The fascination provoked by Arthur Bispo do Rosário's exhibition has multiple origins: the poetic and plastic density of what he produced; the intensity of his creative drive and the re-creation of the world – tirelessly seeking to repertoire, organize and re-elaborate everything around him; but also the driving force of his experience, which at times seems to synthesize and dialogue with some of the main veins of modern and contemporary Brazilian art, as is evident in the dialogues proposed by the show between the works created by the Bishop and a selection of around 200 works by 50 guest artists, which illuminate in a broad context an enormous field of possibilities for establishing relationships, convergence, harmony or influence.
Without having a didactic or chronological character, the exhibition endlessly refers to the tragic and profound experience of the Author, locked up for decades in asylums and emphasizes the unique and cohesive aspect of his works. No wonder Ricardo Resende, director of the Bispo do Rosário Museum (mBRAC) and curator of the show together with Diana Kolker, emphasizes that it is a work of a single work, even if it is composed of a thousand pieces (of which approximately 400 were brought to Sao Paulo). They are panels, embroidery, clothes, objects, assemblages that he methodically and compulsively built throughout his life. Evidently, each piece or set has its particular characteristics, it makes use of specific materials and procedures, but they reverberate with each other with an intensity that the expography only seeks to accentuate, bringing to the Itaú Cultural space elements that refer to the architecture of Colônia Juliano Moreira, institution where he lived as an intern, such as the use of cubic structures (cells) and hollow walls like the cobogós present in the building.
Interned for the first time in 1938, when he claimed to have received the revelation that he would be the son of God and the divine mission to recreate all objects present in the world, Bispo built a true cosmogony. “Everything he organizes and makes is the representation of the object, they are representational systems of the world”, explains Diana. As the curator-pedagogue of the mBRAC, the narrative he constructs is not rational, modern. He establishes links, suggests connections that are often unlikely between things like religiosity, unconscious drive and artistic creation. More than presenting answers, the exhibition returns to the viewer a series of essential questions: How to define what art is? Is not manual work and the effort of organization after all a healing exercise? Wouldn't art be a form of connection with much deeper instances (mystical or unconscious), which go far beyond a self-referential circuit?
The presence among his constructions of lists, collections and catalogs of similar objects, such as sandals, women's names or maps, is remarkable. But in addition to the recurring stylistic traits, everyday elements of the life of this poor black man, incarcerated throughout practically his entire adult life, pulsate in these objects. The precariousness of the materials – which refer to the poor, somewhat rough character of the dry and wet markets or street vendors – speaks about the difficult conditions faced in asylum institutions. It is profoundly significant that many of the elements he embodies were obtained by him in a permanent process of accumulation and bestowal.
The thread itself, already worn out, that he uses to embroider – with a skill that probably comes from the tradition of embroidery in Japaratuba, his hometown, in Sergipe, or from the development of the technique in the times when he served in the Navy – is obtained from old bluish uniforms and bedding, which frays non-stop. Such fragility becomes one more difficulty in the preservation of this work, whose survival during its life and shortly after death is due to the intervention of a group of people sensitive to the force of this production. After all, his work was not yet inscribed on the art circuit. In recent years, its collection has undergone a series of conservation, cleaning and cataloging procedures, but it is inevitable to notice the effects of time on the pieces, especially in the dullness of color, sensitive in some iconic pieces such as the Presentation Cloak e big sailboat, who had prominent participation in exhibitions such as the São Paulo (2000 and 2012) and Venice (1995 and 2013) biennials.
This ephemeral character of his production, a museological challenge that makes exhibitions like this even more unmissable, is one of the many keys to the relationship between his work and the broad scope of contemporary production represented in the show. A type of work in formal or poetic harmony with the one developed by him seems to predominate in the selection, an artistic production that often leaves aside the notions of perennial work in search of a greater interaction between art and life, which values a practical and practical action. poetry in the world, without worrying about the fragility, purity or nobility of the materials used, as for example in the scrap cars by Arlindo Oliveira, from Atelier Gaia, a collective art therapy project maintained by mBRAC and created in 1992 frequented by artists using the mental health services. Another important part of the selection is the one that contemplates the artists who transited this extensive frontier between art and psyche, portraying and rescuing the universe of madness (Regina Silveira and Monica Nador), incorporating themselves into pioneering projects (Maria Leontina, Almir Mavignier and Abraham Palatnik) or using creation as a form of therapy (patients of Dr. Nise da Silveira at the Pedro 2º Psychiatric Center, which today make up the collection of the Museum of Images of the Unconscious).
In addition to these historical or formal references, a kind of conceptual, affective harmony echoes throughout the exhibition, which unites Bispo’s gestures with the production of artists from different generations, authors who reappropriate or simply reverberate in different ways their powerful way of acting. in the world. Both the works and the testimonies collected by the curators give clear indications of this impact. Rosana Palazyan – present with delicate embroidery, using strands of hair or pages from a lined notebook – says she felt authorized to exhibit sewing and embroidery when she had her first contact with her work, in the exhibition held in 1989 at the Escola de Artes Visuais from Parque Lage, shortly after his death. Jaime Lauriano, author of one of the few commissioned works in the exhibition, speaks of Bispo inhabiting his own body, of an encounter in a transhistorical dimension. Carmela Gross – present with two powerful works, the black e Heads – she remembers being petrified in her first encounter with her work and Pedro Moraleida makes this connection explicit in his work, when he inserts a portrait of himself in one of his works and writes in another: “Bispo é meu pai”.