Rafael Plaisant | Playground
July 1 - August 29
High Noon is pleased to present Rafael Plaisant’s NYC solo debut, Playground. In his acrylic works on linen and gouache drawings, Plaisant explores texture and movement within a structural framework that nods to multi-cultural architectural and ritualistic elements. Pulling from high and low-brow interchangeably, the almost symmetrical, shrine-like systems are never pre-planned, but manage to inconspicuously bridge a range of influences. Beginning with washes, bold shapes become built into or upon, merging gestural, automatic, sometimes decorative techniques.
Plaisant’s interest in form began as a dream as a kid to build the perfect skate ramp, an ambition which eventually translated to studying Architecture and later a career as a tattoo artist. Both areas of study can be seen in his design sensibility and definitive line quality. Unlike architecture, Plaisant’s drawings and paintings are not interested in practicality or real world application; inspired by a knowledge of Brazilian Modernist and Brutalist Architecture, his work is more concerned with Constructivist philosophy— both its incorporation and subversion.
The largest works, Angra I and Angra II, tilted after the first and second nuclear reactors built in Brazil that Plaisant’s father worked at, carry with them the explosiveness of the retro-futurist utopian spirit of 1958’s International Geophysical Year and the playfulness and cultural specificity of Carnivale. Life in Plaisant’s hometown of Praia Brava was entirely defined around the activity in the nuclear power plant. “When we talk about ritualistic things,” Plaisant says, “The sun rising and setting, the pyramids, the connection with the galaxies, that’s the sci-fi part of it that I really love, and I try to bring to the paintings. All these patterns were connected to Indigenous cultures; it’s just the way I see things, it’s how it comes out.”
Corre, Quero Quero!, flaunts Plaisant’s understanding of opposing values to create space within a constrained palette. The imagery bears the drama of 80’s poster art and the amorphic urban graphic qualities of 90’s skater art. Búlica, named after a game of marbles inspired by golf rules but played in the dirt, merges Plaisant’s willingness to embrace kitsch elements, with allusion to faux painting in crudely craft-applied false woodgrain in an unconventional palette and a marblesque floating orb.
The autobiographical link to the works’ imagery carries with it a very intentional joy and sarcasm. It wasn’t until the pandemic began— and which is still largely uncontained in Brazil— that Plaisant was forced to step away from his career as a tattoo artist and decided to devote his full focus back to fine art. For Plaisant, the current work is a reconciliation of his personal history and country’s cultural zeitgeist— the trauma of his hometown replaced by magic, Brazil’s economic positioning in contention with the current fascist administration— with wonder and optimism.
Rafael Plaisant earned his BFA in Architecture and Fine Arts in the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Since 2003, his commercial work as a tattoo artist has taken him around the globe, and his work has been exhibited in group shows in Vienna, Porto, São Paulo, and Rio De Janeiro.