Must-See: Adriano Costa Worships Non-Hierarchy

In a new show at Emalin, London, the artist invites viewers to reassess their own preconceptions about what constitutes art

BY Phin Jennings in Exhibition Reviews | 22 APR 24

This review is part of a new series of Must-See shows, in which a writer delivers a snapshot into a current exhibition 

Adriano Costa’s exhibition ‘ax-d. us. t’ is littered with perishable goods. The front room at Emalin is taken up by Casas (2023–24), a series of assemblages made from various detritus – a beer keg, a tulip and a square of sandpaper, among other things – brought together to form clusters of vaguely architectural forms. Together, they give the impression of a fragile cityscape.

One might be tempted to describe these materials as found objects, but Costa wouldn’t; he has said that the idea erroneously implies an essential difference between everyday ephemera and the special items we choose to designate as art. The works on show here are displayed according to this principle of non-hierarchy. Bronze sculptures like Uma montanha fodendo sua própria metade (A mountain fucking its own counterpart) (2024) sit plainly on the floor: after all, why elevate the historically esteemed medium of sculpture? Sampa (2024), a torn-apart and bolted-back-together coffee cup that sits on a window-level surface with the Casas, is equally worthy of reverence. In the grand scheme of time, all objects will turn to dust eventually.

Adriano Costa, Uma montanha fodendo sua própria metade (A mountain fucking its own counterpart), 2024, bronze, 27 × 28 × 24 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Emalin, London; photograph: Stephen James

Costa’s philosophy is anything but nihilistic. It’s not that nothing matters; in fact, it’s precisely the opposite: everything matters, nothing is more valuable or significant than anything else. Materials that might usually be ignored are placed at the centre, while traditional sculptures play second fiddle. Like someone listening to a conversation in a language that is not their own, enjoying the interaction simply for its uniquely composed phonetics, Costa has found his own uninhibited way to appreciate the world and its contents.

Adriano Costa’s ‘ax-d. us. t’ is on view at Emalin, London, until 13 July

Main image: Adriano Costa, ‘ax-d. us. t’,2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Emalin, London; photograph: Stephen James

Phin Jennings is a curator, researcher and writer based in London, UK.