NLast Saturday (21), Mendes Wood DM, in São Paulo, opened individual exhibitions by Sonia Gomes, Otobong Nkanga and Hariel Revignet. They mark the change of the gallery, which leaves Rua Consolação, after 11 years, and opens a new space in Barra Funda.
With Tear, Sonia Gomes brings together five works produced during the pandemic. They gravitate towards the homonymous work on display, about which the artist explains: “It was only possible to name this work when it was completed. I started to think about the name and from the shape of the drop came the word 'tear'”. Gomes says that it was completed in the first half of March 2020, the last work completed before social isolation.
“We closed the studio with her exposed on the wall for two months. The most interesting thing is that this was the last job I did before the pandemic. I could hardly imagine the world would cry so much.”
Elements common to the work of the artist from Minas do not fail to be present in Tear, bodies twisted and filled with fabrics of vivid and contrasting colors, stretched and sutured on the surfaces of these bodies. “The works follow a process of destruction, this being the first moment of Gomes' method: she tears, kneads, breaks and then builds”, explains Matheus Yehudi, associate director of the gallery. A process that becomes more interesting when remembering that Gomes spent his childhood in a small town, Caetanopolis, once known as a textile manufacturing center. Aside from the wall works and outstanding sculptures, the show brings a new experimentation by the artist with light in a darkened room.
The work of the Nigerian based in Belgium, Otobong Nkanga, is presented for the first time in Brazil and brings together installations, drawings and tapestries – one of the practices most present in Nkanga's work.
For Anne Barlow, director of Tate St Ives, Nkanga is one of the most exciting contemporary artists, having received an honorable mention at the 58th Venice Biennale. In the Mendes Wood DM show, his drawings work on notions of interruption with the present, reconfiguration, return and nature. Barlow, who curated the artist’s 2019 solo show at the British museum, described the figures in Nkanga’s drawings as “bodies [that] rise or emerge from the ground interacting with the plants, buildings and networks represented. These fragmented scenes are reminiscent of the interdependencies of people, communities and terrestrial resources.”
Meanwhile, installation Contained Measures of Tangible Memories [Contained measures of tangible memories] (2009-2011), presents a kind of material representation of memory. In the artist’s words: “[The work consists of] wooden modules on wheels that can be moved around the exhibition space and are used to display a set of five natural products – mica, black soap, imperial cassia, indigo and alum – chosen on the occasion of your visit to Morocco. Nkanga explains that “the selected elements have their function and use in Moroccan society, but they also had and have different meanings, functions and uses in my childhood and in Nigerian society”.
The work embodies a cultural dialectic, exploring movement from one country to another. A part of the installation is a video on the use of these elements. “Some memories become so tangible when we see a color, when we smell or touch an object in another space, another culture and another time that they provoke a specific emotional and physical state”, he reflects.
Finally, the first solo by the young artist Hariel Revignet, also an architect and currently a master's student in Urbanism at FAU/UFBA. ANDIn an autobiographical panorama, Hariel focuses on the intersections between the social, the spiritual, and the ancestral; in the case of the artist, her African and indigenous origins. “Putting my feet on the ground, my journey as a contemporary artist is very recent. Being contemporary, for me, only makes sense if it means being counter-colonial”, she told the Pipa Prize. “If every white cube has a touch of Casa Grande, when I create images I need to demarcate the need for a change in the colonial look. I recognize and thank the elders who opened these cracks in the institutions of power, for the younger ones to arrive”, says the artist.
It is worth remembering that, recently, Hariel was one of the artists who participated in the Black Encyclopedia (book published by Companhia das Letras with an exhibition project carried out by Pinacoteca). In it he painted the portrait of Feliciana Maria Olímpia, a figure with great influence on local personalities who lived in Recife until the beginning of the 20th century. In the works that make up AKEWANI, Earth Prayer, there is yet another conversation: between the image of the mind and the material, like the seeds used for the construction of some of the paintings on display.
The above shows can be seen until the 25th of September. As of August 28, works by Adriano Costa and Lucas Arruda will occupy the new space at Mendes Wood DM in Barra Funda.