The exposure Leonor Antunes: voids, intervals and joints on display at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo – Masp, at first sight, appears to be a challenge to the erudite, but goes further with a complex and provocative discourse. The numerous references to the works of 20th century architects, artists, designers, contained in the production of the Portuguese artist based in Berlin, embody a kind of archive on the production of fundamental names in modern experimentalism, including Anni Albers, Charlotte Perriand, Franco Albini, Clara Porset, Egle Trincato, Eileen Grey, Eva Hesse, Franca Helg, Gego, Lygia Clark and Ruth Asawa. All reflect the rupture and creation of new codes in the arts and indirectly promote a meeting between their productions.
Within this constellation, Lina Bo Bardi, the architect who signs the Masp project, is the central axis of the exhibition that extends to the Glass House, in Morumbi, also designed by the architect and where she lived with her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi. The curatorship is by Adriano Pedrosa and Amanda Carneiro in an exhibition that stands out from the others on display at the museum for some singularities. Installed in the first basement, the show connects directly with Lina's drawing: Voids, gaps and joints it is an allusion to the spaces created by her in her architecture and gives the exhibition its title. The piece Villa Neufer, a sculpture made from a ladder by Albini, opens the exhibition. Of daily use, but with artistic and design particularities, which Amanda calls a vernacular and non-canonical space, the staircase displays red ropes that refer to Lygia Clark's climbing and at the same time directly dialogues with Lina's emblematic red staircase that unites two floors.
The works of Leonor Antunes, for the most part, they are vertical and geometric and occupy a glass-enclosed space where the sculptures seem to float. On the floor, Modulated Surface Planes, 1952, geometric painting by Lygia Clark expands throughout the exhibition's territory. This work marks the displacement of painting out of the frame and begins his famous Bichos series. A passionate researcher, in the incessant search for associations between the production of various artists, Leonor Antunes promotes discoveries that are revealed throughout the show. Albini, Lina's friend and accomplice in the concept of knowing how to see and do, appears in several of the artist's works. “Both are authors of radical experiences in the post-war Italian context. Both Albini and Lina lived to adulthood during the Fascist regime in Italy, which brought them many opportunities for experimentation in symbolic expository terms.”
Within the repertoire of these artists there are works that reflect a contamination that allows exchanges and demonstrates historicity. The screens at the entrance to the room are made from the details of two chairs: one designed by Lina for Masp, and another by Albini for Villa Neufer, in Italy. One of Lina's chair legs fuses with Albini's chair leg. There is this type of association, but this is just an example”. From this partial cut, one can follow some constructive systems invented by the artists. An enlarged element based on a piece that Lina saw in the house of Cuban Clara Porset, in Mexico, stands out. Leonor Antunes, in 2015, had an exhibition at Kunsthale Basel, in which she associates the figure of Lina with the figure of Clara. Both have similar paths, they are women who emigrate to another country where they develop extraordinary work related to furniture and design, involving the indigenous and popular Mexican communities.
Leonor Antunes builds pieces that intervene in the architecture where they are shown, and the selection at Masp is challenging. “Exhibiting in this museum is one of my achievements. When Adriano Pedrosa invited me, I was very happy, not only because I have admired and worked on Lina's universe for years, but also because Masp respects the architect's heritage, and sees it in the contemporary world. There is serious work done there.” The assembly privileged the relationship between the museum's architecture and the outside, opening the curtains and letting the city enter with its natural light, promoting the articulation of the collective and the private. “As the building is toppled over and I couldn't pierce the ceiling, I inserted some wooden grids built into the room's cubes, as if they already belonged to the place and from there I was able to suspend some work”.
The artist has lived in Berlin since 2005, a city she considers responsible for the internationalization of her work. “If she had stayed in Portugal it would have been very difficult, if not impossible. This change was fundamental in restructuring the way I managed my research and managed to materialize my work”. She speaks of a metropolis desired by artists from various areas and countries, where many pass and some stay and work. “Today, as in many other places, it is scary to watch the 'rebirth' of the far right.” The artist has defined ideological positions without worrying about the art market. When she represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale in 2019, she even declared that if the right-wing PSD or CDS parties were in power, she would refuse to participate. “My choice is not partisan but ideological. Today Portugal is one of the few countries that have a left-wing government. It does not have its own pavilion in Venice (like Brazil), and the initiative to participate in the biennial belongs to the Ministry of Culture, with a very small budget”. She comments that the US pavilion is private and if it were governmental, no artist she knows would represent the Donald Trump administration. She comments on the lack of mobilization of Brazilians and the discreet participation of artists and intellectuals in the struggle for change. “Artists are the first to remain silent in the face of reactionary governments. Art is also a way of demonstrating disenchantment with the world, or not. What is happening with Brazil is very sad. Unfortunately, the populist wave also hits other countries and we all know where the sources are”.
Leonor Antunes: voids, intervals and joints is on display simultaneously with the exhibitions by Anna Bella Geiger and Gego and closes the thematic axis Women's stories, feminist stories, which took place throughout 2019 at Masp.
Leonor Antunes: voids, intervals and joints
Until April 12, 2020
Masp: Avenida Paulista, 1578