The past few years have seen The Fruitmarket Gallery recurrently host art connected to Latin America. Having showcased individually, two of the so-called ‘Taller de los Viernes’ group; Gabriel Orozco (2013) and Damián Ortega (2016); a group exhibition ‘Possibilities of the Object’ (2015), examined the changing relationship Brazilian artists have had with the object since the 1950s. Although featured in the later, San Paulo native Jac Leirner’s exhibition ‘Add it Up’, is her inaugural solo outing in Scotland. Scrutinising quotidian matter with a characteristic economy of means, the show continues to expand this object-orientated inquiry, to intermittent beguiling effect.
Leirner’s works frequently organise and repurpose slight ephemera into a surprising coalescence. Whilst the career-wide spectrum of activity on display successfully demonstrates the consistent concerns within her oeuvre, the volume of works within this cross-section seems at odds with their essential simplicity, which at times is perhaps diluted in the two satiated galleries.
Making their public debut annexed in the ground-floor gallery, the execution and formal sensibilities in a grouping of small and delicate watercolours mostly from the eighties, establish Leirner’s core motifs which re-emerge throughout later works, translated into different media. Built methodically by layers of translucent colour, simple soft-edged shapes tentatively touch, forming subtle tonal tapestries. Indebted to the Bauhaus colour theory of Joseph Albers and Paul Klee, the works foreground a preoccupation with quantity, repetition, organisation, and allusion to art history as artistic strategies.
Elsewhere in the ground floor’s main space, ‘Blue Phase’ (1991), is constructed with similar systematic rigor. 50,000 decommissioned bank notes amassed during a period of Brazilian hyperinflation in the mid 1980’s, sit tightly threaded together in two snaking grey rows that intersect on a low platform. Only legible as money by an exposed blue bill at either end of the grubby extrusions, the frayed and stained edges of each note are highlighted through their repetition; a sooty vapour trail narrating their once tactile history. Leirner shifts the economic focus of paper money towards its intrinsic material qualities in a secular reframing. This act is re-performed more decoratively in ‘Leveled Spirit’ (2017), where coloured spirit levels protrude at perpendiculars from a corner.
Upstairs, Leirner again rears her self-confessed ‘head of a painter’ in a series of svelte horizontal reliefs. Colourful rolling papers and their packaging are tonally arranged on wood of matching width, forming found colour swatches. Recalling Donald Judd’s multicoloured wall units, Leirner replaces the industrial materials and detached objectivity of Minimalism with delicate constructions that reference her own biography as a smoker.
Whilst the interlocking strips of painted wooden floor-construction ‘Crossing Colours’ (2012 & 2014) continue to explore colour relationships and reference modular minimalism, its relative degree of fabrication seems incongruous with the surrounding bulk of assisted readymades.
Leirner’s inadvertent confessions appropriately climax in ‘The End’ (2016), where collected narcotic detritus like used roaches, are strung along several taut steel cables that criss-cross the final space. A chronology or abacus counting addiction, they conjure perspective lines vanishing into her ‘infinity of materials’.