Think of bronze sculptures and you tend to imagine classical busts or dynamically posed statues – all portrayals of the human body at its most defined and heroic. Brazilian artist Erika Verzutti wittily plays off such traditions. Her bronzes aren’t sculptures exactly; they’re small, chunky reliefs that hang on the wall. These squarish panels have been roughly hand-worked and painted to give a vague or symbolic impression of human – particularly female – forms.
In ‘Star Without Makeup’, scythe-like, softly bulging structures denoting eye-slits, mouths or moons emerge from a rippled background of burnished gold. ‘Bikini’ features four arcing grooves in its black surface, each painted a different bright colour, like some primitive cartoon or cave painting of hips and bust. And everywhere you look there are panels filled with holes or dots and titles that make reference to female identity; there’s even a diptych whose blue-black and white-gold patterns refer to last year’s favourite internet phenomenon, the colour-shifting dress. The sense you get is of femininity becoming transformed into something iconic, rudimentary or stereotypical – a sort of halfway point between sculpture and painting where real-life, three-dimensional depictions become compressed into a flatter, more abstract condition.
Some pieces feel too gauche or obvious. ‘Parque México’, for instance, has all the subtlety of a saucy seaside postcard, with its two scooped-out spheres, like cement impressions, indicating breasts. Really, Verzutti doesn’t need to condescend like that. Her work is best when the imagery is held in check, kept more mysterious or suggestive, and when the feeling of physicality comes from the way she uses materials. Indeed, at times it’s truly astonishing how she makes the dark bronze appear so tactile and palpable, using acrylic paint or wax to give it a rich, glistening, liquorice-like effect.