Wifredo Díaz Valdéz (born in 1932 in Treinta y Tres, Uruguay, lives and works in Montevideo, Uruguay)

Never will I forget the first time I met Wifredo Díaz Valdéz in his house in Montevideo, where he was standing at his long workbench in his blue smock like janitors used to wear and started to explain his carpentry. He initially appeared to me as an obsessed DIY nerd, a philosophical tinkerer—but I soon realized that before me stood a veritable, subtle, and exceedingly shrewd aesthete, who provoked my curiosity beyond measure.

A carpenter indeed

Wifredo had indeed learned the trade of carpentry as a young man in the countryside; and carpentry in a way remained his livelihood. Like perhaps no other artist, he analyzed the wood types available to him and researched and identified the possibilities in them. His life’s work always remained rooted in the land of his origin, the campo uruguayo

Over many years, he had acquired respect and care for the structure and behavior of wood. Organically, so to say, all those years of handling wood had led the artist to consider the potentials of the material and to investigate in a lifelong process the spatial and plastic as well as the symbolic paths and perspectives that the actual work with wood revealed. 

Butaca, 1984, Oak and jute, variable dimensions, Photography: Bruno Alder, Zürich, Courtesy: Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

Wifredo Díaz Valdéz manufactures sculptures on the one hand, i.e., he shapes wooden blocks by chiseling and carving out and thus disclosing their innermost, their «intimate» and vulnerable core. On the other hand, he engages himself with human-made articles of daily use, trivial, everyday objects, which he thoroughly deconstructs. All kind of artifacts are subjected to his deconstructivist desire, as boccia balls, mate gourds, doors, window frames, chairs, or wheels, which all stand emblematically for the people who have used them and allude to countless, potentially imagined, personal histories.

With his artistic interventions and conversions, Wifredo Díaz Valdéz counteracts the wheel of time in the most beautiful manner possible: The wood, stemming from nature, then having been appropriated by our culture and converted to articles of everyday use, and now normally doomed to decay, is saved by his artistic stroke of hand and transformed to an eternal life in art. By this dysfunctionalization, he divests the wood of its immanent transience and creates a new time-ability, a second life, for it: a cultural act that has acquired an absolutely topical and political relevance in our current culture of recycling.

Bocha, 1991, Quebracho, variable dimensions, Photography: Bruno Alder, Zürich, Courtesy: Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

Constructing by deconstructing

Constructing by deconstructing: what an ingenious move! At the same time, it seems sheerly impossible. All is taken apart, but nevertheless remains held together by fine, wooden bolts and joints to be folded and unfolded at will! What was once functional, now shifts effortlessly into the abstract and metamorphoses into a completely changed, aesthetic nature. All memories of the former functions virtually evaporate—Wifredo’s works have the inverted effect of Boccioni’s iconic «Development of a Bottle in Space» from the beginning of the 20th century.

Life as it is presents itself straightly and immediately in the works by Wifredo Díaz Valdéz in such opposites as before and after, inside and outside, earnestness and play, evolution and destruction, eventually life and death—all of them mutually interdependent and universal dichotomies that perfuse our life. Good that artists like Wifredo Díaz Valdéz exist!

Rueda, 1988, Lapacho and iron, variable dimensions, Photography: Bruno Alder, Zürich, Courtesy: Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

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