The term discrepancy describes a variation between two elements that ought to be the same. As such, a discrepancy implies the existence of an imperfect double and articulates a condition entailing evaluation and measure. The work of the Lisbon-born, Berlin-based artist Leonor Antunes involves the creation of situations of this kind, through the use of repetitions, doublings, or alterations of details within an existing space or configuration of objects.
Antunes recognizes her works as “events”—as constructed experiences of limited duration. Her sculptural interventions seek to awaken viewers’ perceptual capacities and encourage them to engage with each space or object in a new way, while acknowledging that these situations are filled with energy, internal relationships and memory. This artist is interested in modernist architecture and design, because they represent a cultural period of extreme innovation and formal risk-taking. Over the past years she has developed a distinct vocabulary of materials, through her repeated use of various kinds of rope, leather, rubber, brass and wood—materials whose references to both manual and industrial production also address the modernist period.
Mathias Goeritz’s Museo Experimental El Eco served as a rich site for these investigations. Antunes approached the building as a single piece of modernist sculpture and used the specificities of its forms and history as measuring tools and memory-triggering devices. Her research involved a careful study of El Eco’s spaces, followed by visits to the Goeritz archive and to the sites of extant work by the German artist in Mexico City. Further investigations took her to study the work of several of Goeritz’s contemporaries, including Luis Barragán, Clara Porset and Carlos Mérida.
A point of departure for Antunes’s project was the dark orange tiles of El Eco’s courtyard, which create a broad rectangular grid. Standing in this outdoor space and looking into the main gallery’s large window, the floor pattern is reflected within the glass, causing the illusion that it continues into the building. This mirroring effect was referenced inside, where the artist repeated the floor pattern on the ceiling. This soft grid was made in two parts, using two large spools of black rope. Each section has been woven together using a single, continuous strand of rope, whose excess length falls onto the floor.
This structure also supported a series of triangular sculptures that hung from the ceiling. Their weight pulled sections of this grid downward, in a manner that evoked fishing nets or spider webs. Each of the linear sculptures was made from brass tubes and the same rope used on the ceiling. Each shape was made by a series of knots that held the metal tubes in place, with dots and thicker lines created where the ropes intersected or were paired. Though their compositions appeared random, these works were actually based on abstractions by Carlos Mérida, developed for a mural made at El Eco in 1953. Originally situated in the museum’s bar area, the mural has since been destroyed. Using an existing drawing and the wall’s measurements, Antunes calculated the approximate length of each part of the figures in the original work. These measurements then determined the scale of each of the sections of her rope sculptures. While radically transformed in appearance, these forms resonate subliminally within the architecture, as if marking its memories or subconscious.
An additional sculpture hung low from the ceiling. This work was part of an ongoing series titled Random Intersections, involving reproductions of leather horse bridles. The black version at El Eco, made from ten of these objects, was produced by a leather craftsman working in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico. The complex linear forms, each intended to be fitted around the head of a horse, were tied together and hung in an irregular configuration. Their curvilinear character created a single, unusual body, at once full and empty. The inclusion of this piece in the project was sparked by a visit to the Casa, alberca y establos Egerstrom, a private stable complex built by Barrágan in 1968 in the State of Mexico. During this visit, the artist was reminded of her own previous works when she observed a cluster of bridles hung at the site.
All of these vertical elements fell onto a floor piece that spread across the entire space of the main gallery. It was made from flat pieces of compressed wood, black and red rubber, woven cane and brass. Through their varying textures and surfaces, these elements created an unusual sensual surface, one that the viewer is invited to walk across. Its triangular composition was imported into the space, appropriated from a silkscreen print made by Goeritz in 1968. The original design, which referenced multiple Bauhaus exercises, set up a dynamic play of formal relationships between three equilateral triangles of varying proportions. It was enlarged and reproduced in its original format in one area of the floor and then rotated, mirrored on the other side of the space. In an additional destabilizing gesture, Antunes slightly shifted the position of each of the triangles, altering their previously established relationship to one another.
Filled with restraint and self-imposed limits, these delicate works both interpreted and “performed” Goeritz’s Emotional Architecture. They structured a range of perceptual experiences for the viewer that spark acute comparisons, critical examinations, memory games and phenomenological challenges to our understanding of this space. Through the repetitions and discrepancies that they created, these maneuvers helped each viewer reactivate this familiar modern space in a contemporary manner.