at Martins
Untitled, 2021, from the series "Political Encounters"; acrylic paint on canvas, 200 x 180 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artist
at Martins
Untitled, 2021, from the series “Political Encounters”; acrylic paint on canvas, 200 x 180 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

As can already be seen, the recent history of that portion of Brazilian art that we call contemporary will be marked by the emergence of a previously neglected peripheral artistic production, which despite its current eminence remains beset by multiple adversities.

This phenomenon, of a global nature, reflects a sensibility that wants to be decolonized, multicultural and polycentric, referring not only to the populations of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and indigenous peoples, but to the whole set of divergent bodies subjected to the epistemicide and ethnocide imposed on them. to the excluded – as a consequence of the contested but hitherto hegemonic experience of white heteronormativity, which in defense of its privileges creates and puts into practice the necropolitics that promotes the devaluation of an entire intellectual and symbolic production.

When effective, some strategies organized by these segments of society instigate cultural institutions, including the media and the press, to review their policies of exhibition and acquisition of works of art - which has created an unprecedented circulation of productions made from of those margins.

Aware of this very complex phenomenon, the art system through its multiple institutions has (sometimes reticently) sought to adapt its semantic repertoires and collections, making them more permeable to the different and, therefore, more plural. In an unfair social scenario characterized by racism and gender inequality, this change in attitude is commendable and necessary, even though the initiatives adopted are insufficient to curb the deficit of black, indigenous and female representation usually present in the collections.

at Martins
Untitled, 2021, from the series “Political Encounters”; acrylic paint on canvas, 280 x 200 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

However, it is not difficult to observe that not all productions eagerly prospected and quickly shown have an equivalent degree of quality. A non-negligible number of these productions suggest poor and hastily developed research, poorly tacked on in the scarce time of their academic experiences or not. The difficulties in developing and exercising Afro-Brazilian art criticism and historiography also contribute to the immature promotion of artists still in training. As a consequence, there is a chance that a contingent of these artists will have their trajectories forgotten in a short space of time. The risk of impermanence of these artistic trajectories may imply a reinforcement of the system of erasing memories and stories, victimizing precisely the excluded populations that are celebrated in these productions.

This is also why the artistic project developed by artist at Martins it is of importance that is not ordinary. On a recent visit to the artist's studio in the Barra Funda neighborhood of São Paulo, we noticed the correction of the excellent judgment that the artist and teacher Rosana Paulino makes of him. Artist of whom, by the way, Martins was also a student. The immodest shed that the artist occupies exclusively is located in the traditional neighborhood of São Paulo, according to the scale of some of his paintings that, despite varying in size, sometimes aspire to the monumental. This option for the giant scale is fully justified in the political ambition that the works, veiled or explicitly, express.

at Martins
Untitled, 2021, from the series “Political Encounters”; acrylic paint on canvas, 300 x 200 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

As never before has the Brazilian State been silent in proposing and implementing policies for the promotion, acquisition and maintenance of collections of works of art, notably those of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous extraction, and that patronage between us is almost an extravagance, It is fair to imagine that, with few exceptions, the fate of works with these characteristics are private collections that do little (because they are not encouraged to do so either) to promote their public exhibition – to the detriment mainly of those who were the motive and subject of their execution. After all, what, among us, is the social destiny of paintings that measure two, three, four linear meters or more? It may seem contradictory that engaged artists like No Martins embark on this type of endeavor, but mastering the expressive means they chose to construct their narratives, Martins understands the social dimension and possibly historic that your work can acquire. In this there is a parallel with the project of the precociously dead Sidney Amaral (1973-2017), with whom he came to correspond.

in the designated series political meetings – which is exhibited at the Mariane Ibrahim gallery, in Paris, between October 21 and November 27 – the artist presents us with portraits of black women and men that outline not just a fiction about the desired future for this social group. In these works he projects utopias that Martins himself has been turning into reality. In these recent paintings the characters are portrayed through solidly organized and crystalline compositions, compositions that privilege the characters constituted from a virtuous drawing and established in architectures of fields of brilliant colors, but never oppressive or fairy-like.

Untitled, 2021, from the series “Political Encounters”; acrylic paint on canvas, 200 x 300 cm. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

These virtuously constructed characters are placed in situations where relationships guided by affection take place in non-dysfunctional environments, environments that do not express material need and are at least comfortable, if not downright luxurious. These ambiences have a political connotation, they contradict the narratives in which deprivation and violence are immediately associated with the daily lives of black people. In these paintings, the individual, or individuals presented, empower not themselves: the external signs of power displayed by them are the result of a more general struggle and of all. Filmmaker Spike Lee, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, stated: “(…) I'm just trying to get the power to get to do what I have to do. To get this power, you need to accumulate some money in your account. And that's what I've been doing. I always thought entrepreneurially. Heritage is what is needed among African Americans. Patrimony. have things”. To overcome capitalism it is necessary to achieve it. On the smooth and shiny surfaces of No Martins’ canvases, the black characters presented “have things”, but not only that, they have “values”, and it is the values ​​that consecrate and elevate them, it is the values ​​that make them aspire for power. .

Blacks are taught to hate themselves. The black being a mirror of himself was led by the metrics of racism to believe that what he sees reflected in the mirror is ugly and precarious. Martins, in these paintings, proposes that the encounter between blacks will always be a political act and all the more so if affectivity is the mediating component of these encounters. Art in general and painting in particular are still, in a sense, a projection of power. This is most evident in the monument painting that in the 18th and 19th centuries enshrined the protagonists and achievements of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie of the western north. Among the excluded, never before has an aesthetic and ethical project similar to this one ever had the chance to become effective and give, for example, a new meaning to the efforts of the sparkling and fleeting Jean-Michel Basquiat. But among us, artists like No Martins have never been able to refer to and confess the influences of their contemporaries and those who immediately preceded them, as it is today, an opportunity that runs parallel to the social struggle promoted outside and within the studios, academies and galleries. The result of this effort is reflected in the productions of artists such as Arjan Martins, Aline Motta, Sidney Amaral, Rosana Paulino and others who daily reinvent the representation of black people in the arts, investigating their history to understand the present and also through these productions that, in dialogue with the former, they predict the future to be snatched from the present – ​​as seems to be the case with No Martins.

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