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Folded Watercolors by Marcelo Daldoce Add Dimension to Portraiture

Born in Brazil, living in New York City, Marcelo Daldoce gives substance and heft to watercolor portraits.

Born in Brazil, living in New York City, Marcelo Daldoce gives substance and heft to watercolor portraits.

When you watch videos of him at work, he seems to use his brush as a conductor uses her baton. The initial pencil sketch serves as a printed musical score’s starting point. Forming ponds and rivulets, the hued water generously applied serves as yet uncoordinated harmonies. And the movement of the brush serves to create order out of chaos. Watching him marshal the water around the paper, knowing when to relinquish control, when to acknowledge happy accidents, is magical. With him, it’s all in the timing. The portraits’ atmospheres are airy, barely there. The paper’s texture becomes the feel of skin, of clothing. The images seem ephemeral, as if they’re about to fly away.

For him, though, that’s not enough. As he writes, he wants to bring life to a flat surface: paint becomes flesh, paper becomes sculpture. He folds these portraits in ingenious ways. The result is a mix between sculpture and painting. Really though, it’s an origami version of Cubism.

Sometimes the emphasis is on individual subjects. The folded pleats of paper, for instance, continue the painted design of the sitter’s dress. Folding introduces dynamic and dynamic introduces narrative. The subjects become accordion women, peekaboo women. Each one looks like a runway model harlequin that’s stepped out from the second dimension into the third. Note too that harlequins were subjects of Cubist paintings. Sometimes, with complex folds, the pieces take on the appearance of installations.

It’s the works’ hybrid quality that creates these vignettes of the subject as she responds to her environment. Daldoce uses trompe l’oeil to create a sense of wonder, both in the skill that made it possible as well as in the realization that such simple things can occasion such measured responses.


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