"Mulata", 1927, Alfredo Volpi. Photo: Romulo Fialdini/ Publicity

*By Maria Hirszman and Patricia Rousseaux

“Mulata”, 1927, Alfredo Volpi. Photo: Romulo Fialdini/ Publicity

Raised as the greatest symbol of modernity in the country, the Modern Art Week – held during the 1922 Carnival at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo – was just the loudest side of a broad and discontinuous process of rupture with the cultural models in force in the 19th and XNUMXth century. development of an innovative way of thinking about culture and art in Brazil. In order to explain this comprehensive and multifaceted character of the development of national modern art, the exhibition Modern where? Modern when? - in theaters until December 12 – brings together a diverse set of works produced in the first decades of the 20th century in different regions of the country.

With works by more than 30 artists, produced between 1900 and 1937 (with the beginning of the Estado Novo as the final mark, a turning point in the national political trajectory), the exhibition emphasizes some of the most striking aspects of this modernizing impetus: the adoption of themes and new languages, despised in the nineteenth century. A close look at the local scene stands out, whether through records of the rural environment, or in the growing attention to urban renewal and expansion experienced in large cities, as well as the increasing incorporation of ways of painting, sculpting and photographing much closer. of the avant-garde experiments that had shaken European art for some time. As the curators explain Aracy Amaral and Regina Teixeira de Barros, a desire for renewal can be clearly seen in the period, a desire to recognize oneself in this new production and a change in yearnings in Brazil after the fall of the Empire. “We wanted to celebrate the recent Brazil, the new Brazil”, summarizes Aracy.

Despite the difficulties arising from the pandemic, which made it much more difficult to research and obtain loans for the works, it was possible to gather a very significant set of works. Purposely, there is no clear division between the three central nuclei of the exhibition (pre-modernism, the Week and the developments of the movement in subsequent years). As in a free flow, the montage allows the visitor to follow, without didactic rigor, some highlights of the production of the period. Sometimes the selected works have a powerful and catalysing individual force, sometimes they represent symptomatically central events of the period covered, such as the disruptive entry of expressionism through the canvases of Anita Malfatti, in the pioneering 1917 exhibition; the aforementioned Week of 22; or the also famous Salão Revolucionario, held in 1931 in Rio, when urbanist Lucio Costa took over, even if for a short time, the National School of Fine Arts. From a regional point of view, São Paulo and Rio – and, in the background, Recife – are the cities with the greatest representation, but there is a clear intention to dismantle a neighborhood version of Brazilian modernity, evidencing the spread of modernist ideas and practices. across the national territory. The idea was to “escape a little from this São Paulo boastfulness”, points out Aracy Amaral. We seek to “spread the idea of ​​modernity and modernism a little throughout Brazil, not only temporally, but in terms of territory”, adds Regina Teixeira de Barros.

“Facade of the Municipal Theater”, 1911, by Valério Vieira.

The selection combines from iconic works of national modernity to investigations less known to the public and usually dissociated from this modernizing desire, such as the canvas costume ball, painted in 1913 by Rodolpho Chambelland, a vibrant and popular-inspired scene with the party as its theme. Let's go from the guitar player to the carnival, illustrates Aracy, emphasizing the multiplicity of paths represented by authors as diverse as Almeida Junior and Chambelland. Progressive urbanization, which imposes an accelerated incorporation of more sophisticated models of behavior and configuration of cities, is also present in the work Municipal Theater facade, a photopainting executed in 1911 by Valério Vieira that highlights the exuberance of the building and the intense movement of the townspeople.

“I saw the world…It started in Recife”, by Cícero Dias. Above in full, below in detail. Photo: © Dias, Cícero dos Santos/ AUTVIS, Brazil, 2021

Interestingly, the exercise of representation of the modern city of Vieira is face to face with the most outstanding work of the exhibition, the panel I saw the world... it started in Recife, carried out between 1926 and 1929, by Cícero Dias. Originally exhibited at a psychiatric congress held in Rio de Janeiro and later at the Salão Revolucionario, the work has an enormous historical and aesthetic dimension. The boldness of the composition, which mixes reminiscences of his childhood in Recife with contemporary references to the Rio scene, was such that it was vandalized by conservatives and lost three of the 15 meters it originally had. “There are several worlds in there, several Brazils, which happen simultaneously and disorderly”, says Regina Teixeira de Barros. “There are a multitude of references there. Every meter calls us to meditation”, adds Aracy. Belonging to a private collection, the work is rarely shown to the public.

This desire of Brazil, a desire to “demarcate the territory that will be broadly developed in the 20th century”, as the curators say, is felt in the work of all the artists represented, even if in temporal terms internal changes in personal processes are clear. from creation. This is the case, for example, of Di Cavalcanti, represented with works from different periods, from the still serious Friends or the sharp series of illustrations entitled Midnight Puppets, both from 1921, to his outstanding piece, Five Girls from Guaratinguetá, from 1930. The artist is a clear example of this attempt to modernize language so much sought after in the 1910s and 1920s and which, in the 1930s, acquired a clear political dimension and social engagement.

To complement this immersion in the visual and cultural production of the period, a catalog will also be released with text by different authors, such as Ana Maria Belluzzo, Felipe Chaimovich, Ruy Castro and Cacá Machado, on a date yet to be defined. These essays end up extending the scope of the show even further, illuminating areas and movements that could not be contemplated in the exhibition selection.

1 comment

  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to have such a rich material in my hands.
    I am Art Coordinator at Colégio Porto Seguro and this year we intend to carry out a great work with different approaches and biases from 100 years of Modernism.

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