Regina Vater. Photo: Reproduction Jaqueline Martins Gallery
Regina Vater. Photo: Reproduction Jaqueline Martins Gallery

A Celebration for the GOOD Time, by Regina Vater, on display at gallery Jaqueline Martins until October 30th, symbolizes the artist's desire both for changes in the current Brazilian government and in the policy in the fight against Covid-19. The symbolic relationship between the party/performance/ritual that gives the exhibition its name – held in 1983 in Central Park, New York, where Regina lived – and the moment we are in, becomes evident. “The United States was experiencing a heavy political and social climate with the administration of Ronald Reagan. To make matters worse, there was the art debacle, when bad painting dominated the market. Anyone who painted badly became a great artist.”

The New York event was organized by her in early spring as a renaissance after a harsh winter. Time, in Candomblé, is an orixá whose symbol is a white flag that flutters at the top of the tree of life and this was done in Central Park. Regina invited artist friends Antoni Miralda, Alison Knowles, Anne Twitty, Bill Lundberg (her husband), Catalina Parra, Coco Gordon, Karen Bacon and Marylin Wood, among others, to perform dressed in white and contribute equally white art and food. . “Some people were invited and others approached spontaneously. It was a kind of general debugging, cleaning up of a really bad time.” The video that is shown in the gallery, throughout the show, shows the joy and smoothness of the event, with a relaxed and hopeful atmosphere.

The arc that covers this exhibition is the 40 years of production by an artist who has lived in several cities and countries making collaborative works contaminated by the surroundings. Works dating from 1980 to 2020 occupy the three floors of the gallery with installations, videos, photographs, drawings and objects. A whole puzzle zone takes over the installation golden branch, linked to one of humanity's first novels, aeThe pope of Gilgamesh, an ancient epic poem. “The story goes that to enter the underworld, the goddess gives Gilgamesh a golden branch as a passport. In the Aeneid the same thing happens, a goddess also offers the golden branch to Aeneas to penetrate the world of souls and the dead, to find and get help from her father. The rite of the golden branch tree has to do with the Amazon and the regenerative rhythms of nature.”

Odorico Mendes, Regina's great-great-grandfather, translated Virgílio and Homer. In the 1840s, she went into exile in Paris, where her friend and poet Gonçalves Dias was staying. They decided to return to Brazil together, but a fatality occurred. “My great-great-grandfather died of tuberculosis on a train in Marseille and Gonçalves Dias' ship sank off the coast of Maranhão. Both were doomed to die. Haroldo de Campos considered his translation the best ever published.” With strong cultural, historical and affective certainties, in this installation Regina pays homage at once to the poetic tradition of humanity, the romance generated by Gilgamesh and the great-grandfather.

The utopia contained in the artist's works expands the limits of the possible, as in the installation God gives nuts to those who have no teeth, supported by a saying with the timbres of popular culture, much talked about among those who felt rejected by luck, or had it and didn't know how to take advantage of it. Dozens of walnuts painted in gold, symbolizing wealth, installed on the floor of the gallery, form a rug in front of the phrase written on the wall, as if it were an altar, an allegory present not as an organization of the totality, but as a syntax of fragments.

In another work, working on a fictional narrative structure, Regina presents Goliath, an installation that stems from a drawing made in 1985, when she and her husband were leaving New York for Bill Lundberg to take up the invitation to teach at the University of Texas at Austin. “In the meantime, I made these drawings about Amazonian myths and this turtle that I ended up materializing in an installation at the Woman in the World gallery in Texas, which only exhibited women.” The artist has always invested in what she considers important, from the material used to the physical displacement. Her works are potentiated by her discoveries and personal desires. The turtle, coming from an indigenous tribe, gains ninja power, is named Goliath, pulls ropes, which are the ropes of a giant slingshot that crosses the gallery. On the other side of the piece, a large stone is entwined by these ropes. What displaces this spirit from one place in the intellectual field to another is imagination..

Against the backdrop of the turtle, the gallery ceiling displays an eye painted by Picasso, which is his eye. In this narrative fiction, the turtle Goliath challenges the giant Picasso that the painter has become. “As an example of the screen The Damsels byAvignon, he only took the African envelope, that is, the dancers, without being interested in the meaning, content and symbology of the images of those women and the narratives contained in them. Picasso is the colonizer himself who appropriates a native culture. Until then The Damsels byAvignon today it would be possible to resolve many debts of some African countries. Western culture is a very opportunistic culture, which starts with discovery – which was not discovery, it was an invasion and usurpation of the lands of native peoples to generate profit for Europeans.” Optimism is not a highlight of the artist's discourse on official history. “Today, they are trying to redeem themselves and begin a reinterpretation of several historical episodes, but that does not mean that I see any improvement in the situation of indigenous peoples or Afro-descendants.”

The artist became interested in archaic cultures since childhood, when she was curious to understand time. “A time for you is one thing, for an astronaut it is quite another.” With this reflection, she entered this ancestry to ask them the meaning of time. “The turtle has everything to do with it, it is a cosmic being, it is a sun that runs with the moon, it is the day that runs with the night. And, in Afro-Brazilian culture, there is the God Time, which Caetano sang: 'Time, time, time, time', which is a white flag.” 

Regina can change territories, cities, continents, but she always carries within her this primitive accumulation, the first formation of an artist/ecologist, activist/anthropologist affected by a humanity in frank decadence. “Our life is a repository of experiences that are later transmuted into the work we do and become an antenna for the universe. You also receive things, immortalize with your time, the so-called Zeitgeist (spirit of the times) of the Germans. I mean, everything is divine and mysterious.”

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