Iran do Espírito Santo in front of his work “Recuo Hexagonal” (2006).
Iran do Espírito Santo in front of his work “Recuo Hexagonal” (2006). Photo: Luiza Sigulem

Two canvas paintings from 1985, both produced for a discipline by Nelson Leirner at Faap, were the first works by Iran do Espírito Santo acquired by an institution. It was Aracy Amaral, during her management at the head of the Museum of Contemporary Art at USP, between 1982 and 1985, who was responsible for the purchase, and the two works, the drawings of a sofa and a record player, are now on display in the exhibition The House, on MAC itself, until July 31.

In the works of 30 years ago, when representing everyday objects, the artist already pointed to a poetics that continues to this day. “I look at my drawings as a teenager and realize that I have always worked with this theme, as well as with reference to architecture”, says Espírito Santo, in his large studio, recently opened, which looks more like an art gallery. “Suddenly I reverse my role and start selling art”, he jokes, without actually seeming to even be thinking about this possibility.

Despite the canvas painting of the works at MAC, the fashion technique of his generation in the 1980s – Leonilson and Leda Catunda, for example, contemporaries of Faap, also used this material –, these first works by the artist are closer to the generation of their teachers, such as Leirner and Regina Silveira, than from their peers. “I never really identified with the celebration of painting at that time,” he says. The simplicity in the lines, which almost seeks the ideal design of the objects portrayed – which will be a constant in his career – has to do with the identification with conceptual art from a personality datum: “I have a more analytical mind” , is defined. This simplicity also has a lot to do with drawing, a constant practice, which last year won an exclusive publication dedicated to it, Drawings, edited by Cobogó.

“Extension/Horizontal Fade” (2007). Credit: Giorgio Benni
“Extension/Horizontal Fade” (2007). Credit: Giorgio Benni

His design reached a muralist dimension in 1997, when he occupied no less than 110 square meters of a passage area of ​​the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Francisco, USA, simulating brick walls, in three shades of gray. “People would pass by and ask where the work was,” he recalls. Two versions of him were seen in 2007: one in the main session of the Venice Biennale, the other in the artist's retrospective at Estação Pinacoteca, in São Paulo.

The “invisibility” of these mural works may be due to the proximity of his work to design, an area that served as a form of livelihood in advertising agencies until the 80s and, even as a freelancer, in the 1990s, making illustrations and graphic projects. . “I remember when I worked, between 1986 and 1988, in an office in London and I had to draw pink bottles, which really annoyed me, and I think that motivated me to do a series of drawings where the bottles were just black”, account. However, while advertising always aims to idealize the object of consumption, in order to convince the consumer of its need, Espírito Santo performs an opposite operation, which is to seek the ideal form, as if it reached the world of essences, of pure forms, therefore unattainable. , as Plato argued.

“Abat-Jour” (1996)
“Abat-Jour” (1996). Credit: Everton Ballardin

It was looking, for example, for the “essential lamp”, that he created his first three-dimensional work, Lampshade, from a simple model by French designer Philip Stark, converting its entire volume into stainless steel, maintaining the object's shape. “That's when I arrived at something I've been looking for a long time, which is when the image forms an architectural dimension and relates to the body,” he explains.

Since then, cups, cans or lamps, among other objects, have gained an unprecedented dignity in the artist's work, through the use of materials typical of the history of classical sculpture, especially marble. The shoe box series is a good example of this procedure: made of marble cobblestones, a protrusion of just three millimeters transforms the noble element in the representation of the packaging. “It's magical”, admires Espírito Santo.

“Fixed base” (2016).
“Fixed base” (2016). Credit: Gui Gomes

This appreciation of banal objects, many of them always in the process of being discarded, reached its apex in his most recent exhibition at Fortes Vilaça, Fuso, in which the largest room in the gallery was occupied by just four sets of nuts and bolts, only 18 times the size of the original model and weighing over a ton. With the title Fixed Base, the work creates “a kind of square/factory floor”, according to the text written by the artist the first time he makes public the analysis of his own work.

If he is usually discreet about his work, about the country's situation, Iran do Espírito Santo is quite eloquent. Unlike many artists who use the networks to advertise their works, for him, this is a space for political militancy. His personal life is also not exposed on Facebook. “Not every artist knows how to make political art, I do the work I have to do, but it's the political opinion that I think is important, as well as the way of relating to the art world”, he defends.

For this reason, he says that he joined Facebook in 2014 to speak out in favor of Dilma in the second round of the elections, which ended up earning him the invitation to participate in the last act of the campaign, in São Paulo, on the Tuca stage, sitting next to writer Raduan Nassar. “I just didn't take a picture with her because I'm shy, but I felt a depth in her look that I admire,” he says.

Iran do Espírito Santo in front of his work “Recuo Hexagonal” (2006).
Iran do Espírito Santo in front of his work “Recuo Hexagonal” (2006). Credit: Luiza Sigulem

After re-election, the artist left social media, but returned again now in 2016 on account of impeachment and to protest the coup. In mid-June, more than a dozen posts a day shared criticism of the interim government's reactionary positions, such as the promise to close TV Brasil. “Because of all this, it makes me want to make a political art, but I don't know how. The stance I admire is that of artists like Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger,” he explains.

While it's not really close to Kruger's force, it's hard not to see that exposing nuts and bolts in an art gallery is a political act. After all, while the coup, of a clearly elitist character, was engendered, which aims to stop the social advances of the last decade, creating a monument from objects manipulated by manual workers is to give visibility to the instruments of a class that is not usually apparent in the circuit of art.

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