Sarmento’s first series of Mixografia prints contain compositions of images and text in the foreground set in contrast against stark white surfaces, textured to resemble the familiar stucco walls of his native Portugal. The images within the picture plane range from architectural layouts, a woman’s blouse, and flasks filled with liquid, flanked by short phrases. In these arrangements, Sarmento makes use of re-appropriated quotations selected from The Infinite Conversation by Maurice Blanchot. By evoking Blanchot’s historical musings, he engages in a continuing dialogue between the past and present. As in historical and personal memory, seemingly disparate elements are broken apart and stitched back together to create a new perspective on the past. The separation between the personal and the universal becomes increasingly obscured by the fusion of these parts.
The six prints in Sarmento’s Curiosity’s Eye suite depict an imagined view from the Mars Curiosity rover, which landed on the Martian surface in August of 2012. Sarmento focuses on this pivotal moment in the history of human exploration, and presents a conceptual view of our first look at a previously uncharted world. The landscapes reflect the physical tumult of the rocky terrain as it changes in hue and texture. Being comprised mostly of rock and sediment, there is also a sense of scarcity and emptiness. Beneath each image there are two labels denoting the Latin names of the “photographed” regions and the dates on which the rover documented them, giving them a certain archival and scientific quality. Sarmento conceives of Curiosity’s photographic lens as an extension of the human eye, peering out into the unknown to extract new truths.
O Fim do Mundo, showing for the first time in Los Angeles, is a video diptych that portrays contemplative imagery of the sea, a woman’s eyes, and the action of a woman washing her hands. The sound of breathing synchronizes with the sound of crashing waves, drawing a parallel between human rhythms and those found in nature. The images and sounds fill the exhibition space and surround the viewer. The film’s title, translated in English to “The End of the World”, refers to the ocean as the geographical edge of the land, and the entryway to a great mystery.
Sarmento (b. 1948, Lisbon, Portugal) received his MA in painting and architecture from the Lisbon School of Fine Arts in 1974. He is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans across a wide range of media. His artwork is included in public collections and galleries worldwide, including: Museu Calousta Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Museu Serralves, Porto; Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France. He has participated in two Documentas in 1982 and 1987, and he represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale in 1997.