Top ad area, 970 x 250 (could be anything though)

Bosco Sodi: “I go with the flow”

Rachel Campbell Johnston
April 15, 2024
5 min

Spend a few minutes in the presence of a Bosco Sodi work and you’ll find yourself tapping into their grounding sense of calm. The vibrant work of the Mexican-born artist – from abstract paintings to sculptures – feels both geological and geometric, achieved at least in part by the artist’s use of raw pigment and natural materials. It’s hardly surprising when you hear how this Mexican artist first discovered his talent. Diagnosed as a child with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, he was sent to art classes from the age of six. “My parents thought it would work as a kind of therapy,” he says. “And they were right. I had grown up going with my family to the forest for weekends, (and) I had always felt close to nature. But I began to feel more settled, more connected to things.”

Bosco Sodi’s practice is both geological and geometric, achieved mostly by the artist’s use of raw pigment and natural materials. Photograph © Maureen M. Evans for QP Magazine UK

This is the sense of connectedness that, over the course of a career spanning three decades and six continents, Sodi – who is now based in New York – has set out to evoke through his art. At first encounter, the restricted colour palette and simple shapes of his pieces – a single red dot against a neutral background; a scattering of clay spheres; a tower of stacked cubes – looks somewhat minimalist. But step a little closer and Sodi’s work reveals its imperfections.

“I keep working,” Sodi says of his painting process, in which he layers mineral pigment with wood, sawdust and glue. “Sometimes for six or seven days. And then, when the first crack in the surface appears, I stop. I leave it. I let it go by itself. I have no control.” Eventually, over the course of several weeks, the thick surface Sodi has created dries, hardens – and shows its cracks. “I accept the accidental,” he says of this philosophy. “Accidents are interesting – unique and unpredictable. If I was asked to make one of my works again, I couldn’t. They are not repeatable.”

Photograph ©Maureen M. Evans for QP Magazine UK

Sodi’s sculptures emerge in a similarly organic way. At his studio in Oaxaca, he takes earth from the ground and, mixing it with water and sand, makes the clay with which he models bricks, spheres or cubes. These are left out to weather in the rain, wind or sun before being fired in a traditional kiln which he fuels with wood, jacaranda seeds and coconut husks. Their surfaces, like those of his paintings, develop distinctive textures and hues. Sodi describes this process as one of “controlled chaos”. “Nothing is predictable,” he says.

“I go with (the) flow. I respond intuitively to my materials, in the way that I touch, in the way that I see. Each (piece) has its own qualities, peculiarities, and flaws.”

Today, Sodi’s main base is in New York City – though he spends weekends in the Catskill Mountains where he and his family have a home, complete with chickens and dogs. It is in the States that he has presented some of his most talked about pieces. In 2017 he created, with Muro, a wall constructed of bricks, all hand-made in Oaxaca. The public were invited to dismantle it, piece by piece. Sodi wanted to show how futile and short-sighted the building of barriers between communities was – with Trump’s proposed wall particularly in his sights. Another work, Tabula Rasa, was staged in the middle of the Covid pandemic. Sodi made 440 clay spheres – one for every day that America had by then been officially in lockdown – inside each of which were encased corn seeds. Passers-by were asked to take them home and plant them. “I wanted to send out a positive message of hope,” Sodi said, “to show that life could begin again.” Afterwards, people sent him photos of the corn as it sprouted in their rooms.

Bosco Sodi’s studio, Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Photograph © Maureen M. Evans for QP Magazine UK

Sodi is emphatically international. But fundamental to his work is the aesthetic of wabi sabi: a Japanese philosophy which puts its focus on simplicity, transience, imperfection and chance. In 2014 he launched Casa Wabi, a not-for-profit foundation housed in a complex designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, located by the ocean in Oaxaca. Wabi sabi, believes Sodi, is a philosophy which connects us more closely to nature. “It gives us the tools better to understand the universe, our humanity and our relationship with the world.” As human beings, the artist believes we must accept that we cannot control many aspects of our lives – his work is forged from this acceptance. “We have to come to terms with ageing, death and accidents,” says Sodi. “They are natural. And they can make our lives interesting and beautiful.”

Bosco Sodi, 2023. Photograph © Maureen M. Evans for QP Magazine UK

While Sodi finds artistic predecessors in international modernism – in the mixed media confections of Tàpies; the art brut of Dubuffet; the colours of Rothko; the energy of de Kooning – he draws most movingly on the heritage of his native Mexico. Clay, he explains, is of particular “ancestral significance”. He has also made sculptures using rocks he has hand-gilded from the famous Ceboruco volcano. “I wanted to take something so common and so beautiful as a rock and transform it with gold into an object of desire,” he explains. But he is also referring to his nation’s colonial history, in which gold was stolen from Mexico and many ritual objects disappeared. With his sculptures, Sodi returns them home: precious and glimmering, in the centre of a room.