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Transforming pre-established values is the only way to avoid been defined by others.

A conversation between Aldo Chaparro and Alonso Cedillo.



Aldo Chaparro is a Peruvian sculptor whose artistic work is centred in sculpture and design, best known for his works on stainless steel. He currently lives and works between Mexico City, New York City, and Lima. His work has been collected by The Jumex Foundation, The Coppel Collection, The CIFO – Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, The Helga de Alvear Foundation, Simon de Pury, Douglas Baxter, Domenico de Sole, Guler Sabanci, Pierre Huber & Jorge Pérez.

Until the quiet comes (installation view).
Burned wood and neon lights.

Alonso Cedillo -  Which came first, your interest in music or in art?

Aldo Chaparro - It was undoubtely music. However I’ve always produced art, even if some of it was never meant to become a former work itself. I always remember myself during childhood and teens drawing, ensambling, or modeling something. However, the presence of music has always been a constant in my life, nourishing it with phrases, images, and thoughts. Music has taught me a lot. In my teens, music defined my taste, my image, and even my social relationships.  Plus, music has a lot to do with space. I believe it’s not really about sound but about how sound represents and explores space. If we close our eyes while listening to songs we can clearly listen to how some sounds are near us and some of them are far away. Some of them are on the right, other ones on the left, some of them are moving, and other ones are omniprescent. In the end waves exist and displace through space, and as a sculptor, space is my primary interest.

AC - How was the music scene during your youth?

ACHW - Your interests are defined after adolescence and many of them are defined by music. Arguably, it is defining what industry you belong to, depending on the genre. Following adolescence, music helps you find your nitch, it comes with its own aesthetic, a social group and a series of activities that define you.

At that time, there was nightclub in Lima named Bix Pix, the only place in town where you could listen to Nina Hagen, The Cure, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Depeched Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen, to name a few. They were the trending musical bands, the club owner often traveled to London to be aware of what was happening, he had an excellent DJ and, although the place was small it was quite cozy.

My friends and I were locals in that club. It became very popular and was at the time the place to go in Lima. Much of my taste and my way of seeing things was defined during that time. Even in my relationships; it was the first time I felt I could identify with others, something I had not experience before, the pix bix era was when I found my real environment.

AC - What is your association with painting?

ACHW - Painting has always been present in my work, but painting has never been the primary intention. I have always liked the idea of sitting down and producing an oil painting, but to be honest, I've never achieved. Painting has always been a feature of my work, but not a priority, as if it moves silently through my pieces.

That melancholy of a failed relationship has always been something I look to solve in my sculptures. That's why color is an important part of the piece. I have always tackled the matter of color and paint on a conceptual level rather than technical. The content is reflection on the act of painting. In the burned sculptures for example, fire transforms the wood into a pigment, then, by incorporating wax, carbon finds a way to become fixed to the surface. I also produce smaller versions of my totems that I use to print the surface on a piece of linen. So I create a pattern that becomes a new piece. Since I only ink and roll the totems over the linen, these paintings also have a prefabricated nature.

Process of making monotypes.

AC - Lima is a city in the middle of the desert just as Villa García is in Monterrey. What is your relationship with the desert?

ACHW - It has always been my startpoint. While living in Villa de García I took long walks through Monterrey’s desert to experiment absolute solitude. What amazes me the most about deserts is how they manage to hide all of their treasures. After a while, one stops looking for the grandiloquences that we see on the countryside or in a jungle. And only then our eyes find universes of information and beauty in all the small stones, the colours in the sand, the few plants that manage to grow, and in the geographical accidents of space. I can’t stop thinking on how close the desert is to minimalism. In the end, the synthesis of an object always becomes an immersive experience.

Burned wood.
200 x 30 x 30 cm.

AC-  What does your work symbolise to you?

ACHW - Since the beginning, it has always had something to do with destruction and rebirth, mainly because it’s the only way to create a stimulus to free our public from ideological conditioning, standard norms, behaviors, and taste. It’s all about transformation of prefabricated objects which change their nature and become unique. And it’s not only about industrial prefabrication, because just like the steel, wood, and acrylic sheets I use, wood joists and bricks have been prefabricated since long ago. I believe that transforming pre-established values is the only way to avoid been defined by others.  This also relates to the idea of mirroring, which is also a constant in my work. On my works mirrors are agents of change. Sight overcomes the sense of touch. They transmutate form into a disorted visual and untouchable simulation.  As the mirroring accuracy on the steel sheets distorts itself, the sculptures function as goggles that allow a parallel way of experiencing reality. They trigger our sense of exploration so sight can transform into knowledge using the sculptures’ surface as its theater.

The space between destruction and rebirth is decomposition so I use it as my process. The raw materials used to make prefabricated ones are irregular, so after my intervention, the materials return to their original nature. By folding and decomposing the scales and dimensions of prefab materials, new forms emerge from the decaying entities. Ironically, by using solidity as burning fuel, I can show that between solid and void there are no borders in form. In the end, form is defined not by borders but by a mixture of what was removed, and what it is left.

Rethinking Carl Andre's TRABUM (1977).
Wood (Huangana)
90 x 90 x 90 cm.

AC - How do you understand form?

ACHW - Again we go back to my childhood. In those days I lived infront of the Huaca Huallamarca, a pyramid made of adobe bricks. They were handmade espherical volumes, I had several of them in my room and spent lots of days carefully examining them. In each of them you could see the mark of the fingers and hands that had shaped them. After a while I realized they had all been made by different persons. They seemed to have been made through different and unique methods which I could see in their form and surface. This definitely was a strong precedent of how I understand form today.

Gold leafed wood.
120 x 150 cm.
Jorge Perez Collection

AC - What are the intentions for the inclusion of reflective, mirror-like properties that appear throughout your pieces?

ACHW - My interest on reflecting surfaces has been with me since the beginning. The seduction born from a reflecting object, in most of the cases can't be compared with anything. I kind of pushed that limit on myself when I added the electrostatic paint to the steel. It's a really flexible coat, so it allows me to paint the steel before I bend it. The colors I use are transparent. You can see the steel shine through the color. But this is nothing new, sweets have always been wrapped with foil and cellophane. Foil is also common in chocolates, especially golden foil. It holds a tight bond between the qualities of an object and those colors. The shiny surface points towards the desire and luxury that we search on a chocolate or a sweet.

On the other hand, mirrors have always been quite intriguing for me. Jorge Luis Borges said that mirrors were terrifying objects, but that we can't see that because we're accustomed to their presence. Plus, I´ve always been interested on the works of Robert Morris and Michaelangelo Pistoletto. On both cases, the reflection and the mirror play a keyrole: they function as googles that allow us to experience reality on a parallel way. Because of that, Jean Cocteu said mirrors should think twice before mirroring an image.

MX Silver & Blue, Februrary 5, 2015.
Stainless steel and electrostatic paint.
125 x 166 x 31 cm

AC - What is your relationship with photography ?

ACHW - Before being digital, photography was definitely not for me. Such a long and indirect process as the one in analog photography requieres a lot of patience, which is something I lack of. To take a picture and seeing it only after the film is developed and printed was impossible for me. But this happens to me a lot in other mediums too. For example moulding a sculpture or making a sketch in order to reproduce it in another scale or medium is impossible for me. As a consequence, during college I decided to use a chainsaw as my only tool, cause even a complex finish bores me. Eventually this took me to bend steel sheets using nothing but my hands and the weight of my body. Before working with them I used acrylic sheets. They are an extremely delicate material. However this didn’t really influenced the decision of stop working with them. I didn’t wanted intermediaries and a blowtorch was needed in order to bend them. I’ve always needed a direct and immediate relationship with my materials, so I chose to work with steel.

I’ve painted and printed photographs on my steel sheets too.  Most of my works incorporating photography are collaborations, some are made of pictures taken by my friends and the others are photos I have found on Instagram or Tumblr. Again, it is all about transforming that which has been made by mankind previous to the existance of my works.


Set of 6 piezographies.
58.8 x 44.5 cm (Each).

AC - Could you tell me more about your diy sculptures" brand MCHF21?

ACHW - For several years my medium of choice was wood. I began using it during my college education and until I relocated to Mexico. While living in Monterrey, the mutual understanding between wood and me disappeared. There were too many conflicts, one of which was that I had become quite good at woodcarving. Thus, my works turned against me as people started demanding a proof of my skill in all of my pieces. This resulted on the displacement of the ideas behind my works. Hence crafting left no space for anything else.

I then decided to stop working with wood and to use it as the conceptual axis of my work. Then, representation shifted from form, to specifically the look of wood. Formica, vinyl, and linolium imitated wood much better than me. One of the resulting projects of this transition was a kind of DIY sculptures. I designed the boxes to store them unassambled and decorated them with a logotype of my authorship.  They included the assambly instructions and diagrams, and all the information about them, just like Ikea furniture. They were interesting works. The resulting object was always similar to an economic furnishing which lacked of a recognizable function. I made different desgins which I exhibitied in several shows. These sculptures were the source of lots of ideas, but above all, they established a zone located inbetween art and design which I used as my field of work for several years.

AC - Is there a trigger for your creative process? A certain state-of-mind or place you feel provokes you?

ACHW - An artist must be a mirror.  A mirror of his contemporary, and also a mirror of the affairs from the historical moment that he/she lives in. In all the disciplines I‘ve worked with, this is the thread of my proposals (that apparently are always so eclectic and different).

Something I kept repeating when I taught was that every idea involves two specific issues. One of them is the material of choice; a video can’t take the shape of a magazine. The other issue is time; if your idea requires two minutes and you work two minutes and three seconds on it you will ruin the piece. There is a strong relationship with accuracy between these ingredients in which you cannot fail. While looking for that balance is that I've gotten into so many different disciplines

AC - As an artist what is the most important thing you have learned from your discipline?

ACHW - While art is usually conceived as a definite, design and architecture aren’t. Every work of design is conceived knowing that it can and will be improved. It’s also much more honest. If one day a mug you’ve used for years breaks, you throw it to the garbage and get another one. The idolatry of works of art is the result of the market’s intentions to transform certain objects, so they can acquire a value that’s completely out of proportions.

I’ve always thought that our role as artists is to push art to blend with other disciplines. The less predictable combination we use, more unique will be the resulting object. If we collide music with sculpture, definitely something interesting and unique will be born. The disciplines outside contemporary art are its younger, and uglier sisters. They do not have art’s aura, but the people prefer them because they’re much more sincere.  Art shouldn’t be immutable.  Art has taught me that in a near future, it will no longer exist as we know it and everything will be art.

Less is less and form doesn't follow function.
Neon lights.
160 x 76 cm.

AC - Could you tell me more about your site specific projects?

ACHW - First I need to tell you about a problem I see on artistic education. A mistake in 21st century art is that we have been tought that we should know exactly what our goal is once we approach a new material or medium, or when we concieve the idea for a work. However we can only be intuitive cause the possibilities of a medium at this state are not only unknown to us but are also myriad. The mediums we use dictate a lot of things, and we can only get to know and take advantage of them while we explore and relate to them. I believe artists find things that are interesting to us, start a project, and structure it on the go.  The symptom of accurately defining a project before making it comes from a disease we’ve been carrying since Kant told us we should establish succesful or accurate connections between knowledge and intuitions on an a priori basis. In the end the only a priori thing is that art exists independently of the people that think about it. And that is what we know as ready-made. In this case, logic works much better than intuition.

In the beginning of my site specific projects interventions I intuited how I wanted to handle them. But it was only when my team and I started making them that I came to know what really interested me. The friction that originates from the different surfaces and historical moments generated by the interventions was what I was looking for. I find astonishing how artistic objects from different epochs can exist harmonically side by side. The way in which for example stainless steel disorts a painting by Piero da Cortona or a colonial painting generates a new space, a new optic. It’s both reflexive and reflecting. My interventions seek not to build monumental sculptures but to create a space inside another space. Part of my artistic interest lays in: time and space. Because of that, what matters aren’t the objects nor the space, but what happens between 1) the building and materials like steel, stone or electroluminescent wires, and 2) the people around them. Lot’s of times people ask me what do my interventions represent. This question originates once people and my interventions have collisioned. Until then, the intervention remained unkown for them, and once they enter inside it they know something about it, however, it is still something unknown. Because of that I always tell them it can represent whatever they want. Through this, my interventions play the role of an unkown character and of a silent witness of the space that houses them. What I seek is to generate an unexplored territory inside a known territory.


NaCl(í) (Installation view at Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Colombia).
Stainless steel and Electroluminescent wires.

Photo by Manuel Velázquez, courtesy of Galería Nueveochenta.

AC - What’s next for Aldo Chaparro?

ACHW - My plans always will be to continue working. I have several exhibitions in various galleries where I work, and several plans to mediate spaces each time larger and more important. My idea is to deepen my research on my materials until the ideas are exhausted and present the outcome only to keep working and therefore reinvent myself.

I'm also working on a couple of projects that I have been festering for awhile. I am writing a novel about the life and adventures of a teenager in the city of Lima in the eighties. I have always been interested in developing my own publishing project, which serves as a backdrop to tell a story that explores a place and a particular time. Also, I would like to write a play and produce it, I believe it would be remarkable.

Lazurite on linen over black marble pedestals.
181 x 181 cm.