Detail of the work "Dupla Dinâmica", by Rosângela Rennó, one of the works included in the exhibition at Galeria Vermelho. PHOTO: Disclosure

At the entrance, the exhibit warned visitors: think carefully before entering this room. The exposed material may seem offensive (…). If you decide to enter, act responsibly: accept the above as a matter of course. Disguise if necessary. However, the show does not present performances with naked bodies or paintings with children that scare conservative groups.

According to Rosângela Rennó, artist and author of the warning, her new show at galeria Vermelho, “Nuptias”, sought to question the traditional institution of marriage and its representations. “Some people might consider the interventions [in photographs] cruel”, she jokes. “I want it to be, then, to celebrate deconstruction”.

Since the beginning of his career, in the 1980s, Rennó has been reflecting on the nature of the image by expanding the aesthetic and symbolic possibilities of photography. In the case of the series “Nuptias”, which the exhibition is named after, the artist's interest was precisely to question the traditional representation of conventional couples based on current discussions about gender. “I wanted to use the image of the engaged couple to discuss the issues of roles that, in principle, are destined for each one in the future nuclear family. What is the union between two people today? Totally different from what it once was,” she says.

She carried out all sorts of interventions (“I hadn't painted in forty years!”) on photographs of anonymous couples and photopaintings that were unfinished or in a poor state of conservation. Between scribbles, cuts and the addition of objects, the couples appear carrying various references from pop culture, art history, Mexican and Indian iconography, shuffling and confusing masculine and feminine clichés with beards and makeup. “It all stems from my involvement with photography itself. From the type of image, size, composition, analysis of the social and economic group to which the couple belongs. It is from the observation of the image itself and of it as an object, materiality”, she explains.

While some copies of the series make almost anecdotal comments, such as the portrayal of Batman and Robin, others respond directly to controversies in the political field – the case of “Bela Recatada e do Lar”, whose title, according to Rennó, alludes to the misogynistic tone of a statement of the interim president about the role of women in the country's economy. In addition, recent episodes of censorship and attacks on the art circuit by conservative groups have contaminated his creative process. “I had already worked on 80 Nuptias and this bomb came [the manifestations of hate and attempts at censorship]. Congressmen are blind to what is happening in the world today. They do not know what contemporary artistic practices are, they are not in the habit of seeing and do not see, they do not know how to discern what is an aesthetic action from something behavioral. The aberration is in them. This narrowness had to be commented on in some way and it was inevitable.” The artist says the series remains open, depending on how the schedule goes.

Despite the high political tension, an operation already expected in the face of Rosângela Rennó's trajectory, the exhibition gains another breath and, in fact, celebratory contours as it recalls works that have become a touchstone in the artist's history. She presents unprecedented series around projects that complete 20 and 25 years of existence, reaffirming the passage of time and the construction of memories as one of the feet of her poetics.

silver and porcelain

A love story, or almost that, inaugurated the “Universal Archive” project in 1992, when the artist began to collect a vast amount of negatives, deteriorated photos, newspaper portraits and reports with great narrative expression. In 2003, the images resulted in a large solo exhibition at the CCBB in Rio de Janeiro and were brought together in a publication by the publisher Cosac Naify, occasions that established Rennó's prominent role in the panorama of Brazilian photography. In “Bodas de Prata”, the artist engraves on small commemorative plaques of this material the six stories that kick-started the archive. The first revolves around a peasant woman who wants to get her half of the wedding portrait back when she separates.

In the new set “Porcelain Wedding”, Rennó celebrates 20 years of the series “Cerimônia do Adeus”, shown at the VI Bienal de Havana. The tribute consists of the same number of pairs of porcelain plates from different cultural backgrounds stamped with the name of the series. The images represent what the artist calls a “photographic ritual”: at the end of the ceremony, Cuban couples pose inside American model cars from the 1950s, a symbol of Yankee imperialism for the communist island. “This file came from a single photographer in Havana who gave me the deteriorated negatives in 1994. When I returned in 1997, she was already gone, it was a little prophetic. The name [of the work] refers to that moment when Cuba was passing”, she recalls.


Later this year, Rennó is preparing a new body of images that will occupy the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio until mid-April. The artist once again turns to urgent matters on the national agenda by gathering, throughout the exhibition, photographs sent by email, instagram and whatsapp from locations in the Rio de Janeiro capital with utopian names. “Certain areas in Rio have grown a lot in recent years due to the events that the city has hosted. The exhibition was born out of a desire to get to know the city where I have lived for 28 years better”, says the artist from Minas Gerais.

It is in the dismantling of the photographic instant and in the possible recompositions of the image that Rosângela Rennó continues to expand the frontiers of photography, demonstrating that art, despite what some think, is an essential field to reflect on and establish the transformations of the world. About the future of alliances?

“The celebration exists because, deep down, I still think it's love that will save the world. It's the most corny thing there is, but it's still what makes humanity grow and can save us from barbarism,” says Rennó.

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