Nicolas Robbio,
Nicolás Robbio, "Cut Heads", 2015. Photo: Everton Ballardin

About a year ago, when he received an invitation from his colleague professor Telmo Porto to set up an exhibition in his gallery, the Art132, in São Paulo, with a sample of his collection, Miguel Chaia started from two conditions: as sculptures from the gallery's own collection occupy prominent places in the place, Chaia decided that three-dimensionality would be one of the vectors for the selection, so that there would be a dialog, as a site specific; and, given that the exhibition calendar for the last two years had been dominated by issues of race, gender, sexuality and class, brought about by the ephemeris of the Week of 22 and the Bicentennial of Independence, the collector preferred to focus on artistic language. The scope of Three-dimensional: Between the sacred and the aesthetic, the first exclusive exhibition of his collection, according to him, which runs until March 11, co-curated by Laura Rago and Gustavo Herz.

What Chaia did not expect, however, was that recent events in Brasília - the arson attacks in the city during the diplomacy of the then president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his vice-president, Geraldo Alckmin, and the subsequent terrorist attack on the palaces in Praça dos Três Poderes, on January 8 - would find echoes in the works of the new show. The policy manifested itself there, months after the selection of 45 pieces was closed, from a universe of almost 250 three-dimensional creations.

According to Chaia, who is also a member of the boards of Itaú Cultural, the Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC) and the Bienal de São Paulo, the polysemy he explored in the initial cut - a counterpoint between the sacred and the aesthetic in contemporary art - it also began to reveal a political meaning, albeit a posteriori and unintentionally. Coordinator and researcher at Neamp (Nucleus for Studies in Art, Media and Politics) at PUC-SP, he ended up not escaping the theme, addressed in his classes at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the São Paulo university, and dear to both his academic investigations and to the collection itself, developed 45 years ago alongside his wife, Vera.

“There is an intense politicization of art. We even lose a little horny to enjoy and enjoy. But there is a very large imbrication between the two. As I am very fascinated by the subject, I decided to run away from it a little. He wanted to look for a space for reflection on aesthetics and language, but he couldn't help it. The exhibition reflects on the sacred and flows into politics,” says Chaia to arte!brasileiros.

To exemplify, the collector recalls a discussion that would have been raised by the North American artist Donald Judd (1928-1994), according to which contemporary art “is between painting and sculpture and that, in this sense, being neither a thing nor another, the object creates a very intense dimension of symbolism,” says Chaia. “And we have in the exhibition a work by Nino Cais, which are two very heavy mallets on the wall and, between them, there are two chalices, in a very precarious balance. It is a work that refers to the strength of power, violence, oppression”.

Chaia cites other examples, such as the baseball bat of boundary breaker, by Marcelo Cidade; The work chasing, by André Komatsu, in which shards of glass appear framed by a wooden and wooden structure; and an untitled work by Deyson Gilbert, in which four white canvases are held down by sergeants, carpentry instruments used to compress wood.

“If you look at the exhibition after the 8th of January, you see the broken glass in Brasilia. He sees the sledgehammers breaking the windows. The bat vandalizing the institutional houses of Democracy”, argues Chaia. “In the case of Deyson's work, it is the pressure on art itself, the vandalism against art in Brasília. It is the destruction of Say Cavalcanti, of all works that were affected during the attacks”.

The discussion initially proposed, however, remains there, predominant and seen in the works, in a subtle and sensitive way by the trio of curators. In a critical text by Chaia, present in the catalogue, the trio of curators establishes the three conceptual pillars that guided their approach: “Is it possible to perceive vestiges of the sacred in contemporary art? What can there be in common between art and the sacred? And yet, does contemporary art, by gaining autonomy, strengthening its strictly aesthetic meaning, abandon the mythical, religion and religiosity in the pursuit of language revolution?”, they ask.

Chaia says that he, along with Laura and Gustavo, looked for possible answers in objects, and some works were key. “Initially, we got down to a half dozen that we considered benchmarks. One of them is Glass of holy water next to a glass of ordinary water, by Deyson Gilbert. When you see this work, nothing lets you know what is holy, holy, and what is not. Only those who set it up know”, he explains. “Another important work was a manipulable object by Karin Lambrecht, A door to forgiveness, made with fabrics, in which you put a little note, with papers that are arranged on the side, asking for forgiveness from those you hurt”. The work, he points out, alludes to the relationship with the other, “which is the reconnection of religion”, in its etymology.

The collector also points out that the trio managed to discover the sacred in the works of Laura Vinci and Felipe Cohen, because of the marble they use, “a material that, in art, came from Ancient Greece, passes through the Renaissance, through statuary. As Cohen says, marble forged goddesses and gods”, he says.

already the work Lola, by Lucia Koch, brings transparent materials, reminiscent of stained-glass windows in a cathedral, suggests Chaia. “We also have a work by Valeska Soares, a glass capsule that looks like a large bird trough, and it is filled with wine and poison. Water, blood, wine are a triangulation of elements that are present in all rituals, from Candomblé to Catholicism. Fire, in turn, is another important issue, with its idea of ​​hell, and which is at work severed heads, by Nicolás Robbio.

There are also two works by Tunga that the collector considers relevant in the scope of his curatorship: the club, made in the 1980s, with magnets, which raise the discussion of the energy emanating from that material. And yet the Communicating vessels, “an idea of ​​a container, reminiscent of Greek wine glasses, or that could be the Holy Grail, wrapped in a brown fabric, which is a bit like a Holy Shroud”, he suggests.

Chaia also found repercussions of her curatorial approach in two works by José Resende: one without a title, which is an inverted iron cross, and a wooden trunk crossed by irons, in an allusion to the arrows that hit the body of the saint in his representations, whether paintings or sculptures. “What is interesting is what Resende himself, with whom I spoke, claims not to have thought about these issues when conceiving the works. The titles came later, regardless of the artist's will”, says Chaia. “But the objects carry this narrative power”.


three-dimensionality – Between the sacred and the aesthetico
Curated by Miguel Chaia, Laura Rago and Gustavo Herz
Until March 11st
Art132 Gallery - Av. Juriti, 132, Moema, Sao Paulo - SP
Visitation: Monday to Friday, from 14 pm to 19 pm; Saturdays, from 11 am to 17 pm
Free admission


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