Bienal Naifs do Brasil, Alem da Vanguarda (Beyond the Avant Gardes) curated by Kiki Mazzucchelli
Montez Magno and Tonico Lemos Auad lace works
Alexandre da Cunha embroiderie and sem terra painting
Alexandre da Cunha - Rodrigo Matheus - naif painting
Federico Herrero's blue mural in the background
ALÉM DA VANGUARDA
[Beyond the AVANT-GARDE]
exhibition text by curator Kiki Mazzucchelli
Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil has presented the so-called “Special Rooms”, which hold smaller thematic exhibitions featuring artworks selected by a curator appointed by sesc, in parallel with the works selected by the jury of the main exhibition. Although they always seek a dialogue with the naive production, around which the event is structured, the exhibitions in the “Special Rooms” have traditionally taken place in isolation from the main set, literally in a separate room. This physical separation between the two shows served to demarcate their different territories, ensuring that the reading of the curatorial proposal was not confused with the set selected by the jury, thus maintaining their cohesion and integrity. This was generally an important point, since many of the previous curatorships have included artworks that possess a strong aesthetic affinity with the works of naive artists, which could suggest eventual relations between the works and meanings other than those desired by the curators.
In 2012, as the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil is celebrating its 11th edition, sesc’s proposal is to seek a greater approximation between the naive production and contemporary art. Based on this proposal of approximation, the first action of the curatorship was to abolish the physical separation between the works of the main exhibition and the “Special Room”. This gesture was aimed at breaking the artificial rigidity of the categories that surround these two artistic genres, with the assumption that once they shared the same setting this would allow the public to experience the artworks more freely, in a way that is less prescribed by curatorial selections that favor the traditional method of assigning artworks into determined categories. It should be emphasized that the aim was to furthermore eliminate possible hierarchical distinctions between the show selected by the jury and that of the “Special Room.” By doing away with the physical existence of the latter, the aim was to also dispel any associations relative to a supposed greater symbolic value of the works that are part of the invited curatorship. These works, commercialized in the contemporary art market, invariably possess a greater market value and take part in the glamorous circuit of the large art fairs and international art biennials. Here, however, they obsequiously infiltrate into a territory that traditionally belongs to naive art, discreetly emphasizing or punctuating certain aspects in common with the two productions or producing meanings that emerge only in their relationship with naive art.
the naive, or everything that is outside
But it is curious to note, moreover, how the problem of the differentiated perception of the value of these two productions is also reflected in the terminology employed to denote them. The question concerning the inappropriateness of the use of the term “naive” in reference to a production by artists who reject or lack formal art training has been approached various times in past editions of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, and is also the subject of the text published in this catalog by Edna Matosinho Pontes, a member of the jury of the 2012 Bienal. In that text, she calls attention to the negative value built into some of the current terminologies, such as “primitive,” or even “naive”, and comments that the current tendency is to use the term “popular art” as a more appropriate category to encompass the creative diversity of the practices such as those which are the object of this biennial. For her part, Marta Mestre, who also served on the jury of this edition, proposes an expanded questioning of this same problem, situating it within a worldwide and historic panorama. She then goes on to problematize the role of the curatorship in the dissemination of what she designates as “spontaneous art,” calling attention to certain theoretical and interpretive paradoxes that wind up reinforcing its subaltern character in relation to modern and contemporary art. Therefore, in light of the scope of those two texts and the depth with which they deal with the problem of terminology associated to the production by artists who lack or reject formal art training, I will not devote any more space to this question in this brief introductory text.
I should, however, for purposes related to the curatorial proposal of Além da Vanguarda, underscore that here I am suggesting an expanded understanding of that which, as suggested by Matosinho Pontes, would be more appropriately designated as “popular art”. Without a specific or more thoroughgoing knowledge concerning the profound diversity of practices covered by this term, I have opted for a more or less loose definition which, from my point of view, would include the artistic practices that: (1) are unfolded generally outside the large urban centers; (2) are developed apart from academic knowledge of Western art and the 20th-century European vanguards; (3) possess some sort of deep connection with the immediate needs of a determined community, whether of a religious, mythic, commercial, decorative, practical, etc. order, thus possessing a more collective character. Here would be included, for example, indigenous art, the popular handicraft of the Brazilian Northeast, the regional folklorists, Afro-Brazilian art, and others. It should also be noted that I do not propose this as a category absolutely distinct from what we call contemporary art. In fact, works of art commonly extrapolate a category or do not fit into any specific genre, and the countless examples of this include, among many others, the participation of Hélio Melo in the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, curated by Lisette Lagnado, the appropriation of elements of the “civilization of the Northeast” in Lina Bo Bardi’s architecture, or the production of the inmates of the Engenho de Dentro mental hospital. In the case of Além da Vanguarda the aim is to create a situation that favors the destabilization of these categories. The idea is that, on the one hand, the physical proximity between “popular” artists and their contemporaries will allow for a series of productive clashings in the exhibition space based on the aesthetic contents of the artworks on display, while, on the other, it will also provoke a questioning on the limits imposed on the different artistic productions, the discourses that produce them, the circuits in which they transit, and the value they are attributed.
the bienal naïfs do brasil and além da vanguarda
It is evident that the greatest interest and focus of attention of this event as a whole, in regard to its tradition, scope and public, falls on the naive production, disseminated at this biennial which has been consolidated over the last decade as one of the most important national platforms in this field. Therefore, even though the curatorship of the artworks brought together under the title Além da Vanguarda sought to emphasize the so-called contemporary production, it did not intend to take the central position occupied here by the naive art, but rather to discretely infiltrate within the main show of the works selected by the jury. Nevertheless, even with the awareness of its secondary position, it is also an ambitious undertaking, since the very possibility of the exhibition Além da Vanguarda is conditioned on its relation with the naive artworks.
In this sense, it does not appropriate just one or another artwork of the principal segment; rather, it incorporates all of the artworks that are part of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil. It thus becomes a sort of large parasite that creates, simultaneously with the Bienal, another exhibition with an entirely different purpose. That is, both the exhibitions take place there, during the same period and in the same physical space, although the premises on which each of them is based makes them entirely different projects. The show of artworks selected by the jury exists in its own right, independently from the curatorship of Além da Vanguarda, while the latter depends entirely on the set of relations that it establishes with the former in order to exist. Detached from the former, it dissipates and collapses. This evidently involves an experimental proposal which by its own nature and due to the scheduling of the Bienal cannot be definitively settled beforehand, since the selection of the works featured in the curated segment was made in parallel with the selection of the jury, in which, unfortunately, I could not participate. We therefore worked with an element of surprise, and left open some decisions relative to the positioning of the works within the exhibition space until the setup phase.
The artworks selected by the jury at this edition of the Bienal comprise 70 artworks by 55 artists, most of them bidimensional works. The selection of the curatorship, in turn, includes 21 artworks by 10 artists, two of the works commissioned specifically for this exhibition while a third takes place outside the exhibition space of sesc Piracicaba. In choosing the artworks, the aim was to find works able to create situations that foster dialogues and relations between the naive and contemporary segments, mainly involving the relation of these works with a production or with the popular vernacular, understood in the wide sense as all of the artistic production that takes place outside the scope of the tradition of the European vanguards.
As a matter of fact, all of the contemporary works selected here bear some sort of specific relationship with some of these manifestations, whether in the way in which they appropriate recurrent images and thematics in the naive paintings (bells and religion, in the case of Pablo Lobato), in the rereading of a traditional genre of naive painting (landscape, in the case of Carla Zaccagnini and Thiago Rocha Pitta) or in the appropriation of popular techniques (embroidery, in Alexandre da Cunha, lace, in Tonico Lemos Auad, the pennants of popular festivals, in Rodrigo Matheus). For his part, Montez Magno will be represented with works from three different series, produced from the 1970s to the 1990s, in which he deals with the geometric legacy of popular art. This is a small but valuable sampling of work by this artist of historical importance whose experimental and innovating production has been under development since the late 1950s. Besides this, for the first time in the history of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, we have the presence of three foreign artists, whose participation will contribute toward expanding the debate concerning the relation between contemporary and popular art beyond the regionalisms and nationalisms. One of them, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, a Catalan residing in Rio de Janeiro, has focused his work on the Brazilian indigenous culture and its production of geometric patterns. Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero works primarily with painting, exploring the Latin American tradition of mural painting in a way that popularizes contemporary art. We are very happy to have secured his participation in the show, where he will realize a painting in the sesc building, in a place (or places) to be determined during the setup. It was equally gratifying to have the participation of Colombian artist Felipe Arturo, who for some years now has been developing a work of temporary architectures in which he incorporates construction techniques of street vendors from different cities. Arturo will carry out a short artistic residency in the city of São Paulo, where he will research the local street vendors with the aim of developing a project on the veranda adjacent to the exhibition space on the first floor of sesc’s building.
Seeking a more precise translation of the curatorial ideas in the exhibition space, the design of the setup was developed in close dialogue with architect Ana Paula Pontes, in charge of the exhibition architecture. We opted for an architecture that would not reinforce the “popular” character of the naive artworks with emphasis on materials or colors that would evoke this universe, thus allowing the works themselves to express their content without the need for external reinforcement. At the same time, we did not follow the aesthetics of the “white cube” traditionally used for contemporary shows, but rather sought to incorporate the characteristics of the building itself, which was not constructed specifically to host art exhibitions, thus presenting a series of visual interferences. For this edition of the Bienal, the architect developed a system of display panels made with boards of unfinished, unpainted plywood, held up by metal supports. Besides preserving the transparence of the exhibition space, avoiding the construction of false walls and proposing a lighter occupation of the building, the panels make use of a material which simultaneously evokes a certain rusticity (the unfinished wooden board, in the size in which it comes from the factory) and an industrial character (since it is an industrialized material). We therefore arrived at an architectural design that is strictly aligned to the curatorial proposal. The graphic design was developed by Carla Caffé with the SESC team and has equally sought to reflect the concerns of this curatorship.
Finally, I would like to express my immense thanks for the support and enthusiasm of the team at sesc Piracicaba during the process of conceiving and carrying out this project. Thanks to the performance of all of them and to effective teamwork, we were able to ensure the inestimable participation of the artists and members of the invited jury and to carry out each step of the process with due care and attention. Juliana Braga and Daniel Hanai were especially attentive to the demands of the curatorship since the outset, understanding the ambition of this project and contributing greatly with clever solutions for the problems of a practical and conceptual nature that arose in our path.
The 2012 Biennial of Naive invited artists
ALEXANDRE DA CUNHA
In his work, Alexandre da Cunha appropriates materials, objects and citations from traditionally distinct registers to transform them through a process involving the collage of different elements. This operation is generally based on commonplace objects found in everyday life (towels, parasols, household utensils, and many other things), which are taken out of their original context, recombined with other elements, and finally inserted into a new hierarchy of value. Upon bringing these objects within the universe of art, he strips them of their original function while simultaneously raising questions concerning ideas of value, circulation or intentionality.
In the series of embroideries present in this exhibition, Alexandre da Cunha appropriates popular practice/knowledge and commonplace materials, as he did in earlier works, making use of their symbolic values. Here he associates the quality of embroidery fabric to the large burlap bags used in coffee export, which serve as a raw material for these works. While some are more figurative, and others more abstract, the composition of each embroidery was carefully selected by the artist based on the original illustrations on these bags, to which he adds nothing. It should be noted that when he exhibits the artworks of this series in the context of this exhibition, in the interior of São Paulo state — whose development in the 19th century was driven by the coffee industry — he lends them a new meaning by activating their relations with history.
But beyond the different layers of meaning, one of the most interesting elements in this series is the confusion of roles that the artist brings about, since here the person who carried out the manual work of the embroidery was his gallerist, Luisa Strina. Embroidery is an activity normally associated to women accustomed to household tasks, who do not have professional careers — an image that contrasts strikingly with the figure of an independent gallerist and entrepreneur. This series of artworks therefore fosters the encounter of two profoundly distinct worlds; one linked with handicraft, to the repetition of a technique and knowledge linked to a feminine task in its most traditional meaning, and another one linked to contemporary art, to the cultural vanguard, to conceptual innovation and to internationalism.
The Museu das Vistas [Museum of Views] project began in 2004 and, since then, has been repeated various times in cities in different countries: Medellín (Colombia), Rincón (Puerto Rico), São Paulo (Brazil), Valparaíso (Chile), and others. As in other artworks by Carla Zaccagnini, here she creates some rules of the game, which should be followed by the viewers/participants for the artwork to be fully realized. In this case, the artist employs a forensic sketch artist, who remains available during a previously agreed period in some areas of the city where the exhibition featuring the artwork is held. Here, instead of translating into drawing the spoken description of criminal suspects, these portraitists produce drawings of landscapes recollected by those who wish to participate in the project. Each one of these drawings is made on self-copying paper; the original graphite drawing is given to the person who describes the scene, while Museu das Vistas collects the blue copies on yellow paper produced chemically by the pressure of the pencil.
The resulting collection is a testimony to the forms in which the landscape becomes a mental image and how this image of memory can be transformed into a discourse and be translated into drawing, constructing a new physical image. Thus, the traditional genre of landscape painting, so relevant and predominant in the production of the artists who are participating in the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, is unfolded in Museu das Vistas, in time and in space. In a certain way, Zaccagnini’s project attests to the persistence of the landscape in the current world. At least since the 15th century we have learned to see the world as a landscape, and it is precisely this process of mental construction and visual translation that the artist emphasizes in Museu das Vistas. The resulting drawings are also fundamental elements of the project, and since their final form will be determined by the skills and choices made by the portraitist, as well as the narrators, they are unforeseeable. But based on the drawings produced up to now we can say that, for the most part, they bear some stylistic affinity with naive art. Are not forensic artists — whose training I do not know — artists from outside the traditional world of the fine arts?
In the indigenous Tupi language, the word Ka’aeté means “deep forest,” far from the inhabited territories. It is a mythic place where gods and spirits live, where the paths end; it is the impenetrable. Kiti means “to cut with a sharp instrument, by human hands or by technical means.” As in the Hegelian interpretation, for the indigenous tribes of Brazil, the Ka’aeté, the deep forest, is also a place without history, where the things are still unformed and animals can metamorphose.
Kiti Ka’aeté is the overall title of a project by Daniel Steegmann that originated from a collage in which the artist based his work on the abstract art of the Tupis, with its complex geometric system, to realize precise cuts on an image of the Amazonian forest. In a subsequent unfolding of the same work, which is the version featured in this show, the collage was installed within an exhibition panel and backlit using only a slide projector. In this way, the beams of white light pass through the small cuts and their luminosity emanates from the face of the image, conferring the quality of a spirit or soul to the abstract forest. Part of the installation consists of the space between the projector and the panel where the collage is located. Open and accessible, it can be passed through by the exhibition visitors, who intermittently interrupt the beam of light from the projector, causing a flickering effect that can be observed by those in front of the image.
Kiti Ka’aeté brings to Além da Vanguarda the dimension of indigenous art, manifested through its rereading within the contemporary register. Here, the constructive appearance of the collage — which in the context of contemporary art produced in Brazil normally evokes or makes reference to the practices of concrete and neoconcrete art — points to other possibilities of experimentation with geometry and, not less importantly, to the meaning of its approximation with life.
Trained as an architect, the Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero mainly uses the medium of painting. Many of his works, like the one featured in the show Além da Vanguarda, are realized onsite: in public spaces such as façades of houses and buildings, on city walls or private walls inside galleries or other types of buildings, where he executes his paintings in close dialogue with the spatial organization of the locale. Characterized by their vibrant color, normally divided into units of abstract and simultaneously fluid and imprecise forms, these paintings — in contrast with the rigorous geometric abstractions that characterize the Latin American art of the mid-20th century — nearly seem to sprout organically from the walls. Their mode of existence is therefore more analogous to the disordered and voracious way that the lush nature of the tropics takes over the constructions in these regions of the planet. As a further comparison with the botanical order, these paintings at certain moments resemble the drawings of landscape designs by Roberto Burle Marx, with their sinuous lines and areas of color interlaced within a set of organic forms.
To a certain extent, Herrero’s practice borrows characteristics from the tradition of mural painting, a practice associated mainly with the Mexican artists of the first half of the 20th century, but which found echoes in various Latin American countries including Brazil. But, if on the one hand it shares with this tradition an interest in bringing art closer to a nonspecialized public that inadvertently comes across his paintings in public spaces, it abstains from seeking to convey more direct political and ideological contents, as was the case of the original muralists.
In the coloring of Herrero’s paintings, we find a strong resonance with the production that has been consistently presented at the various editions of the Bienal Naïfs since its founding. The presence of his works at this show seeks to catalyze the artworks selected by the jury, allegorically suggesting that they leave the bidimensional plane, overflowing it and crawling across the floor, climbing the walls and moving across the ceiling of the building, to finally occupy all of the tridimensional space of sesc Piracicaba.
Since 2009, the Colombian artist Felipe Arturo has been investigating the construction methods employed by street vendors in different Latin American cities. He notes how the ephemeral architectures specific to each of these cities have evolved based on complex processes of local policies and particularities related to the distribution of foods and merchandise within the urban and rural centers or between each nation and other countries. The phenomenon of populational displacement entailed by the informal commerce has an undeniable impact on the urban configuration of certain regions, where each day large commercial centers are set up and taken down in the open air, attracting thousands of consumers.
Due to their temporary and most often illegal nature, the architecture of this sort of commerce possesses some basic characteristics. In some cases it should consist of relatively light materials, for easy transport, while allowing for simple and efficient techniques for quick setup and takedown. The materials should invariably be easy to find and low-cost, but should also be durable and tough enough to stand prolonged exposure to the elements. It is therefore an architecture entirely founded on the pressing needs of these groups of formal workers, not based merely on academic principles and therefore informed by a living, popular know-how.
In São Paulo, as in other large Latin American cities, the daily activity of the street vendors takes place on a large scale, and it is precisely there that Arturo will engage in a short residency in order to produce a new commission for Além da Vanguarda based on his researches on the construction methods of the local street vendors. Appropriating construction materials and techniques learned from the street vendors of the city of São Paulo, the artist will construct a temporary environment, whose final configuration will be developed in the weeks preceding the exhibition. For the first time in the history of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, this work will occupy the large veranda adjoining the exhibition room of sesc Piracicaba, creating an area of observation and pause that connects the building’s interior to the areas dedicated to leisure and sports that are located in the anterior part of sesc’s grounds.
With an artistic career spanning six decades, the Pernambucan artist Montez Magno possesses an extremely complex and diversified oeuvre that is unfolded in different media and researches. In the context of the exhibition Além da Vanguarda, we are particularly interested in the artist’s investigations concerning the geometry of popular art, which he began in 1972 with his studies for the first cycle of the series Barracas do Nordeste [Tents of the Northeast], from which we are presenting three pieces in the show.
It is worthwhile citing here an excerpt from one of the artist’s letters selected by Clarissa Diniz in her essay published in the monograph of the artist released in 2010, where he explains the aim of his research:
“[...] A large part of my current work is based on things from right here, in Recife, in the Northeast, but the people of Recife themselves don’t perceive this. I am carrying out a research or study of the forgotten and omitted side of Brazilian popular art: the abstractionist side. It’s incredible what the people do in terms of geometric abstraction. I am using photographic slides to document the various modalities of abstract-geometric expression: tents used for celebrations and street markets covered with patches, ice cream and popcorn wagons, etc.; garage doors, and other things that appear along the way. It’s fantastic, and you will sometimes find things from op art, concretism and constructivism, all of it made in utter ignorance and ingenuousness, but with a sharp and intuitive sense of color and construction. It is from these things that I currently extract material for my work.”
His Barracas do Nordeste, with their imprecise and vividly colored geometric shapes, oscillate between abstraction and figuration, since they retain a formal connection with their referent, sometimes even presenting indications concerning the context from which they were removed. The two other series represented in this show also resort to an approximation with the popular realm, although they seek different formal solutions. In Teares de Timbaúba [Looms of Timbaúba], the artist focuses on explorations of geometric possibilities of the line, experimenting with different traces made by pencil and oil pastel on a neutral paper background, thus producing a starker result. For its part, the series Fachadas do Nordeste [Facades of the Northeast] consists of small-format paintings made in acrylic on cardboard. In this case, taking popular architecture as a motif, color and line seem to possess equivalent weight.
The work by the Minas Gerais artist Pablo Lobato featured in the show Além da Vanguarda presents a recurrent and highly symbolic image in the world of popular art: the church bell. In the history of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, there have been countless artworks in which church bells figure in scenes of public squares or festivities, always perched at the top of the bell towers of small churches in small cities and towns. It is precisely in Minas Gerais, Lobato’s state of birth, where some of the most precious churches of the baroque period are found. It was there that the artist carried out a research into the bells of different cities, many of them deactivated today, an investigation that resulted in a series of works that includes Bronze Revirado [Overturned Bronze] a video installation that we are presenting here.
As Jacopo Crivelli Visconti describes in a commentary on this work, “[U]pon investigating and studying this theme, the artist verified that the top of bell towers where bells are rung is the nearly exclusive domain of bell ringers (who in olden times were mostly slaves): neither the churchgoers nor the priests themselves go up there. That is, the artist recovers the visuality of an event of fundamental importance in the social fabric, whose image over the centuries has nevertheless been programmatically and methodically hidden and even denied.” Thus, in contrast to the excessive visibility of the image of the bell and the church in both the refined and popular pictorial depictions, what Lobato offers us is a ritual which, despite being carried out systematically over the centuries, remains concealed.
Shown here on a national scale and in a way that brings us behind the scenes of the church, to within the niche where the risky and nearly erotic choreography of the bell ringers transpires, Bronze Revirado retains all of its human character, revealing as suggested by Crivelli Visconti, “a sort of pagan trance […] which rips the stasis and the silence, to install the ecstasy.”
In this case it is we who glimpse in the background, through the opening of the bell tower, the public square, the regional festivities or the landscape of the small interior town.
With a production that transits through different media, in his art Rodrigo Matheus does not stick to particular techniques or styles. In his first works, he incorporated and articulated industrialized or designed products found in the everyday collective experience, emulating and employing their aesthetic characteristic within the contemporary art circuit. Recently, he made a series of works in which he appropriated materials characteristic of that same circuit, such as artwork labels and materials used in setting up art exhibitions, using them to create temporary sculptural situations. These configurations were only maintained during the period of the exhibitions they were shown in, dissipating after their end, when these materials were returned to their places of origin and ceased to be considered as art.
For the two new commissions he produced for the show Além da Vanguarda, Matheus also operates with a re-signification of existing materials. Here, he seeks to dialogue directly with the local history of the power of the agrarian elites in the state of São Paulo and the commercial transactions they made with England in the early 20th century, when the term “globalization” was still unheard of. In one of these pieces, he gathers a series of documents relating to various commercial transactions between Brazil and England and arranges them on a bidimensional surface, thereby conferring materiality to a system based on transatlantic trade, the accumulation of capital, and the exploitation of slave labor. In the second work, he uses papers from that same period that were used to wrap oranges exported from Brazil to England. These oranges were wrapped one by one in a delicate paper which bore the inscription of its origin and the company’s logo. Here, Matheus brings these papers back to their country of origin, using them to construct a delicate bidimensional wall piece in which they are used as small decorative pennants of regional festivals and adorned with fishhooks and bait that recall the large rivers in the interior of the state of São Paulo. Through these material evidences, Matheus evokes a history of commercial transactions supported by slave labor and submitted to a systematic erasure, but whose echoes are still felt in the social fabric of contemporary Brazil.
THIAGO ROCHA PITTA
In his essay entitled “Sobre como domesticar o imprevisível”, published on the occasion of the show Notas de um desabamento, by Thiago Rocha Pitta, held in 2010 at the Cavalariças da Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, Felipe Scovino suggests that “Pitta’s work is always manifested as a landscape painting, regardless of the support he works with or the sense of invention he constructs.” And he goes on to state that it is “a landscape that changes at the same time that this painting asks itself if it continues being painting or enlarges the artist’s research into other fields of poetic production.” The possibility of mobilizing the theme of landscape paintings in the field of contemporary art and within the context of the exhibition Além da Vanguarda is one of the interests of this curatorship, as it has to do with a genre that has occurred throughout the history of the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil.
Here, we present Rocha Pitta’s video Herança [Heritage], where we see a small wooden boat that forms a nearly surrealist image, carrying a pair of trees in the midst of the high seas. Sometimes closer or farther away from the camera that records it, this unusual assemblage of boat-and-trees floats adrift, without a course or any intention of reaching land, since it constitutes, in itself, a territory. We follow its drifting course without any expectation for the closing of a narrative, allowing ourselves to be carried along by the duration of the event itself. Our interest is engaged only by the changes in framing caused by the relative distance or nearness of the boat. Nevertheless, it continues floating as an enigmatic offering, full of a symbolism that we are not able to decipher.
Scovino calls attention to the economy of images in the work of Rocha Pitta, and to how his suppression of the excess of external “noises” allows for the appearance and manifestation of an interior, intimist story. In the case of Herança, what he adds to the traditional representations of landscape is only the temporal datum, which asks for a moment of contemplation in the unfolding of the present time.
TONICO LEMOS AUAD
In his works, Tonico Lemos Auad begins with mundane materials to construct objects, sculptures and installations that generally depend on a delicate balance to exist. Within common and insignificant contexts the artist carries out silent displacements that potentize the latent symbolic value of shapes and elements that normally go by unperceived, making them precious and permanent. These operations invariably involve a specific handicraft skill that is characteristic of certain regions or cultures and associated to traditional materials and techniques passed from one generation to the next down through the centuries. In their obsolescence in relation to the society of mass production, many of these techniques are currently nearly extinct, thus also turning Auad’s work into an extensive research and negotiation with each artisan involved.
For Além da Vanguarda, the artist produced a set of five objects that are part of his Sleepwalkers series, presented for the first time at MuHKA, in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2009–10. These objects are carefully produced using laces from different origins, which the artist acquires already made, but which are then transformed into three-dimensional elements in the form of fruits or vegetables. Throughout this painstaking process, which requires extreme precision and ability, a Portuguese lace, for example, with its coarser weave is cut and mended together, thread by thread, with an elegant piece of English lace, or Brazilian lace, in such a way that the transition from the one to the other is nearly imperceptible. Upon careful observation, however, there are perceptible nuances in the passage from one weave to the next, revealing the small but significant differences that evidence not only the passage of a given know-how through the different cultures, but also the adaptations that this technique undergoes in each country over the years. These fruits and vegetables made of lace are hung like light fixtures from the ceiling and lit up from the inside, allowing us to observe all of the details on their surfaces. Characterized by the imprecision of manual production, however, they present an organic aspect, seeming to sprout from the ceiling like exotic plants that result from the uncommon crossing between tropical and European seeds.