Indians and Mandacaru
Detail of "Indians and Mandacaru", woodcut, 150 cm x 222 cm

ARTE!Brasileiros — What is the history of Unifor Plástica? How does it work, how is the selection of artists carried out?

Denise Mattar — The 1st Unifor Plástica opened its doors in 1973, the year the University of Fortaleza was created, already showing the vocation of the Edson Queiroz Foundation and its proximity to the arts and regional and national culture. Since its inception, it has operated through a public notice and the works were chosen by a commission of notorious knowledge in the field of the arts. As of 2013, a more curatorial model was adopted and started to function every two years as the Unifor Plástica Biennial.

The first two exhibitions were curated by art critic and curator Ivo Mesquita. He paid, in one of the exhibitions, a tribute to Sérvulo Esmeraldo, called A Constellation for Servulus Esmeraldo.

When I went to think about the current exhibition, focusing on a cast of artists from Ceará, I was careful to select a significant number of artists, but that allowed a non-polluted show. With the help of Cecilia Dedê, and together with conversations with Bitu Cassundé, from the Dragão do Mar cultural center, which has a wide knowledge of Ceará's history, I looked at almost 100 portfolios and ended up editing approximately 25 artists.

Henrique Viudez, “Bluebird”, 2019, Mixed on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. Photo Ares Soares

Do you feel that it brought you a differential to be able to get in touch with these artists?

I have noticed production in the North and Northeast for many years. In 2012, I went to Belém and met Emmanuel Nassar, born in Capanema, Pará, with a job that deeply impressed me. In fact, because it is outside the Rio-São Paulo axis, artists from the North and Northeast are harmed. I knew sparse works of his and not the whole work. I had, for the first time, an important exhibition of him at the CCBB in Rio and Brasília and I'm sure this contributed to his visibility. I saw several exhibitions by the curator Paulo Herkenhoff which, in my opinion, was of enormous importance to make this understanding of Brazil as a whole, he donated a lot of his time to get to know these new production centers. 

What caught your attention the most when looking at this set?

On this occasion, what caught my attention was the repeated use of the word. I saw, in the works presented, a common thread: the word.

Used sporadically, throughout history, in paintings and tapestries, the word was more constantly incorporated into the visual arts at the beginning of the 20th century, from the modernist avant-gardes. Marcel Duchamp went deep into this idea and used the term “differentiated simultaneities” to define the articulation between the verbal and visual fields. One of the artists best known for this overlapping is fellow countryman Leonilson, whose work belongs to this ethos. This idea ended up giving the exhibition its name: Simultaneity – art with the word.

Poems of Memory and Salt
Rian Fontenele, “Poemetos of Memory and Salt”, 2010-2016, ink acrylic and pigment on canvas. Photo Ares Soares

Can we name a few and their main features?

Some are more conceptual and others more visceral. Francisco de Almeida has a special room. His work as a woodcut artist is highly regarded. Son of a goldsmith father, an embroiderer mother and grandson of a lacemaker grandmother, he grew up in an environment that founded his imagery universe. Allegories, religion, a fantastic world, built by sometimes real figures: the blessed, the sertanejo man and the caatinga; sometimes for figures from the religious or magical world, such as saints and angels.

He attended university, participated in exhibitions in Fortaleza, traveled a lot, participated in the Panorama of Brazilian Art at MAM, in São Paulo, in 2005; the Bienal de Valencia, in 2007, and the VII Bienal do Mercosul, in Porto Alegre, in 2009. In the words of the critic Pedro Costa: “I deal with matrices; its infinite engraving, inking and printing effects; their permanent reuse and arrangements will make Francisco de Almeida a researcher-craftsman, an engraver par excellence”.

But I would like to highlight several of the artists I chose and who were the result of this dive. Henrique Viudez, a young artist, with a work of this type that I call “more visceral”, works with painting, truck canvas and their interferences. It is more figurative and expands the research on beliefs, myths and religiosity. He also works on gender issues and male and female binary conventions, with great quality of execution. He has a more allegorical work.

On the other hand, there is a very young artist, Iago Barreto, who works with the Tapebas Indians, a native indigenous society gathered in the village of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres de Caucaia, and which gave rise to the municipality of the same name, in the city of Fortaleza. He's fully involved in that culture, really dedicated. He lives with the community, and in an authentic way, not a marketer's choice as some artists end up adopting. He uses the language of Indian bodywork in the intersection with photography, bringing the Indian to the present, in his own space, but attentive to contemporary issues.

Marked with annatto, blood and earth
Iago Barreto, “Marked by annatto, blood and earth”, 2019, Photo 80 x 120 cm and recorded testimonies

Then you have an artist like Rian Fontenele, more consolidated, with a larger work, and who, however, does not have the visibility that, in my opinion, he should have.

Therefore, I also tried to show works from various aspects. Haroldo Saboia, for example, made a video showing cities in the interior of Ceará whose names are Deserto, Prazeres, Miragens and Passages.

Diego de Santos presents burnt shells, small sculptures, bringing the idea of ​​real estate speculation, where the advance burns the houses and the residents leave their “shell-houses” leaving everything behind.

Bia de Paula too, with Every son is a mother's son. When he started his work, he wanted to do something about the absence of parents in the homes, however, as he interviewed the women, he realized that for them this was not an issue. She found, on the other hand, another much richer story, the potency in these women, who had left that behind and faced life with enormous strength of their own. She has wonderful photos and testimonials.

I liked a lot of people. Virginia Pinho who did the work on Maracanaú, where she had that necrosario that later became extinct, but whoever lived there is still there. People created a bond with that region and they don't leave that place, which was a prison for them.

All the works were already existing, there was no commissioned work. Only Nivardo Victoriano, who had a production of smaller photos, and then we made a suggestion to enlarge the photos. He works with the pain.

What catches my attention is that the production of Ceará is very poetic. All works are concerned with questioning the problems, the environment, the status quo, but with an unexpected poetic touch for me. They have stories, twine, embroidery.

When I showed the works, they commented to me: “Wow, how it looks like Leonilson”. And I said, “No. It's just that Leonilson belongs here”.

20th Unifor Plástica: Simultaneities – Art with the Word
Unifor Cultural Space
Until March 1, 2020

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