Farnese de Andrade, Untitled, 1981

There is no fixed point from which one can look at the work of Farnese de Andrade. His work, reviewed now on display at Galeria Almeida e Dale, not only contains a unique plastic and symbolic power, but also makes the history of Brazilian art more complex and interesting. Serving as a counterpoint to the official narrative, which sweeps under the rug any expression that escapes the idea of ​​an abstract vocation in mid-100th century Brazil, Farnese's art deals with interdicts, ghosts and archetypes and brings to the surface an uncomfortable subjectivity. As stated by Denise Mattar, responsible for the selection of the nearly XNUMX pieces present in the show, his works “revel in the bowels of the unconscious, and therefore fascinate, enchant, frighten and annoy”.

Farnese de Andrade, 5 Thoughts, 1978–82

Dense, the exhibition encompasses a wide range of research and moments in the artist's production. It seeks to illuminate the importance of his graphic production, little seen in recent decades but fundamental in his trajectory. For much of his career, Farnese was more valued as an illustrator and printmaker, and it was only from the 1990s onwards, and especially in the 2002st century, that his three-dimensional production acquired an undeniable prominence, overshadowing other forms of expression. And, even so, such appreciation was not enough to take it off the sidelines. It is curious that, despite being considered one of the most fertile Brazilian artists and having been revisited in several exhibitions, studies and publications (especially the encouraging book published by Cosac Naify in 24), he has been kept in the shadows when it comes to retell the history of Brazilian art, being unfairly absent from important historical reviews, such as the XNUMXth Bienal de São Paulo, for example.

Such forgetfulness is often explained by the fact that his work presents a certain mismatch in relation to what was hegemonically done in his period of action. He faced what Denise Mattar defines as the “dictatorship of abstraction” and a vigorous resistance to forms of expression more linked to figuration close to expressionism and surrealism. This supposedly brings him closer to authors who preceded him, such as his teacher Guignard (whose indications guaranteed him employment as an illustrator in several publications when he moved to Rio, in 1946, to cure himself of tuberculosis). However, the driving force of his work, the ability to deal with torments and intimate agonies (not only his own, but also that of modern man in general) makes him closer to contemporary art developed by generations that succeed him than of his contemporaries.

Instead of considering the artist's two-dimensional and three-dimensional productions as watertight blocks, Mattar's curatorship seeks to shatter the boundaries between languages, illuminating and putting into dialogue some of the most striking moments of this trajectory. “One thing is contained within the other. The Farnese of the 1990s is contained in the Farnese of the 1960s”, she defends. Leaving aside a rigid chronology, the visitor is introduced to families of works, to remarkable moments in their trajectory. There is always before him an artist who seems to be permanently testing himself and his plastic, symbolic, metaphorical possibilities.

The oldest works in the exhibition form a core located further back in the gallery. There are the compulsive and intricate drawings that he said he did to “call sleep” and that were called “Obsessives”; an exemplar (well behaved) of the erotic phase that develops in the late 1960s; and one of three drawings, called “Censorship”, in which he makes an acid and ironic comment on the period of repression and responds to the confiscation and destruction by the military of the works he had sent to the 2nd Bahia Biennial two years earlier. These pieces ensured Farnese the Travel award at the Salon de Arte Moderna in 1970, taking him to Europe, where he stayed for the next five years.

Two other important sets of two-dimensional works were panned by the show. The first one is composed of 24 paintings made between 1963 and 1980. In addition to demonstrating his versatility – “he did everything at the same time”, says Denise – this huge panel highlights some of the artist's interests, such as a fascination with the sensuality of the human body. (not just homoerotic in nature) and its ability to reinvent ways of making art. In these cases, for example, he develops a particular technique, which he calls “transformed ink”, which consists of applying watercolor mixed with a secret chemical product on the back of the already painted canvas, transferring to the work patches of color and seductive shapes. , over which he had only partial control. The second is a set of monotypes made from objects he found by the sea or in landfills in the early 1960s and that would soon be incorporated into his three-dimensional collages.

Started in 1964 and produced incessantly until his death in 1996, these pieces that bring together decayed wood; doll carcasses; saints of popular devotion; objects mined in antique shops, in the garbage or on the streets; shells found at random or images inherited from a photographer uncle form the body of the exhibition. Embalmed in a resin environment, enclosed in oratories that he began to adopt during the period he lived in Barcelona, ​​protected by glass bell jars or sheltered in the hollows of the traditional wooden bowls used in the popular cuisine of his native Minas Gerais, these compositions at the same agonizing and seductive times – of an impressive formal preciousness – seem, as Mattar says,  “stopping time”.

Themes are recurring. There are the annunciations, the dives into affective memories related to the father and mother figures, a long series of works entitled “We came from the sea”, and other fields of research to which he returns obsessively and compulsively, as if in an effort to purge and organize. internal. There is something lugubrious, nostalgic, in this return to the past, which reopen wounds, leave feelings on display. As Charles Cosac defined it in the opening text of the catalogue, “he was fed by nostalgia”.

And it infects us in this process. His pieces bring to the surface emotions that should be buried, especially in a country that bet on the univocal path, redeeming an art of right angles and abstract symbols, leaving behind its feet of clay, its wood gnawed by termites, a strange sensuality. and their beheaded saints. By telling their stories, marked by terrible collective memories such as the drowning of their two brothers a few years before their birth and by a depressive state marked by several crises, Farnese echoes in each one in a subjective way. However, he inevitably stirs intensely with feelings that go far beyond reason.

Farnese de Andrade – Imagined Memories
Curated by Denise Mattar
until June 15
Almeida and Dale Gallery:
Rua Caconde, 152 – Jardim Paulista, São Paulo – SP

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