Iwajla Klinke, untitled, from the series
Iwajla Klinke, untitled, from the "Ritual Memories" series. Photo: Transarte

AThe old certainties, still present in the Brazilian art system, are gradually being erased with initiatives such as Transarte, gallery pioneer in the presentation of LGBTQ+-themed artists and which has now become an institute. Ever since she appeared on the art circuit, she has experimented with physical and conceptual transmutations. Now she leaves the bohemian Vila Madalena and settles in, permanently, at Gabriel Monteiro da Silva, a stronghold of the upper class of São Paulo, with other challenges.

Iwajla Klinke, untitled, from the "Ritual Memories" series. Photo: Transarte
Iwajla Klinke, untitled, from the “Ritual Memories” series. Photo: Transarte

Any new situation, which is added to others, is enough to give oxygen to a sense of the future. Conceived by Maria Helena Peres Oliveira, Transarte opened its doors in 2012 showing what it came from. It exhibited works by the enigmatic North American artist Timothy Cummings, the result of a one-year residency held in São Paulo. None traveling of retreat or advance will be able to unravel his tormented work and not even the self-portraits leave a clue. For Catharine Clark, a gallery owner in San Francisco, “Cummings’ work is both classic and subversive, formally beautiful and thematically terrifying.” For Maria Helena, photographer Iwajla Klinke, from Berlin, has unsuspected quality and that's why she was also invited. She works with the beam of natural light as a narrative instrument. The series Ritual Memories, with the naked backs of young people, he mixes strangeness and sensuality with sequential takes: lonely man, mirror man, narcissus man, faggot man. The operation is fluid, but opposite to spontaneity. Klinke adorns them either with mice and frogs around her neck, or with light plastic shuttlecocks or delicate lace.

On the other side of the ocean, the young Brazilian Bia Leite discovered very early on that dreams and perception are built in close contact with life. She learned to disarm her attackers with a telltale paint job. Awarded in the Transarte LGBTQ+ competition with the canvas born to ahazar, who became known for Child Fag, she gained notoriety for graffiti on the painting prejudiced cursing suffered by homosexuals since childhood. Bia tries to get rid of the monster that has grown inside her, due to the bullying who suffers The staff participated in the press conference queermuseum, at Centro Cultural Santander, in Porto Alegre, when it was the target of protests, censorship and became one of the vertices of the insane cultural alienation of the moment. Delicacy can also be an act of resistance. Silva M works with objects found at random and randomly builds sculptures whose surface resembles a woodcut. The young woman invents an active response to this dispersed and abandoned world, weaving fragments with disconcerting delicacy filled with fine sutures that reach the edges and recesses, like a dermal help.

“Sai Hetero”, by Bia Leite (2017). Photo: Transarte

Transarte reinvents itself, but the residences remain in the future perspectives that will take place in the new headquarters, the house that Maria Helena got from her grandfather when she was just 12 years old. Since its creation, Transarte has operated with its own resources, without the support of incentive laws, which is why Maria Helena and her partner Maria Bonomi did not think of a foundation.

The landscape of art is urban and marked by surveillance. In order to guarantee a definitive and legitimate space for the artists, it is planned to organize a long-term private initiative so that the Institute can survive after the death of the owners and there is already money for that. “We had a moment of progress with the approval of the STF of marriage between people of the same sex, but now it has gotten much worse”, says Maria Helena. Expanding the range of actions, they will partner with residences such as Casa Florescer or with other institutions that also welcome LGBTQ+ people with trauma and of all ages. 

The artists' accounts have terrifying social and psychic intensity. “Many people run away from their place of origin, others leave their parents' house due to threats or leave the streets due to beatings, all with nowhere to go”. Maria Helena also wants to propose something like art education as a distraction or as a support for traumatized people. In this way, art seems to have no meaning in itself, but in fact it is crossed by other powers, knowledge, affections, discoveries, which will be part of the Institute's content. A council will be constituted with people from different areas, not only to introduce artists and works into the exhibition circulation, but also to think about the plurality of projects to be generated. Instituto Transarte will continue to include exhibitions, public notices, book publications and artistic residencies. “We are talking about an Institute, but it would be a non-profit NGO. Our proposal is anti-market, we started selling at a low price between three and five thousand reais, divided into up to 10 times, and the artist can still receive in advance, except for works by foreigners.”

"Pyre of Persona" by Timothy Cummings (2012-2013). Photo: Transarte
“Pyre of Persona” by Timothy Cummings (2012-2013). Photo: Transarte

Maria Helena's daring in adolescence, living in a conservative society, seems to be the foundation of her strong and determined personality today. Born and socialized in an elite family, she has always been involved with art, influenced by her close relationship with her uncle Arthur Luiz Piza and her marriage to Maria Bonomi, both emblematic engravers in the history of Brazilian art. Maria Helena remembers the time of delusions, of love privations, when a kiss with another teenager was only possible inside an elevator. She talks about her part of a void that was only filled after she left São Paulo to settle in San Francisco, a city with lax social rules and where she got even closer to art.. Graduated in chemistry and with MBA at FGV, Maria Helena completed her studies in the United States with a master's degree in Marketing and in Arts Administration, work at SFMOMA in San Francisco Opera House and Catharine Clark Gallery.

He returned to Brazil in 2002 and produces and coordinates exhibitions in several museums. All this learning was enhanced with other initiatives permeated by social and political issues. Last year, with the Covid-19 pandemic advancing, Transarte sought a response from art to the theme, producing the public notice quarantine, which added 400 entries and distributed six prizes of R$1200. Artists have responded to the call with works about this cruel time of physical exclusion. Instituto Transarte appears at the moment of dismantling of culture in Brazil. The prognosis is that this pioneering, challenging project, with an artistic and social impact, will survive in the direction of long-requested transformations.


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