Axel Vervoordt

José Zanine Caldas (Brazil, Belmonte 1918-2001 Vitória)
Table, 1978
Pequi wood
80 x 120 cm
Provenance: private collection, São Paulo, acquired directly from the artist

Born on the southern coast of Bahia, in a town called Belmonte, José Zanine Caldas moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1938, to start a workshop producing architectural scale models. Through his work, he met a number of iconic Brazilian architects such as Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa. When plywood was introduced in the Brazilian construction market in the early 1940s, Zanine soon realised that this material lent itself perfectly to the mass production of furniture. Along with several partners, he founded the furniture company Moveis Artisticos Z, which he left in 1952 due to internal conflicts. He continued his work as a scale modeller and furniture designer in São Paulo, where he also became active as a landscape designer, architect, and modelling teacher at the University’s Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.

Zanine Caldas returned to Bahia in the 1970s, and there became inspired by the way in which local craftsmen carved canoes and rowboats from felled trees. He started to develop a more elemental approach to furniture manufacturing, by chiselling pieces directly from large logs of wood, creating a distinct signature style with these organic, sculptural pieces. José Zanine Caldas' work is a testament to the power of natural wood and its beauty as a material. As a pioneer in the field of forest preservation and ecology, Zanine Caldas’ intention was to plant a new tree every time another was cut down for one of his projects. He wrote several essays on the relationship between Brazil’s forests and its people, drawing inspiration and knowledge from architectural history, philosophy and local folk tales.