Ascânio MMM is one of the leading artists in the trajectory of geometric abstraction in Latin America. His sculptures are built on the principles of Mathematics, specifically the possibilities of geometric configurations. Repetition and precision are essential elements in the work process, regardless of scale or the material, the result is often a meeting between the rigor of constructivism and the illusion of optical art. 

Born in Fão, Portugal, in 1941, Ascânio has been living and working in Rio de Janeiro since 1959. His formal education includes the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes [National School of Fine Arts] between 1963 and 1964 and the Architecture and Urbanism College at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University (FAU/UFRJ) from 1965 to 1969, where he graduated.

He worked as an architect until 1976, on such projects as the signaling and duplication of Vale’s Vitória-Minas railway – during this project he lived in Vitória for three years.

Ascânio started developing his artistic work in 1966, when he was still at the Architecture and Urbanism College, and later along with his work as an architect. In that same year he showed his work for the first time to the public, at the Salão de Abril at Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro [April Exhibition at Rio de Janeiro’s Modern art Museum]. The boxes – wooden cubes on which the spectator can move different sized squares, making diverse drawings – are from this period. 

The relationship among sculpture, Mathematics and Philosophy became a central matter in his work during the 1970s. In this period, from an axis, he explored progressions in vertical and horizontal twists, using wooden slats painted in white. 

In the 1980s, with reliefs and sculptures Fitangulares, he became interested in raw wood; white, light and shadow were not the main issue anymore. He began to explore different species of wood and their natural colors (cedar, mahogany, and other South American wood such as salmwood, Ipe and Pau-marfim). In the late 1980s he made the first Piramidais in wood. 

In the 1990s the issue of great dimensions became a core matter to Ascânio, and the research on aluminum profiles intensified. Aluminum became, thus, the basis for the creation of new works, always using module. This phase’s sculptures are characterized by aluminum tubes cut into rectangles, which generate great dimension sculptures with hollows and sequences of transparencies and opacities, making them almost immaterial depending on the viewer’s position. 

In the 2000s Ascânio develops Flexos e Qualas. In the first works, the bolts used on Piramidais were replaced by stainless steel wire that tied the centimeter tubes together, making a flexible mesh. In Qualas the wire was replaced by rings, resulting in a mesh “that crosses the sight, the light, the wind”. 

In the 2010s, with Quasos, Ascânio remains focused on aluminum and its possibilities, and starts reversing the traditional logic behind the use of bolts. These works have twists and bends that result from the deconstruction of the geometric mesh, introducing the matter of unpredictability into his works. Color was used again, but in a subtle way. 

Ascânio’s artistic production was the object of study and critical analysis by Paulo Herkenhoff in the book Ascânio MMM: Poética da Razão [Ascânio MMM: The Poetics of Reason] (BEĨ publishing, 2012). In 2005 Ascânio MMM (Andrea Jakobsson publishing, 2005) was published with passages by Paulo Sergio Duarte, Lauro Cavalcanti, Fernando Cocchiarale e Marcio Doctors. 

The artist’s work is in important public and private art collections in Brazil and abroad, and has been exhibited at the São Paulo Biennial (1967 and 1979) and at Panorama da Arte Brasileira [Panorama of Brazilian Art] (1970, 1972, 1975 e 1985), among other important collective and individual exhibitions, such as: MAM RJ, Paço Imperial, Palácio das Artes, Dominique Lévy Gallery, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires, Argentina; MAR - Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro; Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valência (Spain); Panorama da Arte Brasileira in 2008, MAM SP, Arte como Questão - Anos 70, Tomie Ohtake Institute, São Paulo, Itaú Cultural Institute, São Paulo, I Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre (RS), MAC SP, Barbican Center, London, MASP SP, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, among others.

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