Now showing at KHFA

Empty Panties

Adriana Carvalho
March 30-May 4, 2024
Opening reception Saturday, March 30, 5:00-7:00 pm
Artist in attendance

With a tongue-in-cheek humor, Adriana presents a series of female undergarments embroidered with provoking phrases that are reflection of her personal and societal mores. Besides the panties, Adriana will install a series of her full body sculptures constructed out of metal which embody and emote various narratives that express human vulnerabilities.


Prepared Shelves 3.3

Essay by Denise Delgado

Adriana Carvalho was born in the town of Taquaritinga, Brazil and has lived and worked in the U.S. since 1989. She first studied mechanics, welding, and metalwork in Brazil, and later found inspiration in the industrial landscapes, public art and architecture of Chicago, where she lived for 10 years. Based primarily in Miami Beach since 2003, her largest body of work consists of sculptural dress and clothing forms made with manufactured and repurposed metallic objects and materials. These sculptures play with humor and anxiety around feminine cultural archetypes.


Waste Not Want Not Garter Belt

Carvalho's practice is rooted in the handmade, favoring production values that reveal the manipulations, styling and embroidered script of an individual maker. Using prefabricated household or industrial materials such as steel wool, wire mesh, aluminum screen, brass wire, spikes, she typically works directly with the material to create three-dimensional objects without first drawing plans or sketches.

In an interview, she described her art making process as solitary, "quiet and obsessive," often beginning the same piece over and over again until it synchronizes with what she's envisioned. Through this laborious long-term project, Carvalho has meticulously produced over a thousand garment sculptures and found her way to certain figurative, cultural and narrative themes and associations.

These sculptures are all constructed as if to fit or contain a petite, slender body that is never there. They embody the forms of whole gowns and lingerie as they would appear impeccably hung, worn by someone standing upright, cast aside slightly crumpled or pressed flat as though run over by a car. They range in scale from whole fleets of palm-sized pieces to substantial sculptures one to six feet tall. Carvalho exhibits these in the singular, as in Frida (in reference to influential Mexican painter Frida Kahlo).

Most of Carvalho's garments favor dainty ribbons or narrow straps over sleeves, or bustiers created out of metal that look downright painful to wear. Their narrow bodices and waists flair into voluminous or flowing A-line skirts, often cascading into stiff layered ruffles or pleats, adorned with abrasive steel wool fashioned into poufs, or embroidered with provocative phrases in neat, round cursive. Skirting is often sheer enough to reveal embroidered metal panties suspended underneath.

These garments are made sharper, heavier and more rigid than their real-life counterparts by the tough but malleable metals of which they're made. But the forms and gestures they suggest are deeply familiar. They are the ball gowns, slips, corsetry, and postures recognizable from proms, quinces, weddings, and fairy tales. Carvalho's sculptures allude to a recognizable pantheon of conventionally feminine caricatures, types and roles as well as to art history. It's the artist's intention to make that association a little more tricky with the materiality of the work as well as with elements of humor, conflict, sexuality, and storytelling.

Little Rose, top 38" x 42" x 30", bottom 36" x 42" x 30"
Climate Change Is a Hoax Set