"Ha... Ha... Ha...", 1968-2009, Gilberto Salvador. Photos: Lucas Evangelista and Paula Campoy/ Galeria Frente

The exposure Tough Memories, on view at the Frente gallery from October 16th, is almost a settling of accounts by Gilberto Salvador with the ideological/affective certainties that pulsed at the surface in 1968. The artist had two of his works partially destroyed in the Salão of Contemporary Art in Santos – both awarded at the event by the jury formed by, among others, Aracy Amaral and Fabio Magalhães, who also awarded Antonio Henrique Amaral. At the same time, successive threats forced Gilberto Salvador to take refuge in a friend's farm for a few months. It was the heavy moment of the military dictatorship that had taken power in Brazil with the 1964 coup. Months later, back from compulsory exile, aware of the new artistic/ideological conditions, he participated in the 9rd Bienal de São Paulo with different works, more geometric and gesture-oriented. “I showed three great sculptures that are now part of the collection of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo.”

Sample brings the two censored works: One two Three, an allusion to the American domination in Brazil, and Haha ha…, a parody about the United States and the sexual freedom of young Brazilians with the discovery of the contraceptive pill. Curated by Fabio Magalhães, the ensemble highlights the socio-political cultural imbalance of the decade that spilled over into the art system. It was the moment of ideological and behavioral transitions that gave voice to young people and placed them as protagonists of the main changes of that time.

Gilberto Salvador
“Bang”, 1969, Gilberto Salvador. Photos: Lucas Evangelista and Paula Campoy/ Galeria Frente

The exhibition spans from 1966 to 1969 with a reflection that advances in two directions: the moment of the dictatorship and the chaotic situation that Brazil faces today. “I hope that I have made it clear what the position was at that moment and that I can make you understand the differences that separate the 1960s from today.” Each of these works adds several figurative elements executed with a surface of intense color contamination. In this scenario, Gilberto Salvador develops multiple narratives and his gesture is like an irruption in everyday space, with the same recycling principle that he applies in painting.

Draws attention to the work BANG, enhanced by the transparent red layer applied over the photo, in clear allusion to the brutality of the Vietnam War. As Fabio Magalhães observes, “Gilberto Salvador dynamizes the visual action of the theme and transforms the narrative into a confrontation between the work and the spectator. In other words, it builds a language that drives us to the center of the scene”. The assembly features scenes taken from newspapers, such as the photo taken by journalist Eddie Adams on February 1, 1968 on the streets of Saigon. A South Vietnamese serviceman points at a prisoner's head and Adams clicks the scene seconds before the shot. This photograph won him the 1969 Pulitzer Prize.

General view of the exhibition. Photos: Lucas Evangelista and Paula Campoy/ Galeria Frente

Gilberto Salvador started in art at a very young age. In 1965, at the age of 18, he held his first solo show at the Teatro de Arena gallery, at the invitation of the actor and director Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, with a text signed by the equally young composer Jorge Mautner. At that time he was linked to expressionism, but soon after he became involved in the New Figuration. “My connection with an international language, in this case pop art, was not so significant. I was trying to get a political message across in a very specific direction.”

Four years later, with a very defined political position, he participates in the so-called Boycott Biennial, when an international protest is held. However, he and many other Brazilian artists do not adhere. “I stuck with the party's position and with the critic Mário Schenberg, also from the left and who organized a room for young Brazilians in which I was a part. The party said never to have a defeatist attitude, the important thing is to always be present, even if it is in the resistance”. For him, not participating in that Bienal, at the height of the dictatorship, would be to accept the dictatorship as it is, so they had to take the risk. “I was at a meeting in Buenos Aires and there was a whole movement against the Bienal and right there I declared that I would exhibit”.  He presented Dialectical Action About…, which addresses the theme of the Vietnam War, a rebel cry against the atrocities of the conflict.

“Zet 4, 5 and 6”, 1967, Gilberto Salvador. Photos: Lucas Evangelista and Paula Campoy/ Galeria Frente

What is the point of resuming that period these days? After so long, Gilberto Salvador feels that now is the time to show these works, not only because of the tense Brazilian political moment, but for personal reasons. “I am 74 years old and have a very advanced post-polio syndrome. I joke with my children that my hourglass has turned and will not turn again. So, I have an obligation to my work and I must show this moment, which is a germinal moment of all my production.”

WHERE: Galeria Frente (R. Dr. Melo Alves, 400, Cerqueira Cesar, São Paulo)
WHEN: October 16 to November 16, 2021

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