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A symbol work by Aguilar, a militant against the devastation of forests, Rio Amazonas was painted in 2015 and is part of the Rios Voadores series. Photo: Karin Kahn

Delirium and affections translated into paintings mark the return of José Roberto Aguilar to the art circuit, with the exhibition Destinies, Man Invents Man, on display in fiesp. The performance of each canvas is part of an ancestral flight proposed by him in an attempt to unravel the universe, man and nature, in the show that marks his 60 years of art.

Aguilar interprets the white surfaces of the 69 canvases as landing strips to display a cosmology whose thread runs through Greek philosophers, the French Revolution, Picasso, Van Gogh, Bispo do Rosário and the city of São Paulo. His desires spiral like a tornado and evolve with customary freedom, as in the radical approach of Guernica by Picasso. Painted this year, the intervention is an allusion to the political bipolarity of the current world in a conflict that leads to the dilemma: either war or peace. The large canvases, some unpublished, arranged in a good montage by Haron Cohen, are inconclusive demonstrations of an art of hypotheses that never seem to have an end point. In Mademoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso, which bears the title 1907, it celebrates the year of the invention of modern art and the creation of Einstein's special theory of relativity.

Aguilar's work is intense and obsessive as evidenced by Amazon river, a large canvas that reflects his connection with environmental activism in defense of the planet that, according to him, has been destroyed by greed and ignorance. “This screen is linked to the series flying rivers, an allusion to the atmospheric waterways that move, pass over our heads carrying moisture from the Amazon Basin to the Midwest, Southeast and South of Brazil”. Since 2004, Aguilar has been divided between São Paulo and Alter do Chão, in Pará, where she maintains a house/studio and a strong relationship with the Amazon rainforest and the local riverside community, involving them in her collective works. The immense canvas is an ode to nature and a wake-up call, the show's most powerful and emblematic work.

"War or Peace", by Aguilar, is an acrylic and enamel on canvas
“Guerra ou Paz”, by Aguilar, is an acrylic and enamel on canvas from 2019, and alludes to the political polarization that is currently taking over the world. Photo: Karim Kahn

Aguilar maintains a free, unfiltered narrative and brings the multiplicity of interests that gravitate around his reflections on reasoning, free will, destiny, the environment. Ten of his large canvases rehearse a flight over Western civilization, from Greek philosophers to a possible occupation of Mars in 2050. In a second set of 35 paintings that can be read like tarots, he takes the opposite route, from object to idea. He proposes to the visitor a game, a trip to imagined places. "Destinies always change, it's up to you, like everything else in life". Each frame is identified as each person's choice and constitutes a coded field with dialogues between what we see and how we understand what we see. “The most recent canvas for the exhibition I made three weeks ago, as a performance inside the exhibition room. In the expanded field, expanded gestures are born that form a great wave”. In another work, a tangle of threads with neighborhood names emerges under the title Sao Paulo, a friction of art and urbanism, with her paint-smeared shoes hovering in the air.

The evolutionary line of 60 years of art reveals Aguilar and his intense involvement with Brazilian contemporary art. “It all started in the mid-50s, with my high school friend Jorge Mautner. At 15 we read everything we could get our hands on. I wanted to be a writer, but I followed the fine arts and Mautner went to literature”. At the age of 22, Aguilar exhibits at the VII Bienal de São Paulo and Mautner, at 21, launches the book god of rain and death, who started machining at 15.

Trying to categorize Aguilar's art is chasing the wind. To this day, he lives the multiplicity of his transgressions in literature, painting, video art, music, cinema. His painting gained momentum in 1963 when he caught the attention of Mário Pedrosa and Clarival do Prado Valladares. His canvases already brought the colors and techniques that recall the CoBrA group. Two years later he participates in the anthological exhibition Opinion 65 with Helium Oiticica, Rubens Gerchman, Anthony Dias, Carlos Vergara, considered a landmark in Brazilian art.

“With the AI-5, the climate becomes unbearable and I move to London, where Caetano, Gil and Mautner were already there”. In the area of ​​performances, he creates controversial works such as Ópera do Terceiro Mundo, with Lucila Meirelles, and presented at the Interdisciplinary journées sur l'art corporel et performances, in Paris' Beaubourg, and irritates critics. “The only reason they didn't interrupt us was because there is no censorship there”. The 1980s were marked by the Blue house, his studio at Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, where intellectuals such as Mário Schenberg, Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, the painter Nuno Ramos and the composer and musician Arnaldo Antunes, who soon created the band Titãs, passed through. Aguilar mixes Bukowski with Indian teachings, expands his circuit, exhibits in Germany and Japan, gains the pages of art in america.

Self-portrait of Aguilar taken in front of a mirror, holding the camera in his hands and smiling.
Aguilar's self-portrait, emblematic image of the multimedia artist's youth.

In 1980, he set fire to the atrium of the Pinacoteca do Estado, the museum's former amphitheater, with the performance Concerto for Box and Piano Gloves. “This event started the Performing Band with Arnaldo Antunes and other friends. We played a lot of shows and recorded records.” In 86, he surprised with the intervention in the Museum of Image and Sound with Antichrist, “an allusion to the Bulgarian artist Christo who wrapped monuments, museums, bridges”. Aguilar unwraps the MIS, which was covered in black plastic during the IV Festival Videobrasil, when the museum was on Avenida Europa. “We did everything with a lot of fun.”

All of Aguilar's phases and languages ​​intertwine, dialogue with each other and bear witness to a strangeness that changes the viewer's view of reality and representation. His paintings are performances of colors and gestures that bring to the same space the perception of a unique reality, different from the one that moves the conventional man.

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