"With Me Nobody Can", 1983, by Regina Vater. Photo: Disclosure

In recent years there has been an increasing number of exhibitions dealing with art produced by women. Evidencing speeches in defense of equality, attacking established prejudices and contributing to bring to light productions relegated to the shadows are some of the motivations behind these exhibitions. In addition to inserting itself in this context of reviewing an art circuit still strongly dominated by men, the exhibition Nobody can with me, inaugurated at Galeria Jaqueline Martins, touches on a fundamental problem that is often neglected in this effort to give greater visibility to art made by women: the need to overcome stagnant categories and consider this production ignoring the most common stereotypes. Defining a priori what it means to be a woman, or what a feminine/feminist art should be like, would be to give in to an essentialist vision of the feminine and reduce the possibilities to very narrow categories, believes Mirtes Marins de Oliveira, curator of the exhibition. “We seek to establish confrontations, to combine artists from different fields, from different generations. We wanted to expand this process, problematize, deconstruct categories”, she explains.

The result is a very broad panorama, with the presence of works from around 20 participations, spread over three floors of the gallery. There is a significant number of artists with important historical work, which includes prominent names such as the Brazilian Amélia Toledo, Leticia Parente, Regina Vater and Lydia Okumura, or the Argentine Marta Minujín. The exhibition also features a set of records of famous performances, created by relevant figures such as Tricha Brown, who coexist with more contemporary experiences, from younger artists and authors – such as Ana Mazzei and Flora Rebollo –, creating a tangle of poetics and experiments. Performance, painting, sculpture, graphic research (UBU publishing house) and fashion research (Isabela Capeto) coexist without hierarchies. There is a purposeful search for diversity, without creating closed nuclei. Even when an artist appears with more than one work, they are dispersed in space. As defined by the curator, the intention was to create a “dissonant dialogue”. We try to “create situations of ambiguity rather than confrontation”, she explains.

“In Front of Light”, 1977, by Lydia Okumura. Photo: Disclosure

The exhibition title, Nobody can with me, derives from a homonymous work that Regina Vater began to develop in the 1980s and which appears in one of its last versions at the show. Realizing the strong presence of the plant of the same name in different contexts of national public and private life, Regina began to incorporate images and references of the plant. In addition to functioning as a metaphor of persistence (due to its high ability to adapt to adverse situations and environments) and a weapon to fight the evil eye, me-no-gum-pode also becomes a symbol of the resistant character of the Brazilian people. And little by little it also becomes a symbolic, spiritual armor, a reserve of energy that would spread throughout the selection. After all, the ideas of resistance and persistence permeate any attempt to oppose pre-established models, as occurs more or less explicitly in the selection works.

As an example of an action that goes against the flow of commonplaces, Mirtes Oliveira cites the work of Lydia Okumura, a Brazilian based in New York, who was doubly harmed by an instrumentalized vision of female art. If at the beginning – at the end of the 1980s – her rational, abstract and experimental work, based on a geometry that problematizes and conquers space, clashed with the idea of ​​the feminine as something delicate, domestic and intuitive, today it is also not suited to the almost hegemony that good female art must contain a large dose of viscerality. Clara Rebollo's powerful, surrealist painting also serves as a counter-argument. Somewhat displaced from the hegemonic models of what is now considered a "women's" art, it arises to problematize the issue of a stereotyped view of art produced by women, demonstrating the importance of expanding the look beyond certain discourses.

Nobody can with me
Jaqueline Martins Gallery – Rua Doutor Cesário Mota Junior, 433, Vila Buearque, São Paulo
Until January 24, 2020

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