The artist in his studio.
The artist in his studio. Photo: Luiza Sigulem

At the age of 68 and with a career spanning over 40 years, Guto Lacaz just sold a work to an art institution in 2016. Created almost 30 years ago, Electro Sphere Space, on display at the exhibition Situations: Installation in the Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado until February 20, 2017, it has been part of the institution's collection since the beginning of the year.

“In January I already won my year, with the letter from José Augusto Ribeiro, by the Pinacoteca, confirming the purchase of this work”, says Lacaz in his residence and studio near the Ibirapuera Park.

It was exactly in the park, in fact, in the Bienal Pavilion, that Electro Sphere Space was seen for the first time at the exhibition The Plot of Taste, in 1987, organized by the Fundação Bienal, between the 18th and 19th Bienals of São Paulo. “I participated in the 18a edition, in 1985, at the invitation of Sheila Leirner to carry out the electroperformance”, recalls Lacaz, who then asked the curator for a space to present a new work. However, a reaction that is not unusual in the face of the great responsibility and visibility that the Bienal provides, “gave me a blank and I ended up making a face,” he now admits.

It was in the next occupation in the building designed by Oscar Niemeyer that Lacaz managed to compensate for the lukewarm participation in the event.  The Plot of Taste – Another Look at Everyday Life, with more than one hundred artists, including Regina Silveira, Nelson Leirner, Bené Fonteles and Leon Ferrari (1920-2013), was organized as a city, with modules such as Electronic Entertainment, Arranha Céu and Livraria, among others.

Views of the installation “Eletro Esfero Espaço” (1986-2015), Guto Lacaz
Views of the installation “Eletro Esfero Espaço” (1986-2015), Guto Lacaz

“Antenor Lago, one of the curators, asked me to build an appliance store”, recalls Lacaz. The subject was not foreign to him. Your already known electroperformance it was done with home appliances, a passion that started when he studied electronics in high school, but that has actually grown in proportion in the city's department stores. “Sears was my library, it was like MoMA for me. It had everything from barbaric toys to cutting-edge technology,” she recalls admiringly.

It was from Sears, precisely, that he copied the idea for the work of The Plot of Taste. “I remember seeing a vacuum cleaner in the window that held a plastic ball in the air; so I simply created a corridor where the visitor passed, as if they were greeted by several swords, but it was 26 devices,” he explains.

Luckily, at that time, someone at the Fundação Bienal had a relative who worked at Black & Decker, the manufacturer of the appliance, and managed to borrow the appliances. “I myself was surprised by how easy it was,” he says. To disguise the deafening sound of the ensemble, he gave the public a Walkman with a snippet of Thannhauser, by Richard Wagner (1813-1883), which gave a solemn air to the visit.

Electro Sphere Space was a critical and public success: the installation had permanent queues at the exhibition in the Bienal pavilion and the curator Aracy Amaral selected it for the exhibition Modernity – Brazilian Art in the 20th Century, in Paris, in 1988, also presented at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in the same year. “I arrived in France thinking I was going to conquer the world, but not a single line came out about my work”, he remembers in frustration. After Modernity, the installation was never seen by the public again, which reveals a remarkable research by the curatorship of the Pinacoteca, since there is no gallery that represents Lacaz. “I am an abandoned major”, he quips.

Behind the sarcastic statement, however, he points out that it is not through lobbying that his work is known. It has been so, in fact, from the beginning. He studied at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of São José dos Campos, in 1974, and managed to graduate in the only class that the experimental institution formed, due to the difficulty in surviving during the dictatorship. He worked with architecture until 1978, when he was fired in the midst of one of the crises that the country went through.

Views of the installation “Eletro Esfero Espaço” (1986-2015), Guto Lacaz
Views of the installation “Eletro Esfero Espaço” (1986-2015), Guto Lacaz

Guto Lacaz didn't have a background in art, but he created little gadgets. One day he showed it to his cousin Raquel Arnaud, who explained to him: “You are making objects”, he recalls. It was then that he decided to send 14 of them to the First Exhibition of Furniture and Unusual Objects, organized in 1978, at Paço das Artes, when the institution was operating at MIS – which took place again this year –, among them crush fixed, a soda bottle stuck in a box.

“In addition to winning an award, my works illustrated the article on several pages of the magazine Veja”, says Lacaz, about the time when the publication deserved respect.

So, at age 27, he was compared to Duchamp, “having no idea who he was” and decided it was time to study art, even though he had “never thought about being an artist”. The beginning was in the studio of Dudi Maia Rosa, with whom he had classes in the company of Carlos Fajardo and Luiz Paulo Baravelli, among others.

The performance began in 1982, when Ivaldo Granato invited Lacaz, along with 59 other artists, to each perform a one-minute action at the Centro Cultural São Paulo. “I used a record player, my first home device. For me it was amazing to be on stage, with butterflies in my stomach and adrenaline pumping.” Since then, it hasn't stopped. The most recent action, called ludo-flight, is a performance composed of 20 scenes with flying objects, one of the artist's obsessions.

In practice, however, despite having already exhibited in many important galleries in the city – Subdistrito, São Paulo, Luisa Strina and Marília Razuk – and having participated in many exhibitions, in addition to having won the Guggenheim Scholarship in 1989, it was with the work graphic that he actually survived.

“I've never sold an entire exhibition, I always come home with almost everything. The return in fine arts is very slow. Imagine, I sold my first installation now, almost 30 years after it was assembled”, he resigns himself, without losing his focus on his work. “I have three exhibitions ready here on the top floor of the house, but I will wait for the wind to blow and when the time comes, it has arrived.”

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