The Campos Elísios neighborhood of São Paolo, where Adriano Costa keeps a studio, is plagued with drug dealers and crack addicts. But the 39-year-old artist insists that “it’s the most beautiful part of the city.” This bleakness and beauty is mirrored in Costa’s sculptures, which often incorporate objects—old Nike sneakers, broken umbrellas, used concert wristbands—salvaged from the urban detritus. Metals are paired with fabrics; wood and concrete with plastic. Some pieces take on clean, straight lines, while others resemble a pile of garbage. And Costa vacillates freely between the raw and grim (a bronze bowl containing dried urine) and the light and playful (dream catchers, palm trees).
Brazil might seem to be nonstop sunshine, sex, and samba, but it’s the gulf between the rich and the poor that shows up in Costa’s art. “People think Brazilians are happy all the time,” he says. “But there’s a lot of sadness here.” And Costa is not one to sit idly by. He is in his studio every morning at 7:30; last year he participated in 14 exhibitions in 10 cities, and he will open a major solo show at Sadie Coles gallery in London on August 28 (through October 4). Being an artist, he says, “is simply work.”