Heloísa Marques, Dor aqui, 2022. Photo: ©Courtesy of the artist
Heloísa Marques, Dor aqui, 2022. Photo: ©Courtesy of the artist

By Adélia Borges

Embroidery, crochet, knitting and all sorts of textile work were for a long time segregated, in social and artistic canons, to a docile and well-behaved femininity, restricted to the only space that belonged to women – the home. The exposure "Walking around the edges: embroidery and gender as care practices”, on view until October 21st at Arte132 Galeria, in São Paulo, is an excellent opportunity to appreciate a panorama of contemporary textile production in Brazil that revolutionizes this understanding. In the selection of works by 47 women or women's collectives, curator Lilia Moritz Schwarcz shows how embroidery both “serves affection, aesthetics”, and “lends itself to the field of political and social demands for rights”.

The initiative is not the first dedicated to this new perspective on textiles. The curator herself begins the catalog's encouraging text by listing a dozen collective exhibitions held in Brazil in the last decade, such as “Transbordar: Transgressões do Bordado”, curated by Ana Paula Simioni at Sesc Pinheiros, in São Paulo – whose visitation and reverberation will certainly suffered due to the fact that it was presented in the middle of the pandemic, in 2020. We can also highlight recent solo exhibitions by artists who have or had an important support in textiles, and who have only been removed from invisibility in recent years, such as Madalena dos Santos Reinbolt , Rosana Paulino and Sonia Gomes. 

The three are in “Walking around the edges”, alongside other renowned names, such as Adriana Varejão, Anna Maria Maiolino and Nazareth Pacheco, and young people such as Rebeca Carapiá, Vivian Caccuri, Sol Casal and Tadáskia. The selection gains in density and breadth with the inclusion of six embroidery collectives. BordaLuta, Linhas de Sampa, Linhas do Horizonte and Pontos de Luta have more directly embraced embroidery as an instrument of political struggle for democracy and human rights, including interventions in public spaces. Artesãs da Linha Nove, which was born next to the Acaia Institute, in São Paulo, represents the dozens of women's associations and cooperatives that see embroidery as not only their primary source of income, but also a collective practice of mutual strengthening. And Matizes Dumont, from Pirapora do Bom Jesus, in Minas Gerais, is one of the groups that has most disseminated embroidery in workshops and exhibitions across the country. 

Although embroidery predominates, there is space for other techniques, such as textile sculpture by Eva Soban, crochet works by Ana Maria Tavares and tapestry by Madeleine Colaço. The rich graphics kene, which are on the way to being recognized as intangible heritage by Iphan, are in the cotton weavings of indigenous people Maria Ayani Huni Kuin and Tamani Huni Kuin. This mix of authors from different origins, generations and contexts, without distinctions or hierarchies, is one of the highlights of the curatorial approach, which “ties” the choices linking textile practices to the functions traditionally seen as feminine of “taking care” and healing .

If “the art of curating has to do with the root of the word care”, as Lilia Moritz Schwarcz says in the catalog text, it is worth remembering here the coherence with which she has been acting in her relatively recent trajectory in the field of exhibition curating, in which contests the divisions between high art, popular art and crafts and brings to light productions that have previously been predominantly invisible. Anthropologist, professor at USP and Princeton University and prolific author, Lilia has also become a prominent figure on the Brazilian political and cultural scene, with 533 thousand followers on Instagram.

The exhibition is dedicated to Telmo Porto, who opened Arte132 Galeria in 2021 and passed away shortly before the opening of the exhibition.

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