“In addition to a vast critical and academic production in the area, Maria Angélica also contributed to the formation of important names in Brazilian contemporary art, such as Cinthia Marcelle, Paulo Nazareth and Marilá Dardot”

Hthere is an intense delicacy and great sensitivity in the texts of the book “Art Strategies in an Age of Catastrophes” (Cobogó, R$ 56), launched at the beginning of the year by the Argentine Maria Angélica Melendi.

The title, impossible more appropriate for the current moment in the country, actually refers to a broader period, which began in the 1960s, due to the Latin American dictatorships. She herself left Argentina in 1975, a year before the military intervention that removed President Isabelita Perón from the government, to live in Belo Horizonte, where she developed an academic career.

A retired professor at the Plastic Arts Department at the School of Fine Arts at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Melendi is still there coordinating the contemporary art study group Strategies of Art in an Age of Catastrophes, which gives the name to the new book, started 20 years ago. at the Guignard School, at UEMG.

Between the Guignard School and the Federal University, Melendi exerted a great influence on a generation of miners and miners in the arts that includes Julia Rebouças, Cinthia Marcelle, Lais Myrrha, Sara Ramo, Marilá Dardot and Paulo Nazareth, among many others.

The publication is a collection of 19 essays, written from the 1990s onwards, selected by Eduardo Jesus, also a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, divided into five sections: Strategies of Thought; Memory Policies; Files; Monuments; Memory Spaces. Most of them were published in magazines and collections, especially foreign ones, but some are unpublished.

The delicacy of the book lies, in the first place, in the respect with which Melendi treats each work of art, which is not seen in many contemporary essayists, who, faced with a complex production, often prefer to mock it. Another important feature of the author's work is the relationship between the so-called visual arts and other cultural productions such as literature or architecture.

In the text “On the ruins of the future”, for example, Melendi starts from a concrete structure in Germany, built in 1942, to test the soil of Berlin, transforming itself into an abandoned structure, a ruin, “the amputated limb of a body that never avenged”. To this ruin, she adds several others, be it the city of Brasília “frozen and immutable”, or the city of Havana by the works of Carlos Garaicoa in the 26th Bienal, in 2003, or even an intervention by Seth Wulsin in an abandoned building in Buenos Aires. Aires, arriving at the work of Ai Weiwei in documenta XII, from Kassel, in 2007. These overlapping stories, unlike many academic texts, do not aim at a synthesis, but are built in mosaic.

With this strategy, Melendi ends up creating small inventories of themes relevant to artistic production, such as the use of maps, not by chance the theme of the first essay “From adversity we live or A cartography in construction”. In it, the teacher brings together from the iconic “Inverted Map” of South America, a drawing by Joaquim Torres-Garcia, from 1946, to the unknown map by Marcel Duchamp, “Adieu à Florine”, from 1918, when the father of conceptual art leaves New York to live in Buenos Aires. The big question mark over South America is an amusing counterpoint to the Torres-Garcia inversion.

Thus, in each text, Melendi adds to the theme, often brutal as the violence of the military dictatorship, works, authors and cases that allow the reader to perceive how artists have been approaching essential issues such as memory, the body, or archives. To understand contemporary art is an essential book.

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