Encounters in the Depths of the Material
Mercedes Casanegra

The defining trait of the last twenty-five years (from 1985 to 2010) of Osvaldo Decastelli’s art has been the use of corrugated cardboard, the primordial material in his production. And, since we are in the sphere of contemporary art that “mistrusts classic categorizations and holds in contempt the difference between noble and common materials,”(1) Decastelli’s discovery of this material has become more and more meaningful with the passage of time and the course of his work. Due to the often unexpected, indeed surprising, possibilities that corrugated cardboard opened up in Decastelli’s work, it is impossible to distinguish between this material and the identity of the work produced in this period. His technical skill, which was evident starting in his years as an art student, and his imaginary served to generate an empathetic tie between the artist and his material, which served to reveal his skills and to give rise to a large range of proposals. There have been many phases in this prolific—and ongoing— relationship between artist and material. Human figures, beasts, boxes, books, objects of daily use as well as abstract objects and many others, including his recent use of corrugated cardboard in conjunction with photography: the scope of the artistic concepts generated by this artist has grown broader and more versatile over time. Since the Baroque period, the work of art in the Western tradition has ceased to be painting, sculpture and drawing as such. Due to a series of broader and broader ruptures which grew especially intense in the mid-20th century, art became “pure event, art as activity. Forms (as well as the use of materials) came to be akin to living organisms.”(2) Decastelli’s pieces in corrugated cardboard form part of this series of breaks with tradition; they have found a place of their own thanks to the loss of the identity of the traditional art object. (3) His works are unique, sophisticated objects without a trace of solemnity (they seem to aspire to just the opposite). As such, they entail a reflection on the material, and display the playful attitude of an artist who attempts to approach the viewer , to draw him or her in. Hence, in Decastelli’s work there is a certain sympathy, whether deliberate or not, with early 20th-century movements like Dadaism, whose influence was strong into the second half of that century. Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that Picasso was not only the first artist to use newspaper as a constitutive part of his early Cubist works, but also—and this a few years before the emergence of Dadaism—the one who used cardboard and string in his Maquette for Guitar (Paris, 1912), a precursor to the definitive version entitled Guitar (Paris, 1912), which is made with sheet metal

and wire. Both are now at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Picasso even used corrugated cardboard in some works from the 1930s. Regardless, in terms of this historical process and its intersection with Decastelli’s unique development, what the artist has called his dialogue with the material—corrugated cardboard—lay the basis for a process that radically altered his attitude towards making art. Similarly, though his aim has always been to make specific art objects and his emerging creative process has been connected to those objects, it has, through his intimate investigative dialogue with corrugated cardboard, gone beyond that. That is, his work does not begin and end with the production of a set of unique pieces; that is just part of a larger process that also entails the production of ideas, a form of thinking subject not to pure reason but to free association. The non-schematic nature of this thinking is bound not only to what he calls the playful side of his work, but also other sorts of projects, inventions, instances, performatic ideas. Examples of this include the invention of an object to make quadrangular eggs (p. 147), thematic dinners (p. 159), the Un metro cúbico para San Telmo [A Cubic Meter for San Telmo] project (p. 158) and others. Before engaging in an in-depth analysis of his production, it appears as if Decastelli has sought, in his art and actions, to generate an estrangement in his viewers’ way of being in the world. And in that his attitude is analogous to certain Surrealist formulations.

Educational Period
Decastelli’s attitude toward the practice of art has always been characterized by restlessness, curiosity, and mostly experimentation. Indeed, that is what led him to corrugated cardboard, and the universe that it opened up. He attended Manuel Belgrano and Prilidiano Pueyrredón art schools in the early 1960s. He says that “the 1960s were wonderful,” and indeed they were: they gave rise to one of the most important cultural shifts in the 20th century. He feels privileged to have received a solid, interesting and vital art education. Inevitably, one wonders about the connection between his education in art schools in the stimulating and tumultuous 1960s and the aforementioned attitude. While he recognizes the dogmatic and overly structured side of art education at certain traditional schools, when he speaks of his years at art school his face lights up. He speaks of how the positive side of those years was reflected in the educational atmosphere: talented professors, creative excitement about teaching, multifaceted

(1). Elba Pérez, “Lo perdurable y lo efímero,” Télam, August 12, 1996.

(2). Frederico Morais, Gráfico arte moderna, arte pósmoderna, Rio de Janeiro, 1977.

(3). Mercedes Casanegra, “El arte argentino,” in Historia Visual del Arte, Santiago, Chile, Larousse, 2004.

conceptions of each discipline, mutual stimulation between teacher and student and so forth. He recalls that the professors at these institutions had a maxim: they were there because, to put it briefly, they felt responsible for “creating extremely sensitive beings to capture what most people can’t.” They intended, that is, to sharpen perception, one of the key concerns of that time both in relation to life and ways of seeing and interpreting the world; a change in awareness, in this case through the visual arts. He recalls that studio classes were given by the artists Juan Batlle Planas, Enio Iommi, Juan Carlos Labourdette and Luis Balduzzi. He has particularly fond memories of Balduzzi, who had deposited a good deal of confidence in his promising student, giving him room to experiment due to his mastery of techniques and materials.
Decastelli could sense the rupture that those years did, in fact, entail; cultural change and innovation due to a shift in paradigms in all fields. The atmosphere surrounding the real and vital search for truly original answers is what Decastelli emphasizes about his experience in those years.
“In music, it was electronics, in literature, Cortázar ,” he recalls, and goes on to recite a long list of figures that we all know. And he feels privileged to have been heir to the essentially experimental character of that decade.
Most certainly, even in those years Decastelli had within him an inclination for experimentation, searching and investigation. While he celebrated what was happening around him, he did not necessarily identify with the achievements or discoveries of others. He was still looking for his own way. That way of perceiving and feeling art for oneself is in keeping with some of the ideas Luis Felipe Noé expressed in Antiestética [Anti-Aesthetic], a book first published in 1965 that put forth the spirit of the times.
“If art is searching, if it is a form of knowledge, artwork, each work of art, is part of a search […] The search for permanent revelation, which is the form of knowledge that is art, is shot like an arrow and cannot be limited to the work.”(4) Noé is speaking of his notion of “art as process”: for the Neo-Figurative artist, what matters is “the creative will” and its dynamic, and the agent attempting to navigate those phenomena is engaged in a personal “search.” Since the time of his art education and into the present, these notions, especially the idea of constant searching and experimentation, have been very much akin to—indeed branded on—how Decastelli tackles the adventure of art.

The proximity of Noé and Decastelli’s conceptions and attitudes is evident, and they are very much in keeping with the atmosphere during a certain time they shared, even though their productions are so different.

The Material
All material has history. All material has its own history built into it. There’s no such thing as “better” material. It’s just as unnatural for people to use oil paint as it is to use anything else. An artist manufactures his material out of his own existence—his own ignorance, familiarity or confidence. Robert Rauschenberg (5)
Cardboard is in all my work. I am not interested in sticking to established formulas, but seeing how far the material can take me. At times it is support, at others material…
Osvaldo Decastelli
Once he had graduated from art school, where he majored in sculpture, Decastelli followed the traditional paths of that discipline and its practice. Initially, he worked with the inevitable materials: plaster, bronze, iron; then acrylic, which was novel in the 1960s, and somewhat later wood. He stayed on the expected path, one that had been walked by so many before him. But he was not satisfied with it. Despite the aforementioned atmosphere of change in those years and all that that had to offer , art schools have always been somewhat conservative, and Decastelli was aware of the need to free himself of all that. That led him to continue his search. Meanwhile, though, his technical skill had grown.
In 1985, his work underwent a conversion, a radical turn: he came upon corrugated cardboard as a potential component. Soon, a tight connection was established between Decastelli and this original material, one quite uncommon in the field of sculpture.
The uniqueness of cardboard as an art material incites an investigation of its genealogy in Argentina and abroad. This is not only because of its peculiarity in the field of art but also because of the symbolic weight of cardboard and corrugated cardboard. When related, certain cases are useful to further defining Decastelli’s work. At the same time, phenomena outside the sphere of art also form part of the meaning and connotations of his production. In Argentina today, the first, indeed almost spontaneous, association is with the daily reality of the cartoneros—people who rummage through the trash in search of recyclable materials, principally cardboard from which they get their

(4). Luis Felipe, Noé, Antiestética, Buenos Aires, Ed. de la Flor , 1988, p. 64.

(5). Rauschenberg, New York, Vintage Books, 1987.

name, in order to resell it—and by extension the economic crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Due to the growing poverty rate, even today cities throughout the entire country witness a daily occupation that has become something of a craft: collecting cardboard out of the trash, selecting it, ordering it and getting it ready to be sold for recycling. Cartoneros and their work are not only a social issue, but a theme for some Argentine artists. In August of 2001 Miguel D’Arienzo presented Los cartonautas, an installation that makes reference to the cartoneros, at the Centro Cultural Recoleta. That work made narrative use of corrugated cardboard in relation to the idea of recycling and transformation. In a contemporary language, Daniel Ontiveros dealt with the social problem surrounding cardboard, if not the material itself, in his exhibition Expropiaciones (1999, ICI - Centro Cultural de España in Buenos Aires). He made use of supermarket carts, one of the most common vehicles used by cartoneros, who were starting to appear on the city streets in those years, to carry what they gather. Starting in the year 2000, Fabiana Barreda referred to the theme of recyclable materials in her performances and photo-performances of trash in the street. She identified with the social situation by dressing in used food containers and, though she did not work with cardboard itself, she did use polyurethane containers. The use of the colorful packaging of leading food brands was also related to recycling as subsistence and manifestation of different moments in the lifecycle.
Decastelli’s work could also be connected with Italian Arte Povera artists, who in the late 1960s rebelled against traditional canons of beauty and so-called noble materials. But the parallels end there, as many Povera artists introduced live matter and elements taken from nature into their works: mud, herbs and even animals. Jannis Kounellis, for instance, exhibited horses and live blackbirds. In any case, what connects them to Decastelli is a concern with doing away with the fetishism of the auratic art object, a Neo-Dadaist approach shared by other artists of the time.
The most recent artists worth mentioning in relation to Decastelli—though neither of them seems to have noticed the existence of the other in making his work—is the British-born Italian artist Chris Gilmour (Stockport, Great Britain, 1973). Like Decastelli, he skillfully works with corrugated cardboard, whether new or recycled. Gilmour , like Decastelli, has also dealt with the theme of objects taken from current daily life, though Gilmour usually refers to technological elements like cars, bicycles, typewriters, electric guitars and so

(6). Chris Gilmour, (www.chrisgilmour . com/en.intervista. html).

(7). María Torres, unpublished book project Osvaldo Decastelli, Buenos Aires, 2010.

forth. Gilmour’s work is largely geared towards a rigorous hyperrealism and the attendant paradoxical de-functionalization. What the two artists might agree on is the reason for using corrugated cardboard, a material that can be understood by everyone and, thereby, allows for other sorts of readings and re-readings of their art. (6) Despite their different educations, contexts and eras, both artists are drawn to the proximity and dailiness of corrugated cardboard in the lives of so many. Nonetheless, Decastelli’s ongoing relationship with cardboard as an art material as well as the concepts he has developed in the different stages of his work are different from the aforementioned cases. His strategies are and always have been very personal. His approach to corrugated cardboard has always been original and personal; it cannot be reduced to a single instance. With an open and experimental attitude that never fails to heed chance, he has achieved goals that were not necessarily established beforehand.
At the same time, he does have something in common with some of the aforementioned artists and tendencies: since cardboard is usually seen as a disposable waste material, working with it means that the artist effects a sort of recategorization through an array of transformations. Nonetheless, in this there is another difference in the work of Decastelli, as he uses mostly new corrugated cardboard. Only at the beginning and for a few years, from 1985 to 1992, did he get cardboard from local merchants who gave him empty boxes. Thereafter , Zucamor , a manufacturer of boxes and corrugated cardboard containers, started to provide him with new material fresh from the factory.
The viewer is surprised by his insistent use of a material—corrugated cardboard—that usually goes unnoticed, and this incites reflection. Corrugated cardboard is generally considered solely in terms of use. At the hands of Decastelli, though, it is evident how these characteristics immediately recede.
According to dictionaries and encyclopedias, then, corrugated cardboard is a material used basically to make containers and packaging; it is employed in countless production and distribution chains the world over . It usually consists of three to five layers of paper; the smooth ones for the two outer layers, and the wavy ones for the inside, which makes the resulting structure mechanically resistant. At first, its production was artisanal and then it became industrial.
Hence, the first shift in meaning to occur at the hand of Decastelli was

removing the material from its habitual sphere, away from the world of industry, mechanical manufacturing and packaging for an array of objects, mostly unrelated to art. That, in and of itself, was an operation that would have delighted the Surrealists. By striping corrugated cardboard of its function, it underwent a process of resemantization.
Crucially, and at the same time, in the multiple expressions of this material in Decastelli’s work and in his spoken references to it, there is a striking reiteration: corrugated cardboard was a material unknown to the artist, and that worked to his favor . He had to investigate and get to know it, and that was not only a challenge, but also the beginning of everything.

Asceticism and Material
In attempting to imagine the most obscure reasons for Osvaldo Decastelli’s choice of cardboard as his material, we tend to think of a certain ascetism. This not necessarily artistic quality is present not only in his works but also in his studio and his home, specifically in its formal purity and in the material used in its construction—few materials, all of them carefully chosen by him. Indeed, it is also felt in his very person. And, though it seems to come from other human spheres, that quality inhabits his life and the depths of his artistic consciousness. Furthermore, I would venture the hypothesis that this striping of anything superfluous, this doing away of any excess or baroqueness, led Decastelli not only to choose the original medium with which he works but also to narrow his course, to hone his formal search in order to make it deeper and more fruitful. That is, the depth of this approach gave rise to a variety of modalities and methods of working with and combining cardboard that do not seem to have come to a dead end in these twenty-five years. Just the opposite. This approach set off a permeable process in which his imaginary and the material have forged a close and synchronized relationship. All of this has led to the development of his work, which is our object of study and interpretation: a wide oeuvre (sculptures, objects, photographs, installations) in cardboard. But, Decastelli’s approach is singular. Again and again, the individual works confront the one who interprets them with the raw material, with the extreme range of possibilities it offers: an industrial material reveals its expressive, formal and conceptual power. (7) To do this, Decastelli has taken a specific stance: though his

aims are artistic, his research entails practices akin to those of a scientist or physicist. He has approached the object of his study—cardboard—in a number of ways, both micro- and macroscopic. Quite literally, what he calls his dialogue with the material has been an investigation into its broadest and deepest range of possibilities. Finally, anyone who delves into an investigation of his work will continue to be surprised by the multiplicity, the multifaceted nature, of the results.

Starting Point
In the beginning, in 1985, corrugated cardboard replaced the sheets of wood with which he had been working. This change from traditional materials to cardboard was not abrupt; there was a period during which he worked with both, as is manifest in the title of the exhibition Del cartón al bronce, at the Amicitia gallery, in 1985. At that time, Decastelli’s work was strictly figurative, and his recurring theme was the human figure, as is suggested by the title of another show, La figuración y el corrugado, 1990, his first exhibition at the Centro Cultural Recoleta.
It is important to bear in mind that corrugated cardboard comes in flat sheets, and that one of its most common uses is to make boxes. At first, the artist took it on those terms; he was inspired by and respected the standard folds and facets used in the manufacture of such containers. That is, in this first approach Decastelli made use of the memory of the material’s common form. This is evident in the pieces from the installation Estigma [Stigma], 1993-1995 (pp. 31-35), protagonists of a bestiary in which the geometrical shapes of the somewhat fantastic animals were developed using the material’s facets and creases. Even more explicitly, in the Cajas [Boxes] series, 1992-1994 (pp. 44-47), the artist showed the boxes as such, that is, as containers or transporters of things and objects.
Despite a certain faithfulness to the habitual uses of corrugated cardboard—in the aforementioned boxes, for instance—and a certain resonance of its recognized forms, a tendency to abstraction and the geometrical began to make itself felt in these series. Indeed, these artist aims would become a constant with variations.

Towards Solidity
The more experimental next step entailed pushing the limits of the

more common, everyday uses of corrugated cardboard. In this phase, Decastelli started layering the sheets of cardboard with glue in order to construct blocks, as if it were a homogenous and monolithic material. Then, after having built a new material, he brought those blocks together; the blocks themselves were analogous, in a way, to large slices or pieces of wood, stone, marble, etc. Thus, the artist’s work here entailed two basic steps: first, the manufacture of the new material—which was strikingly solid, strong but not rigid—by layering sheets of corrugated cardboard; second, cutting this new material in different ways, molding and scraping it. Sometimes he also used dyes, oils, shellac or rendered photographs (digital shots of the material itself) on the surface. This is the case of works like Imposición [Imposition], 1991 (p. 37), a sphere with colored shapes that emerge like a crown, and Introversión [Introversion], 1991 (p. 41), a circular form with a wide base cut to form large tooth-like shapes towards its center , a form that he would repeat in other pieces. A slightly earlier work, Sin título [Untitled] (1990) (p. 39), is another case where three geometrical forms are united along the length of an imaginary axis; this work simulates a simple mechanism, and Decastelli would also use this resource on other occasions. The artist placed on the inner portion of some works from the Cajas [Boxes] series, objects constructed using the aforementioned method (layering sheets and molding) in order to create a sense of the container’s fullness. On other occasions, he proposed another variation: the contents overflowing from the limits of the open box, for instance the pyramid shape that emerges in another work from the same series (p. 47). The use of certain cuts to give shape to each piece yields a variety of textures that are particularly evident on the surfaces of some of the aforementioned works. Thus far , one of the pieces where this is most clear is the somewhat more expressionistic Introversión. At the same time, the smoothness of other works generates another sort of expressiveness. These procedures reveal an intention to let the material express itself, which means not only not covering it but also showing it from different points of view. This attitude is central to Decastelli’s artistic vision. Using this same procedure of layering, he created a series of Libros [Books] from 1995-1996 (pp. 49-57), which consisted of large-scale books or book-objects. That meant, then, moving away from the normal functioning of books to create objects with an array of playful connotations. All these works are examples of formal variations with specific themes proposed by the artist in his dialogue with the material.

Thus, Buscando una mujer I [Looking for a Woman I], 1995 (p. 49), has a horizontal incision—an indirect reference to female genitalia—that cuts through almost all the pages of the book; the more formalist Obsesión Obsession], 1995 (p. 51), simulates the waviness of the corrugated cardboard, also on a larger scale, which is uncovered by an outer sheet cut at a slant, a macro-imitation of its waves.
Later , in Cantar a libro abierto [Sing to Open Book], 1996 (pp. 56-57), the artist once again reveals his interest in a formal approach to certain mechanisms, a hinge in this case. This approach, though, contradicts any possibility of real functioning. This concern with the uselessness of mechanics, with playfulness and subtle humor connects Decastelli with strains of Surrealism and Dadaism.
An untitled installation of blocks of corrugated cardboard dated from 1996 to 1999 (pp. 58-59) is a very particular piece within Decastelli’s oeuvre. It involves the aforementioned abstract tendency, while also manifesting the production of textures. Like each block in and of itself, here the piled blocks yield a seemingly monolithic and self-enclosed form. Another untitled installation (1999-2001) consists of twelve pieces with hinges (pp. 70-71). This work furthered the modality of cutting a basic block made from glued sheets of corrugated cardboard. It also shows the artist’s nclination for simulated mechanisms. The hinges in this work form chains and also display the tendency towards geometry. This work was one of the first times that Decastelli made powerful use of color , black, which covers the entire surface of the pieces in the installation.
What has been described thus far—the layering technique and the gluing together of sheets of cardboard—entails the construction of a dense and strong material out of something by no means as solid as stone or wood. Nonetheless, within the limits imposed by the nature of cardboard, the artist has managed to render it hard and resistant. n relation to this, Decastelli speaks of tests of resistance involving objects that are not necessarily artistic in nature: the construction of a prefabricated house that lasted for ten years, or boats for navigating river rapids, as well as furniture he uses in his own home.
Lastly, somewhere between the rigid and the geometrical are his Paletas Boards], 2000-2006 (p. 87), abstract vertical shapes, and his Señales de corte [Signals of Cutting], 2005-2009, from the same series (pp. 104-106). In these latter works, he transferred photographic images of the material whose black streaks suggest primitive weapons. The works from the Paletas series, as well as both versions of the

block installation, display his sculptural skill in the layout of those pieces in the space. In these works and others, the mastery of the question of location in space entails the concept of specific works. This skill is also evident in the use of space in the house-studio where he currently lives and works.

Towards Softness
When subject to other treatments, the same material manifests other traits like softness and flexibility. Sin título [Untitled], 2000-2006 (pp. 65-69), for instance, consists of ductile screens created as if by slicing the blocks of layered sheets. Decastelli has offered different designs for the exhibition of these works (displaying them horizontally or vertically “standing up,” held up by small wooden sticks, etc.). Regardless of how they are exhibited, though, their flexibility is evident. Similarly, the vertical zigzags in the small work Sin título [Untitled], c. 2004 (p. 93), resoundingly convey the idea of the malleable and the subtle, here also playful and festive.
Perhaps one of Decastelli’s most daring and surprising experiments in terms of challenging the material is the Vibración [Vibration] series, 2004-2010 (pp.72-79), open sheets of corrugated cardboard. By hitting them, the sheets become soft forms with unexpected textures considering the original hardness of the material. Here, he separated the cardboard into the layers from which it is made and, by hitting it, brought out another rich version of the material, showing malleability and mobile forms that are quite unexpected for the unforewarned viewer . On occasion, the artist has even referred to these works as “textiles,” that is, the very opposite of the rigidity of the corrugated sheet. Along these lines, one possible interpretation would entail the experiential aspect of the dialogue with the material. The fact of having “softened” a seemingly rigid material might be explained by having experimented with it directly. First the artist and then the viewer experience it corporeally and existentially.

Between Geometry and Play
Though Decastelli’s playfulness might well lie at the very root of his creative originality, it is particularly evident in certain works, like Sin título [Untitled], 2000-2007 (pp. 94-103), an installation of ten square pieces. This work brings together his tendency towards a sort of

geometrical abstraction and his playfulness. Here, he made use of an array of techniques to formulate a synthesis of his multifaceted work: the separation of sheets of cardboard, the construction of small box-modules, the layering in different directions, the negative rendering of pyramid shapes, that is, towards the inside, the interplay of textures from different angles, and so forth. Each piece could be a board for some imaginary game.
The Brazilian critic Frederico Morais has spoken of playfulness as an important trait of art after World War II as well as of post-modernism, which developed some years later. (8) Frederico Morais associates this characteristic with viewer participation, which here might entail imagining each part of the work as the board of a different game. Regardless of this interpretation, the various parts and the whole operate as individual or joint objects, combining to form more and less solid versions.

Photography and Color
Though the sphere of photography lies outside cardboard, Decastelli’s experiments with that medium can also be seen as part of his dialogue with the material. This work began with photographs of the cardboard itself, shots of his own finished works or pieces of the material discarded in the process of making his work. He then reworks the photographs digitally and transfers certain shots onto the cardboard. That is, they return to their original medium. Malas hierbas [Bad Herbs] and Copia de seguridad [Backup], 2008-2009 (pp. 8-15), were created by this procedure of copying black-and-white photos onto flat sheets of corrugated cardboard. Skillfully laid out for exhibition in the garden space of Arte x Arte in June of 2009, both required the active participation of the viewer , though this is more evident in Copia de seguridad simply because the photograph was printed on only one side of the cardboard.
Decastelli continues to experiment with photography, and with the use of color on cardboard. Sin título [Untitled], 2000-2006 (pp. 80-81), entails an interplay of gluing and textures as well as the use of printing inks of different colors, thus straying from the artist’s typical austerity and synthesis.

(8). Federico Morais, op. cit.

(9). Suzi Gablik, “Deconstructing Aesthetics: Orienting toward the Feminine Ethos,” in The Reenchantment of Art, New York, Thames & Hudson, 1993, p. 60.

Osvaldo Decastelli has been true to one of the key ideas of the 1960s, the period of his art education: mainly, refusing to follow pre-established canons. He discovered everything along the way. He understood what “the explosion of the traditional art object” that took place in the mid-20th century was all about, and that the new modalities of art were going to be more open. He saw that art was going to get closer to design, that the different art disciplines would intersect, and that anything and everything would be capable of becoming an expressive material. He built his own narrative of art. But, more importantly, he narrowed his path in order to go deeper . Going against the times, he was more interested in being than in seeming. And he understood that human life and art must build a bridge to a material, ultimately to the material of the world in order to reach a synthesis. Indeed, his work and its processes incite reflections that deal not only with art, but also with culture in these times.
Observing Osvaldo Decastelli’s work from the last twenty-five years inevitably leads us to reflect on an age-old binary in Western philosophy between material and form. It could be said, in the most basic terms, that material is the possibility that something come to be, and form the determinant of substance. As simple as it is rich and far-reaching, this formulation sheds light on the dialogue between artist and material developed in Osvaldo Decastelli’s work. In the broadest terms, the West has privileged form, and that is related to the place of reason not only in Western culture, but also in modern aesthetics, which has given us, in the words of North American critic Suzi Gablik, “an ontology of objectification, permanence and egocentricity.”(9) These are the first two concepts to be shifted in the work of Decastelli.
What is so unique about how Decastelli works with corrugated cardboard is his approach to the material: that is what gives rise to the form. It is born of the way he delves into the material’s intimacy, of the interrogation of a material that so often goes unnoticed, a material conceived only for use. Decastelli has valorized this material in each and every one of his works. In his tireless attempt to reveal the material, the artist seeks different ways to treat it, and in the end he comes upon forms, almost by chance. One day, he found corrugated cardboard, almost like a mandate. He chose it. And, in this intimate work with the material, he continues to find forms, new methods. There are no preconceived forms. There is no prior intention in terms of the object.

In Gablik’s terms, due to the choice of this seemingly ephemeral material, there is no desire for eternal permanence. Nonetheless, in Decastelli’s unwavering loyalty, the material has proven to be much more permanent and enduring than its normal use would suggest. Though marked by paradox, in the folds of this paradox lies permanent revelation.