Untitled, José Antonio da Silva, at the Raio-que-o-parta exhibition
Untitled, José Antonio da Silva. Photo: Disclosure

One of the merits surrounding the celebrations of the XNUMXth anniversary of the Week of Modern Art is that the event has gained a critical tone around the event. After all, after so much debate already accumulated on the role of São Paulo over these hundred years, it would be strange not to take the opportunity to review the meanings of the Week and of the Brazilian modern project itself. At a time of reviewing hegemonic narratives, it was undoubtedly the Week's turn.

Raio-que-o-parta: fictions of the modern in Brazil, on view at Sesc 24 de Maio, is part of this perspective and one of its central marks is the inclusion of 200 artists from all over the country in about 650 works, with a focus that values ​​productions that are not so recognized. In that sense, the show it is less an exhibition of masterpieces and more an immense kaleidoscope of national production. It is also a form of reparation, as it brings to the debate of the Week many hitherto invisible artists, especially those outside the Rio-SP axis.

The title itself points to the deconstruction of the Week itself, sending it to the “ray that breaks it”, the name given in Belém do Pará to the decoration of the facades of houses made of shards of tiles, bringing together both abstract and figurative patterns. A video at the entrance to the exhibition, made by Danielle Fonseca, documents examples of these constructions with testimonies of residents who used such procedures in their homes. In other words, it is a counter-hegemonic style and outside the standard of vernacular character. Despite this great start, there are no more cases for this type of alternative construction process, which is a shame.

Even so, there is no lack of surprising works, such as the native Dorian Gray (1930-2017), who appears with a tapestry with floral motifs from 1973. The artist named Oscar Wilde is one of the happy discoveries of the show.
Curated by Aldrin Figueiredo, Clarissa Diniz, Divino Sobral, Marcelo Campos, Paula Ramos and Raphael Fonseca and consulting by Fernanda Pitta, damn it is organized into four modules: Let it talk; Iconoclastic centaurs; I will gather, I will garrison; and Vandals of the Apocalypse.

"Floral with Bird", by Dorian Gray at the Raio-que-o-parta exhibition
“Floral with Bird” by Dorian Gray. Photo: Evelson de Freitas / Publicity

The first is dedicated to a very contemporary debate concerning cultural appropriation. He brings, among other works, a kind of felt collage of Regina Gomide Graz (1897-1973), called Indians, from the 1930s, in which indigenous people are represented hunting. A typical procedure of modernism, this representation of “exotic” or “savage” cultures, as they were called at the time, can now be seen in a context of revision about the place of speech. Something similar occurs with the silver vases by Maria Hirsch da Silva Braga (1875-1960), very impressive indeed, decorated with indigenous patterns. Today, such works are questioned for appropriating other cultures.

“By assuming that the indigenous people would be 'extinct' or 'acculturated' and that, therefore, they should supposedly have their memories 'preserved' by the work of white artists, art nurtured a symbolic economy anchored in the historical impossibility of self-representation that, in its time, it is constantly updated in the 'well-intentioned' and profitable aesthetic and political horizon of the representation of the Other”, says the curatorship in a discreet text on the wall, but which leads the show to the decolonial debate in an explicit way. This, moreover, is one of the merits of damn it: to present a powerful and diversified visuality, mixed with specific critical texts that problematize issues related to the selected works.

Untitled, José Antonio da Silva, at the Raio-que-o-parta exhibition
Untitled, José Antonio da Silva. Photo: Disclosure

This is also the case in the other modules, Iconoclastic Centaurs, which address performative actions and transformations; I will gather, I will garnish, about the feast and the collective creation; and, finally, Vandals of the apocalypse, which deals with the ruins and catastrophes derived from the national modernist project. It is in the latter that there are paintings by José Antonio da Silva (1909-1996), such as train and farming, from 1959, where the vision of progress was already denounced as the destruction of forests, anticipating the devastating role of agribusiness.

Such a comprehensive exhibition – let’s remember, there are 650 works, including the triptych Sôdade de Cordão, from 1940, by the Ukrainian artist living in Brazil Dimitri Ismailovitch (1892-1976) – in a space difficult and small, it gains power thanks to a simple and modest architectural set-up, which puts the works in the foreground. It would be excellent to have a catalog documenting this extensive research, after all, it is the catalogs that go down in history. And, in this narrative, Tarsila do Amaral and Anita Malfatti, finally, are not the protagonists. Even lacking a record for the future, damn it it is one of the most forceful reparations on modernism and on the Week in the present.


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