Brief anthology



This brief selection of texts is an attempt to review critical works whose enthusiasm and sharpness have accompanied and helped to construct Decastelli’s vision. Along these lines, the outstanding texts by Silvia de Ambrosini have been essential due to their ability to foresee later developments in Decastelli’s work. Of the many reviews of his shows in the 1990s, we find particularly remarkable those by Fabián Lebenglik and Corinne Sacca-Abadi. Julio Sánchez wrote the prologue to a presentation of Decastelli’s work in Madrid in 1994, and Rodrigo Alonso has written about the artist’s more recent phases during which he began to make use of digital art. All of the documents have been transcribed; the typographical errors in the original publications have been corrected in order to facilitate reading, though the authors’ intentions have always been respected. M.T.

Decastelli behind Cardboard [Miguel Briante] (1990)
Página/12, Buenos Aires, August 7, 1990. Unsigned text that, according to Osvaldo Decastelli, was written by Miguel Briante
La figuración y el corrugado is the title of the exhibition that Osvaldo Decastelli is currently presenting in gallery 10 of the Centro Cultural Recoleta. The title is both ironic and technical, since Decastelli makes his spatial figures with corrugated cardboard. The work creates an interplay involving the apparent weight of the human figures placed in an array of positions—a sort of camera obscura that casts light on them—and their true, intimate weight. A drawer’s sense of irony underlies these figures as they provoke a sense of despair as well as playfulness.

Osvaldo Decastelli. Corrugated Cardboard: Another Possible Art Silvia de Ambrosini (1993)
Artinf, Buenos Aires, year 17, nº 85, August of 1993. Published under the title “Decastelli no es cartón pintado” in Página/12, Buenos Aires, October 12 of 1993.
Osvaldo Decastelli engages in a prospective reflection that wagers on the object and the material, testaments to formalizations and essences that incite aesthetic confrontation. These are piercing objects that effect deep transformations in the layering of their constituent sheets. The leading player is “corrugated cardboard.” The coupling of its layers reinforces the simulacrum of a formal meaning by rendering the fragile resistant, the light heavy, the smooth coarse. Osvaldo Decastelli engages in a prospective reflection that wagers on the object and the material, testaments to formalizations and essences that incite aesthetic confrontation. These are piercing objects that effect deep transformations in the layering of their constituent sheets. The leading player is “corrugated cardboard.” The coupling of its layers reinforces the simulacrum of a formal meaning by rendering the fragile resistant, the light heavy, the smooth coarse.

Osvaldo Decastelli. Sculpture-Object in Corrugated Cardboard 1985/1994 Julio Sánchez (1994)
Madrid, Xunta de Galicia, 1994.
Squaring the circle has long been one of the mystical concerns of esoteric knowledge. Osvaldo Decastelli’s work seems to revolve

around another geometrical paradox:the flatness of volume. Flatness is a mental construction that is not born out in reality; even the most slender sheet of paper has a third dimension that the geometrical postulate of the flat surface lacks. Corrugated cardboard is extremely flat, though. It can tolerate no curves as the mere attempt to bend it yields two straight diagonal lines. Despite the trials of geometry, Decastelli manages to render flat cardboard volumetric, as if he had managed to make the square circular. The artist’s discoveries are also technical and iconographic. Working with corrugated cardboard entails an exploration into the mechanics of human joints. Man has become, at the hand of Decastelli-Gepetto, a cardboard Pinocchio. Decastelli discovered that man, like a mechanical object, could be reduced to a modular system to be put together at will and, with something like commiseration, he left him behind to begin to invent objects. He went from geometry to mechanics, creating instruments of uncertain use, collusions of shovels and knives that betray their original identities. Determined not to leave life behind, Decastelli turned to organic forms, whimsical spheres that would frighten the purest geometrical shapes.
In his most recent work there is a certain return of something that had been lost: color. The artist begins to make less monumental works which, because polychrome, are more friendly. He has also recovered the “social function” of cardboard, which seemed to have been forgotten. One of its main uses is to make boxes which, in the hands of Decastelli, become strange cases as if for pencils, knives or violins, though they enclose wholly unpredictable objects.
The artist has expanded the limits of his cardboard universe. Corrugated cardboard is no longer alone, as these box-cases, with their white beans and golden sand, offer subtle company. In the most recent series, the use of the photocopy in the work is like the discovery of a Borgesian aleph that opens up endless doors.
Without delving into the problems of sacred geometry, Decastelli’s exploration is based on playfulness and even irony: the wealth of cardboard, a material ennobled by art. Not only does he embrace all the challenges posed by the material, but he also ventures down unknown paths in the field of cellulose.

Decastelli. Matter and Obsessions of Artisticness that Give Life Silvia de Ambrosini (1995)
Decastelli. Inventario de imaginantes. 1985-1995, Buenos Aires, Salas Nacionales de Cultura, 1995.
Without resistance, once again corrugated cardboard plays the leading role. A material that does not deny its origin to the eloquent objects and animated presences that Decastelli shapes. Nor does this material contradict itself when its folds are joined to render solid two smooth surfaces nor when it is stripped down to yield more folds. All of these are acts of conceiving the abstract and the figurative that show and reveal the internal and the superficial.
For a bit more than a decade the artist has engaged in rich technicalformal- conceptual experiments. This has given rise to Objects, Portraits, Figures. By means of conjunction, addition and subtraction, semblances of a figuration of things, visions and unnamed characters appear, with the sole virtue of a material still recognizable in the varied transformations effected by the artist on the basis of its manufactured origin. Perhaps out of nostalgia, sometimes the image of its vegetable cradle returns; other times, to re-create some of the many formalizations imposed by Decastelli: an inventory of imaginings with no representative telos, with no verisimilar aim, as I pointed out in 1993.
Color finds the right word, the citizenship papers for a character who aspires to be immortal, or for another condensed in the shape of a Mulata of the present or an achromatic Hombre de barrio [Local Man] of the past. Suddenly, other beings stretch their joints and make up five visual sections in masculine stances (Hombre II [Man II], Hombre III [Man III]), or in female poses (Mujer I [Woman I], 3 enanas 3 [3 Dwarfs 3]), all of them finding the best posture to express themselves and eventually start up a conversations. Implicit are the utensils, the tools and more: the personification of the instrument, “the hand of the artist,” that brings about idea and action. Going around the encirclement of a central core that Decastelli has assembled as installation, we find different niches that hold other instances of creation: “Extrañas Maquinarias” [Strange Machineries] that emblematize fright; “Páginas de Artistas” [Artists’ Pages] that, like antiphrasis, keep the viewer company, offering an eloquent landscape that appears laterally crossing a surface, and the “ethos” of an Eastern

vision of frontal flatness. In other windows, object transformed into “ob-jetum” for a cognoscente viewer.
The new works, the “Zoomorfos” [Zoomorphs], line up around a central cage that makes reference to an inevitable fate… These are presences that speak of their own recognizable attributes: the sophistication of a Faithfulness manifest in a blackish blotch; the candid Imploration of an animal-like blue; the Vibration of a toothed fire; the allusion to the Propagation of the beings in a heated ochre; the resigned sobriety of zigzag geometries and the petrified gesture of a taciturn hermit. Meanwhile, other aspects speak of jealousy and burning that renew Vital Energies in whiteness or hide their Passion with achromatic armor.
Other less colorful presences house the humility of a susceptible material that allows for the caresses of burlap or the action of the artist as he hallows places, violates an unblemished interiority. Because matter can be pondered, and acts of art entail a monumentality that connects the sculptural, the constructive and the pictorial by the layering of structures, by textual vibration, by colorful visibility in keeping with the aesthetic temperature of Decastelli, who never hides the fact that the material-soul can be pondered.

Osvaldo Decastelli. Sculptures behind Cardboard Fabián Lebenglik (1995)
Página/12, Buenos Aires, April 25, 1995.
A sculptor who uses corrugated cardboard as a material for his work necessarily compares that material to “noble” ones. Through a scenographic installation that reflects the theatrical nature of the works, Osvaldo Decastelli exhibits a decade of production. In the Salas Nacionales de Cultura, sculptor Osvaldo Decastelli is exhibiting the show Inventario de imaginantes 1985-1995, which features his works in cardboard.
Decastelli was born in Buenos Aires in 1941. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Prilidiano Pueyrredón and he received a fellowship from the UNESCO. As he himself relates, from the beginning he was engaged in teaching as well as making art. Indeed, he taught in a number of institutions and studios until 1979, when he began working exclusively in his own studio. Since 1985, he has worked with corrugated cardboard, not as a waste material but as a raw material as

useful and functional as any “noble” material like wood or marble.
This anthological exhibition is his tenth solo show. As the critic Silvia de Ambrosini states in the catalogue, “For a bit more than a decade the artist has engaged in rich technical-formal-conceptual experiments. This has given rise to objects, portraits, figures. By means of conjunction, addition and subtraction, semblances of a figuration of things, visions and unnamed characters appear, with the sole virtue of a material still recognizable in the varied transformations effected by the artist on the basis of its manufactured origin. Perhaps out of nostalgia, sometimes the image of its vegetable cradle returns; other times, to re-create some of the many formalizations imposed by Decastelli: an inventory of imaginings with no representative telos, with no verisimilar aim.”
Los nuevos, los “Zoomorfos”, alinean sus presencias rodeando una jaula central, que alude a un destino inapelable… Las suyas son presencias que hablan de atributos propios, reconocibles, la sofisticación de una Fidelidad manifiesta en un negruzco manchado; la cándida Imploración de un azul animalesco; la Vibración de un fuego dentado; la alusión a la Propagación de los seres en un ocre acalorado; o la resignada sobriedad de geometrías en zigzag y gesto petrificado de eremita taciturno. Mientras otras virtudes hablan del celo y ardores que renuevan Energías Vitales en el blanco o esconden su Pasión con una caparazón acromática.
This anthological exhibition is his tenth solo show. As the critic Silvia de Ambrosini states in the catalogue, “For a bit more than a decade the artist has engaged in rich technical-formal-conceptual experiments. This has given rise to objects, portraits, figures. By means of conjunction, addition and subtraction, semblances of a figuration of things, visions and unnamed characters appear, with the sole virtue of a material still recognizable in the varied transformations effected by the artist on the basis of its manufactured origin. Perhaps out of nostalgia, sometimes the image of its vegetable cradle returns; other times, to re-create some of the many formalizations imposed by Decastelli: an inventory of imaginings with no representative telos, with no verisimilar aim.”
Decastelli’s work is highly scenographic, and this is reflected in the installation of the work on the upper level of Palais de Glace, where he has constructed a circle of partitions, a chronological, almost theatrical,

layout where the work is discovered with the proper space and lighting.Both the anthropomorphic works (the early ones) and the installation of zoomorphic pieces (the later ones) entail a marked theatricality whose theme is cardboard. In terms of perception, all of the works contain an element of surprise and skill which slowly takes the backseat. Despite their attractiveness, the aforementioned periods are the least interesting on an artistic level. The objects that suggest everyday objects on an enormous scale and other sculptures from 1991 to 1993 are the best ones in the show. In them, cardboard ceases to be the leading feature—though he does work with it, and masterfully so—to produce a highly poetic effect. In these works, the transformation of the material is thorough and perfect, and hence it becomes secondary: it is no longer just a question of skills, ideas or materials, but rather one of talent. (Posadas 1725, until April 30.)

From the Simple, Fantasy Luis Aubele (1995)
La Nación, Buenos Aires, April 24, 1995.
Discovery: common corrugated cardboard sets off the creativity of a sculptor and becomes the cornerstone of an interesting show.
“My encounter with corrugated cardboard was a strange experience. Suddenly, I found myself taking notice of a novel material that was everywhere, in containers or piles in basements and incinerators,” recalls Osvaldo Decastelli, whose sculptures with this material are on exhibit until this Sunday at the Salas Nacionales de Cultura, Posadas 1725.
Decastelli studied art at Manuel Belgrano and Prilidiano Pueyrredón art schools. He graduated with a very traditional conception of sculpture: “I had remarkable teachers, like Luis Balduzzi, to whom this show is dedicated. Nonetheless, I soon felt the need for a less solemn image so that my works could be closer to a larger public.”
The artist describes a transformation that began with a change in material, when corrugated cardboard appeared in his work.
Decastelli sticks together sheets of corrugated cardboard with vinyl glue to create more voluminous pieces. “Since using this material was totally unprecedented, one of the first problems was finding the right tools. Corrugated cardboard has a certain consistency but it is not rigid. I am currently working with a milling machine and a cutter.”

Open Your Eyes
Inventario de imaginantes, the title of the show, occupies one thousand square meters and is divided into two major sections: works produced in the decade after 1985, where the artist shows the various stages of his encounter with the material, a discovery and analysis of its possibilities that culminates in a series of assemblages where cardboard is used inconjunction with other materials like wire and paper-mâché. Next is the work Estigma [Stigma], an installation where the material is used to address the theme of the loss of freedom. Items from a strange fauna converse across a large circle at the center of which is an enormous cage. These are the cardboard shapes of an enlarged nursery school zoo.
The first work in the show is entitled Hombre de barrio [Local Man], and it was made in 1985. Next come four images conceived on the basis of an enormous puzzle. The artist constructed a human figure, split it into four parts and then built new shapes.
In another section, the artist explores abstract mechanisms, strange multiples (one of them almost four meters high) and boxes from which chromatic beings attempt to emerge.
“As I worked, I discovered hidden textures that appeared as soon as I scratched the surface of the paper, and how the cardboard reacted when I put inks and enamels on it. I then rendered some of the works in metal and synthetic resin.”
The show is more than just a demonstration of the visual possibilities of the material. At base, it is an invitation to take care of the environment. Since there is no more room to bury trash, let’s recycle waste as much as possible, reads a pamphlet on recycled paper handed to each visitor.

The Enduring and the Fleeting] Elba Pérez (1996)
Télam, Buenos Aires, August 12, 1996.
Contemporary art does not subscribe to classic categorizations; it holds in disdain the difference between “noble” and “vulgar” materials. On this basis, Osvaldo Decastelli exhibits a show of books and objects made from corrugated cardboard at the Galería Ática, Libertad 1240.
Decastelli works with sheets of cardboard that he treats like boards to be cut and carved. His works vacillate between object and sculpture, making use of the material’s internal structure.

His books do not have a narrative text and his discourse is implicit in the visual resolution. This is the function of Penitencial [Penitential], mixed media, 16 x 10 x 7 cm. The nails that replace the typography symbolize the nature of a work that is reinforced by the traces—the wounds—left on the pages of this unique book. Decastelli emphasizes the value of play and the ability of children and artists to “open, close, discover and enter many worlds.”
These metamorphoses can be laden with reflection, suggestion and lyrical anticipation, however.
Paisaje primario [Primary Landscape] (29 x 42 x 4 cm, mixed media) makes reference to the jovial humor of childhood and the demands of contemporary design. The inclusion of pencils and geometrical elements is reminiscent of the work of Oscar Serra, an Argentine who has lived in Madrid (Spain) for many years.
Other skills are at stake in Existencia orgánica [Organic Existence], in corrugated cardboard (29 x 44 x 16 cm). With true mastery, Decastelli brings forth cut volumes in several layers that experiment with the full and hallow forms of sculptural low-relief.
The work is installed according to the artist’s aesthetic vision. Until August 31st, the last day of the show, the rooms of Ática will be a closed space in which, thanks to the intelligent use of lighting, the works of Osvaldo Decastelli stand out.
Decastelli uses corrugated cardboard without the sentimental charge of “arte povera” movement of the 1950s. His work is also at a remove from Informal Expressionism: he attempts to investigate the visual characteristics of common, fleeting materials without compromising the eloquence of ideal forms that were once rendered in enduring materials like wood or stone.
Decastelli accepts that, at the end of the millennium, form and material are subject to questioning. But he does not give into a light aesthetic or the nihilism of “anything goes” that Enrique Santos Discépolo has called the aesthetic “of the Bible next to the heater.”(1) Without raising his voice, without avant-garde statement, Osvaldo Decastelli sets out to reconcile visual values and contemporary diction in works that appeal to the understanding of the public today. Eternal and fleeting, classic and contemporary seem to be the parameters of his work.

(1). This is a reference to the tango Cambalache, which speaks of a lack of moral values.— Trans.

Stigma and Dilemma. Decastelli in the Museo Sívori Corinne Sacca-Abadi (1998)
ACI (Arte, Crítica, Investigación), Buenos Aires, Asociación Argentina de Críticos de Arte (AACA), nº 2, 1998.
According to the dictionary, a stigma is a mark or sign branded onto the body with smoldering iron to indicate slavery. It is also the name of a new installation by Osvaldo Decastelli in which he formulates the dilemma of contemporary man in a society that homogenizes the individual, erases difference and effects a process of taming. An artist with a sound career, Decastelli has made corrugated cardboard the most noble of sculptural materials to obtain unlikely results. In prior works, the metamorphosis changed everyday banal objects into extraordinary characters with an unabashed sense of humor. These new works entail synthesis and a more austere use of resources to present a dilemma. O.D. exhibits thirteen fantastic animals that suggest an array of social attitudes, to which he opposes an equally large number of rectangular elements akin to corrugated cardboard gravestones with written numbers printed on them. Strategically placed in the garden of the Museo Sívori, these disturbing elements are on the lookout for animals and rupture any illusion of free will. Who will prevail in the struggle between “animalized” humanity at constant risk of (and with constant desire for) taming and the numerical enemy? In the video that the artist presents here several alternatives are possible, none of them optimistic; Decastelli has emphasized his disturbing sensation about the future of humanity. As in Cortázar’s Casa tomada [House Taken Over], as the inner spaces are occupied, the inside and the outside are fused; the house is contaminated and this universe rendered uninhabitable. A restless sound is heard throughout Decastelli’s installation: resounding echoes that resist taming. The conflict has been formulated. It is the game that we all play every day. No one escapes the dilemma.

A Range of Proposals on the Lakefront Eva Grinstein (1998)
El Cronista, Buenos Aires, February 18, 1998.
This year, the Museo Sívori, which is currently exhibiting works from its collection and sculptures by Osvaldo Decastelli, will pay tribute to Bigatti and Victorica.
The Sívori has started off the 1998 season with a show of the work of

Osvaldo Decastelli. Entitled Estigma [Stigma], the exhibition consists of a series of works made from corrugated cardboard that represent a pack of difficult to identify animals. What animals they are does not matter; what does is their striking attitude: they are threatening, almost aggressive or apathetic, sheltered by their teeth and crests.
Decastelli, a veteran manipulator of cardboard, skillfully works these pieces, endowing them with color and other elements to complete the effect. The result—which the artist proposes as the natural aftertaste of a present marked by “numeralization”—operates efficaciously without low blows, just subtle gestures like a single rope around the neck of an animal.

Threat, Risk, Security Rodrigo Alonso (2009)
Osvaldo Decastelli. Malas hierbas. Copia de seguridad, Buenos Aires, Arte x Arte, 2009.
For two decades, Osvaldo Decastelli has been working with a unique material: cardboard. While today it has a very precise set of connotations, in the work of this artist the meaning of cardboard expands to manifest countless formal, conceptual and aesthetic possibilities.
Photography and cardboard are the key elements in two large installations that reflect on the contemporary world. In the first, Copia de seguridad [Backup], a single image is reproduced with slight variations on a series of suspended surfaces. The number of copies makes it useless to ask after originality. As with many current media—photography, video, digital media—, we are before a universe of copies where the original image does not matter. We see a forest of simulacra that challenges any attempt to seek the original, the unique seminal product, the heart of the creative process and, therefore, the possibility of its remaining unaltered. Decastelli takes those concepts further by working with a single figure that is always manifested differently. If in photography, for instance, identical copies generate doubt about the original, here it is clear that no such thing ever existed. But, paradoxically, the variants that the artist effects through the printing process change each surface into a unique piece, rendering the copies the true originals.
The second installation, Mala hierba [Bad Herb], centers on the notion of the adjacent, potential risk, the undesirable. Here, a central volume

establishes a first physical connection with the viewer. Then a cluster of surfaces appears that are both image and visual barrier, surface and spatial sign. Like the undergrowth that spreads indiscriminately by the road, these surfaces create an interweave that diverts, complicates and dislocates vision, interdicting the center and its power to organize perception.
To a certain degree, both installations formulate a series of uncertainties. They reflect on the place of the image in a world where multiplicity has worn it out. They exalt the profusion of images and emphasize their perishable nature. Images, like the supports that sustain them, are both threatening and fragile, and that reminds us of the fragility of life itself.