird in flight shaped by black fabric stretched over wire, and Sombras IV, a large abstract face in profile—its eye, nostril, and mouth marked by holes cut from fabric painted ashen blue—mounted on a wooden bipod.

Facing this stage at the back of the room is another scene. This time, a large, black rectangle painted on the back wall, signalling another platform, with a set of eight minimalist wooden forms poised in front of it, including Escandinha, a slim wooden plinth on which wooden stairs rest.

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022).

Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Each freestanding sculpture seems to embody the role of character and spectator at once. Standing in the space between the two stages, it can feel as if you've been caught in the middle of a stand-off or have woken up on a stage.

But this impression too, is fleeting, given the sense of enclosure that the artist extends through 'Mind Maps', a series of four works lining the wall between both stages, two on each side, completing a theatrical set-up in the round.

Ana Mazzei, Sombras IV (2021). Wood, wire, and fabric. 138 x 73 x 44 cm.

Ana Mazzei, Sombras IV (2021). Wood, wire, and fabric. 138 x 73 x 44 cm. Courtesy Exhibition view: Ana Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Slim wooden beams painted in bright colours—from forest green and midnight blue to fuchsia, and canary yellow—form irregular grids hosting felt shapes, whether a circle and half circle on either end of two perpendicular rods in Mind Maps II, or a tall vertical rectangle curved on one side in Mind Maps III.

In Mind Maps I and III, the model of a hand appears. In the former, a white hand attached to a wooden base perched on a horizontal slat has had its fingers dipped in hot pink paint; while in Mind Maps II, a mannequin's foot extends out from the bottom of a central line.

Left to right: Ana Mazzei, Mind Maps IV (2021). Wood, felt, bronze. 213 x 191 x 3.5 cm; Mind Maps III (2021). Wood, plastic, and felt. 198 x 160 x 18 cm. Exhibition view: Anna Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022).

Left to right: Ana Mazzei, Mind Maps IV (2021). Wood, felt, bronze. 213 x 191 x 3.5 cm; Mind Maps III (2021). Wood, plastic, and felt. 198 x 160 x 18 cm. Exhibition view: Anna Mazzei, Sleepwalk, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (15 November 2021–31 January 2022). Courtesy Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

The presence of these figurative fragments, which cut through a geometric field, amplifies the effect of Mazzei's minimalist sculptures. Each one, poised for any body's connection. —[O]

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