b. 1971, São Paulo
Erika Verzutti was born in São Paulo in 1971. She studied industrial design at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo (1991), and continued her postgraduate studies in art at Goldsmiths College, London (1999–2000). Verzutti’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures represent the denizens of alternative worlds located somewhere between the real and the fantastic. Her work is characterized by the use of vernacular materials and the incorporation of “accidents”—scratches, breaks, and stains—that result in disturbing yet familiar effects.
Verzutti’s sculptures hover between abstraction and figuration but often take sensuous forms suggestive of animals or vegetation. Tropical plants occupy an especially privileged position in the artist’s iconography, as exemplified by the series Forms of Jaca (2008–11), an exhaustive exploration of the visual qualities of the jackfruit, a tree common to Brazil. Verzutti’s 2011 sculpture Porn Star references Constantin Brancusi’s iconic column structures of the early twentieth century by piling multiple bronze casts of the star fruit into a towering phallic stack. The value of the material employed is at once highlighted and undermined by the drips of white acrylic paint that dribble from the top of the work.
In 2010 Verzutti worked with a group of Brazilian artists that included Jac Leirner, Ernesto Neto, and Adriana Varejão to develop the sculpture Seven-Headed Monster (Bicho de 7 Cabeças); each participant was invited to create one head of the titular beast. The diversity of the creators’ styles combine to form a strange amalgamation of the various contemporary legacies of Brazilian modernism. Pet Cemetery (2008) is a set of expressive sculptures that alludes to animal burial. Each component work is displayed on a precarious structure or a conventional pedestal. These are grouped in a graveyard-like installation, an arrangement that casts doubt on any sentimental association of art with deathless beauty.
Verzutti has had solo exhibitions at Centro Cultural da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2003); Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo (2008, 2010, and 2011); Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich (2012); and Centro Cultural São Paulo (2012). Her work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions including When Lives Become Form: Creative Power from Brazil, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, Barbican Centre, London (both 2008); Home Again, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Lilliput, High Line Art, New York; and Aire de Lyon, Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires (all 2012); Mitologias por Procuração, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (2013); and Cruzamentos: Contemporary Art in Brazil, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2014). Her work has been included in the Lyon Biennial (2011) and Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013), and she completed a residency with Arts Initiative Tokyo (2010). Verzutti lives and works in São Paulo.