Surrender as I surrendered.
Dive into what you don’t know as I dove.
Ask, without expecting an answer, as I am asking.
Don’t worry about ‘understanding’.
Living surpasses understanding.
For years, the Pernambuco state, located in the Northeast region of Brazil, has been revealed as a territory of immense, rich and vast production of culture and arts in general. Emblematic names are engraved in memory and are part of the history of experimentalism in the making of art, culture, in the production of critical and literary works reflecting Brazil and the Northeast region. Many works and their creators such as Ariano Suassuna, Cícero Dias, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Francisco Brennand, Gilberto Freyre, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Clarice Lispector, Chico Science, are all intellectuals/artists who have contributed and still contribute to the construction of a physiognomy of the Northeast, of the Sertão, and of the men who inhabit this territory, their cultures and subjectivities.
Within the Visual Arts, several artistic and poetic trajectories were traced on the national and international level, carrying in their visual repertoires the heritage and the novelty of a Brazilian State bursting with creativity. Using diverse forms of poetry in their art, visual artists from Pernambuco have raised particular concerns in the eyes of the specialists and the general public, as their vibrant poetic singularities attract the most discerning eyes.
More recently, around the mid- 90’s, the Pernambucan artistic production – mainly its films, music, visual arts – has sparked a break up of regional themes and expanded the ways and means of producing speeches and poetry beyond local borders. This symptom was the result of a process called the globalization of culture, of the advances of research and technological developments, and the economic internationalization, which all caused real and virtual displacements of artists from the city of Recife – the PE capital- to other locations, while Recife also welcomed the presence of critics, artists and works from other regions of Brazil and the world.
Dynamics in the field of arts are changing. The artistic circuit is intensifying and the circulation of cultural products in fairs and international exhibitions gave a greater visibility to part of the artistic production of Pernambuco, which materializes in different ways, both ephemeral and fragmentary. The repertoires, procedures, materials and means of production of the poetry of those artists act as an amplifier for the region, making it simultaneously local and international. We therefore discover the ramifications, echoes and reverberations their productions resonate abroad, contributing to a local and international redesign of the imaginary of what could be Brazil, the Northeast, the Sertão, their men under the tropics.
The journey of creation on which these contemporary designers and artists from Pernambuco embarked – which we now present in this exhibition Contemporary Pernambuco – was and still is enticing us to discover a common thread of experimentalism, as a way of representing themselves, the city and the world they live in. Through boldness and gimmicks in the choice and use of materials, poetic procedures, in the repertoires and themes addressed, the featured artists bring their creativity to the exhibition and reveal, in their creative processes and in their work, an experimental attitude towards art and the artistic medium.
This collective exhibition aims to bring together important visual artists and to gather the various forms of contemporary art produced in Pernambuco, and, at the same time, to initiate a debate over issues about the multiplicity of poetry and of these artists.
The exhibition gathers the works from 17 contemporary artists from Pernambuco spreading over four generations, and features works performed using various supports: Daniel Santiago, Eudes Mota and Paulo Bruscky represent the experimentalism of the 1970’s. Sebastião Pedrosa, best known for his production of engravings and acting as a professor in the Department of art theory at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), where he taught for nearly three decades, dwelving into other supports. Gil Vicente and Renato Valle, who were very young in the 1970’s, started with paintings, moving on to drawings and engravings during the following decades, affirming themselves as visual artists who experience these languages in various ways. Marcelo Silveira, Márcio Almeida, Oriana Duarte, Paulo Meira and José Paulo, direct heirs of the 1970’s conceptual generation, extrapolated in the 1980’s and onwards using the boundaries of languages, supports, grammars and semantic fields of the artistic medium itself, resulting in cracks and ruptures in the tradition of Pernambuco’s visual arts. Finally, we discover a sketch of the artistic production of the 2000’s generation, through the operations, actions and attitudes of the artist Lourival Cuquinha, through the relationship between the body and the natural world of Rodrigo Braga, the constructed mythology of Bruno Vilela and Amanda Melo, and the graphic experiences of Kílian Glasner, and Jeims Duarte. Despite gathering works of visual artists from Pernambuco who work with various supports and poetries, the exhibition follows the same verve from the torrid Northeast.
Tainted with baffling realism, the drawings of Jeims Duarte shake our vision of the world and leave us with a melancholic and tragic vision of the human condition, exhibiting an ironic architecture in his public abandonment.
Kilian Glasner’s designs are dealing with locations, some taken from photographs, some springing from the unconscious, or the world which we inhabit. These are presented in black and white and offer a dreamlike and contemplative experience to the public. A territory of emotions and recognition.
A flag burning in black and white.
The works of Lourival Cuquinha deal with money and the complexity of economic value. Columns of coins, flags made of Euro banknotes, all reflect on the mechanisms of the art market. He first started working with money as he was accompanying his partner in a graduate program in London in 2007. Since then, the concepts of world economics, capitalism and politics became part of his work. One of his works for this exhibition is named Rickshaw.
Desejo Eremita is a series of 17 pictures by Rodrigo Braga, the result of a three months retreat in a rural area between the two small towns of Tabira and Solidão, located in the Sertão in Pernambuco. “I gathered a bit of me, a bit of others and so much of everything that surrounded me, and this gave birth to this photography series ‘Desejo Eremita’. A body that inhabits and lets itself inhabit among the abundant green of winter and the contrasting adversity of the drought. Inspired by his need to launch into the unknown, Braga leaves his references aside in order to build his own myths and landscapes, through the voluntary confrontation of a body sensitive to new experiences.
The large format common in the paintings of Bruno Vilela reveals the need for a confrontation between the body and the canvas at a human scale, in order to operate in the unconscious. Vilela draws inspiration from the studies of ancient mythologies, personal dreams and nightmares. A Montanha, the oil painting presented here, must have been a part of those dreams. It is up to the spectator to let himself be captured by the force of its strokes.
“It is this transformation, in life, this motivation to live which is my quest. The paintings and drawings are only a reflection of it all”
The photograph “Round” is part of a set of works by Amanda Melo, which is linked to a universe of struggles. The bull’s horns held by the hands are fake and are part of an imaginary world suggesting the fantastic, reinforced by the allegorical long pink dress, a clear reference to bullfighting in Spain.
Paulo Meira is an artist who began his career in the mid-1980’s, and joined the Camel collective during the years 1990’s, therefore making him a researcher of visuality. The image acts as a text that has to be deciphered and recreated through its signs, references and meanings. Photography and painting are always present in his work. His works could be part of a fine line marking the inaccuracies of experimentalism in the art of the 20th century. The works selected for this exhibition walk along the symbolic and sociological paths of art. Invented characters, verging on a cinematic fiction, the theatre, the performer.
Oriana Duarte walked virtually the same trails as Paul Mannix and Márcio Almeida, but merged her artistic activities with teaching and research at the University. Her work impresses with visual force, exploring the dilation of the human experience within the artistic experience. The artist uses contexts of production and the body, making her body available for an artistic and aesthetic experience. Time, body, words, in their most diverse movements and meanings, are the subjects of her investigations. The work Nós Errantes went through cities like Salvador, Belém, Brasília and Vitória. “So, as I learned, this sliding fluid is another way of thinking about our condition of life as an artist: Wandering life. A way of practicing the arts through what we might call their elocutionary strength: “a force capable of narrowing or even nullifying distances between what is said and what is lived.” We present Nós, Errantes (Ourselves, Wandering): videos of paddling through rivers, sweaty, on a skiff (rowboat), drawings and tickets – almost like souvenirs of a trip.
Even if the artistic and poetic trajectory of Renato Valle comes from figuration in painting and drawing, the artist is experimenting with other supports, and this work called Mealheiro translates the symbolic and economic power to the detriment of the faith of others. A head of Christ in acrylic resin serves as a storehouse for notes and coins from different countries.
José Paulo does not differ from the others in his restlessness and vigorous exercise with materials, which allowed the artist to leave the two-dimensional plan for the production of objects and occupation of space. Siamese – Stamps, Approved x Denied, Copy x Original, Positive x Negative, objects presented here, stimulate reflections on ambiguous and contemporary themes.
Marcio Almeida – one of the heirs of Paulo Bruscky’s experience flows – presents for this exhibition painting, the Arrimo installation and one of his recent works with Daniel Santiago – inaugurating the S/A team – Jet Lag, composed of a photographic record and an audio performance. Drawings are mixed with overlapping pictorial patches, incarnating things he witnessed in the urban space, or happening in the media, while loose words from a visitor are captured in his atelier, and may somehow find themselves in his work. Almeida pays attention to the nuances of cities, and of the people who inhabit cities. They act as a daily inspiration for his production and poetry. An old chair named “arrimada” is surrounded by mud bricks and reflects on the precarious life of a large portion of our population. Arrimo: backrest, protection and livelihood
The hybridism of materials, their shape, the presence of objects and the tension within the space all materialize in the poetry of Marcelo Silveira, an artist who gives way to an hybrid development between the ownership of objects brought into the territory of contemporary art, the use of ordinary materials (of everyday life) and a bet on resignification of that which is popular in contemporary art. “Roupas de vestir” and “Caleidoscópio” reveal Silveira’s ability to experiment with an endless list of different materials.
As for Gil Vicente, painter, designer and engraver whose artistic career has been dedicated to the pictorial representation and graphic poetry which lie in intensity and without an accuracy of the shape, he surprises us with photographs without escaping from his poetry. It is clear, with images blurry or out of focus, that his concern does not lie in the production of a documentary, but in the plastic, pictorial and graphic expression forms. The ink drawings presented here reaffirm this form of poetry.
The artist Sebastião Pedrosa, best known for his production of engravings, changes the focus and amplify his creations in painting. Still, he keeps experimenting with other techniques. Reliquaries bring together natural elements he collects, organizes and transforms into books-objects. “Making art as an irreligious exercise”, says the artist.
Eudes Mota, painter, designer, sculptor and engraver is an important artist representative of the abstraction and geometry in Pernambuco. He distantiated himself from the model of the vanguards that emerged in the twentieth century, and deals with contemporary issues by developing a very particular vocabulary. Mota presents his work “Classificados”, with pages of newspapers transformed into elaborate geometric compositions and an installation of paddles and net mending needles, giving a legitimacy to banal objects of everyday life. The paddles were instruments of torture used to punish students in the classroom. Brazil banned physical punishment in 1970 during a campaign against violence committed against children. England was the last country to ban physical punishment in the year 1989.
Paulo Bruscky and Daniel Santiago formed a duo, Bruscky & Santiago until the early 1970’s and marked the history of conceptual art and play with the status of art in different ways, which is most notable in the works they exhibit.
Daniel Santiago, a creator, poet and professor always surprises us with his performances, happenings and object theatre among other artistic attitudes. Relentless and attentive, he stimulates thinking and collective creativity, inviting us to act with him, in the fissures that inhabit his dreamlike universe. In addition to books-objects and posters, the artist presents in this exhibition performing extracts from Waiting for Godot, which he has been performing all over the world, presenting the character Godot waiting for his creator, the writer and playwright Samuel Beckett. This work always generates laughter for the audience, and sometimes transforms the spectator into the author of the work. In one of the most recent and impressive works of contemporary art, “Jet Lag”, acting in a duo with Marcio Almeida, Santiago recites “the banks of the Rio Tejo”, “Navio Negreiros” of the Brazilian abolitionist poet Castro Alves, relating the journey of a ship carrying slaves for Brazil.
Paulo Bruscky, as creative as Daniel, a pioneer in the use of contemporary media such as mail art, audio art, video art and xerography in Brazil, maintained correspondence with the Fluxus Group (holder of the largest collection in Latin America). These ephemeral supports/media embody the critical thinking of Bruscky. For this exhibition, Autun Radium Retratium, Copia e Original, a specific site “Vendido” and a letter produced in 2008 -AR-RECIFES de POESIA de PBY. “Recife em Prova e Prosa – Roteiro I” relates the story of the city of Recife by interweaving verses with other great historical characters of the city, by integrating it with the names of his works and his love for this living city.
At the opening, there will be a re-enactment of Performace Vacina Contra Tédio from the duo Bruscky-Santiago #1 realization of the National Performance Cycle – FUNARTE – SP, Brazil in 1986. An editing of the English version of the play, with the same title signed by the duo, will be available.
It is possible to see – through slow, careful and attentive observation – this hybridity between temporalities, geographies and cultures. The artists talk about themselves and Recife at the same time, telling the world and universal themes. It is a look at the fragments of this world which we all inhabit, related to us by the artists from Pernambuco, between singular and universal narratives. A hybrid world, mixed with temporal flows, and producing a set of very diverse and different cultural practices.
We intend to create a collective exhibition, a visual kaleidoscope bringing to light images that, in a sense, relate narratives linked to fragments of this geography. The audience will be invited to reflect on the multiplicity of these poetries, their eccentricity, proximity and distance, and especially to redesign on the basis of our contemporary times, a cartography of the contemporary visual arts produced in Pernambuco, which is fortunate to live in this constant mutation. Like the images of a kaleidoscope. Simply point to the light and adjust your focus. It is in this environment that North-eastern Brazilian contemporary artists evolve, appropriating languages and technological means for themselves, with inheritances and local traditions, experimenting shamelessly with various materials and ways of producing art.
Beth da Matta
Joana D´arc de Souza Lima
Recife, January 2015