From an early age, Sergio Roger knew that textiles would be his medium. Growing up in Barcelona, where he’s now based, the Spanish artist, 40, sewed toys from scraps of cloth. Later, he encountered soft works by Louise Bourgeois and Joseph Beuys and realized that sculpture didn’t have to be made from just stone or wood — it could be pliable. Later still, he was drawn to Greco-Roman statuary: busts and friezes and architectural reliefs. “But the process of working with stone is aggressive,” he says. “Textiles are sensitive; they absorb. They carry stories.”
Today, Roger, who studied at Berlin University of the Arts, creates fabric sculptures — a five-foot-tall Ionic column, a bust of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, a bearded head of Jupiter — that are both tributes to ancient art and visual sleights of hand. Composed of salvaged vintage linen or dupioni silk and stuffed with mattresslike wadding and sometimes pieces of wood for stability, they only look hard; in reality, they’re soft, even slightly yielding.
He sees these sculptures — he’s currently fabricated around 50 of them — as reinterpretations of classic pieces, as well as provocations. “I’m interested in this idea of how we relate to the past,” he says. “It should be revisited with a critical eye.” Indeed, his works, which he sells through the Rossana Orlandi gallery in Milan, are a way for him to explore how colonial constructs influence our understanding of the ancient world. Roger cites, for example, how the purported whiteness of Greek and Roman relics, despite evidence of their original polychromatic state, became an ideal echoed in neo-Classical art. “Archaeologists would find pieces of stone and buff away the pigment, but that’s hard for us to accept,” he says. “We’re so used to this idea of purity.” His works are also a way for him to challenge the idea of sculpture itself — as something not to be chiseled or hewn but, rather, embroidered and quilted, blurring the line between craft and what’s been traditionally considered fine art. “I work intuitively,” he says, “then tend to reflect.”