From the street the gallery window is blacked out except for an over-sized mouse hole. The device initially seems rather coy but once you enter, you realise that it works because you know at once that you are in a special space.
Damasceno is a Brazilian artist whose work was last seen in this country in 2014 in an acclaimed installation Plot, commissioned by Artangel. The title of his new exhibition evokes Cicero’s dialogue on Roman politics and the political nature of this show is immediately evident.
The gallery is dominated by a giant triptych of the female head of Republica, taken from Brazilian banknotes. The stony face has been humanised by the way the eyes in each of the images have been drawn, in so that her gaze seems to move across the space. She looks anxious.
There are animals: a large stone hedgehog which might possibly have squeezed out of a Perspex tunnel, a small horse on the floor and a beautiful little fox high up on the wall.. The wall on the other side plays host to a flock of elegant little shapes, carved from stone, which we are told derive from the slide keys of a mixing desk. Their placement is irregular and evokes syncopations or different dance rhythms. It also reminds me of Anri Sala’s Ravel, Ravel, UnRavel of 2013.
The relationships between these sculptures was mysterious. But the effect was not simply light and graceful, it had the elusive but memorable character of poetry. In my opinion this is work of rare quality.
Jose Damasceno RE:PUBLICA is at Thomas Dane, 5 Duke Street, St James’s, SW1 from 9 March to 14 April