Compared to glittering silver and gold, steel may seem “less noble than other metals,” admits sculptor Carolina Sardi. Forged into machinery and infrastructure, the pliable alloy is most valued for its strength, not beauty. But its strict utility melts away in Sardi’s hands, becoming sinuous forms that coalesce into sculptures and installations that dangle from ceilings or meander across walls, casting dappled shadows in their wake.
The artist revels in the contradiction of her medium. “I like that I can make this industrial material into something precious,” she explains. “I can make steel look light instead of heavy and polished instead of rough.”
During Sardi’s studies at the National University of La Plata in her native Argentina, the country’s Concrete Art tradition grounded her earliest forays into sculpture. Known for its sharp abstract geometry and unconventional materials, the movement focused on distilling a pure visible language, freed from realistic representations and confined dimensions.
Today, the sculptor’s petal-like forms lean more organic in comparison, echoing the lush tropical flora of her Little Haiti studio’s adjacent garden. Yet despite the industrial precision that manipulating steel requires, her pieces—which include furnishings and architectural applications—preserve a hand-sculpted feel. Sardi first sketches the composition, then adapts the shapes into a schematic plan with scaled measurements. Large architectural installations are machine cut with AutoCAD blueprints.
But for most works, like her recent exhibition at Pan American Art Projects, she draws directly onto the metal sheets, slicing out forms using a plasma cutter and welding them together. The artist then experiments with textured patinas, ombre paints and mirrored chrome and copper plating, choosing finishes “that accentuate the sculpture’s shapes,” she explains. “I’m always searching for that balance of opposites, how they react to and attract each other.”
Similarly, part of her work explores a “visual alphabet” of lines and volume. Incorporating negative space into the composition, Sardi’s pieces are integrated within the surrounding architecture, responding to the changing light. “Space is something that we don’t see, but it’s all around us,” the sculptor says. “I like to embrace its qualities.