André Komatsu, Hierarchical Base, 2011-2014

Every year Padiglione D'Arte Contemporanea di Milano, the PAC, chooses a country or a continent to be the theme of its summer exhibition. In the last edition, Africa was the chosen continent. Countries like Japan and Cuba have also had their seasons. This year it is Brazil's turn to occupy the pavilion's exhibition space. This is what Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, curator of the show says Brazil: Il coltello in her meat (Brazil: Razor in the Flesh) alongside Diego Sileo. The exhibition opened on July 3rd and runs until September 9th.

Invited by the PAC to be curator, Jacopo did not have many doubts about how he would approach Brazilian art in current times: “In my view, if we want to talk about Brazilian art today, it is impossible not to start with a discussion about the political and social issues”. Despite this, he confesses, he was a little tired of the literality of the exhibitions that are expressly political: “Often [these exhibitions] force a shallow reading of the works, as if the work of art, when dealing with political or social issues, was summarized only that one".

The challenge for him was to juxtapose, at various times, works that have very clear connotations with works that do not have or do not suggest this type of reading, at least at first glance. “Through this juxtaposition, the public is led to see some works that are theoretically just abstract sculptures or paintings by the connotations and interpretations they can have as works that reflect a socially and politically charged context. And, on the other hand, reading works that are very political – or that reflect this more clearly because they were studied for this purpose – as more poetic works”, says Jacopo.

In this way, thirty Brazilian artists (or working in Brazil) from different generations were brought together with works in various languages ​​and formats to integrate the show. They are: Ícaro Lira, Cinthia Marcelle, Ana Mazzei, Letícia Parente, Regina Parra, Vijai Patchineelam, Berna Reale, Celso Renato, Mauro Restiffe, Luiz Roque, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Tunga, Carlos Zilio, Maria Thereza Alves, Clara Ianni, Francesco João, André Komatsu, Runo Lagomarsino, Leonilson, Sofia Borges, Paloma Bosquê, Jonathas de Andrade, Iole de Freitas, Daniel de Paula, Deyson Gilbert, Fernanda Gomes, Ivan Grilo, Carmela Gross, Tamar Guimarães and Maurício Ianês.

 

One of the moments in which Jacopo considers that this contrast between what is more explicit and what is more abstract appears is in the space where an installation by Fernanda Gomes is located (Untitled/Casetta, 2016) and, next to it, an installation by Ícaro Lira (General Field, 2015). “In some ways, the two works are close, because they use very simple materials. But if a shallow reading is made, Ícaro's work is a didactic and political work. And Fernanda's work would be a totally abstract work in terms of structure”, points out the curator. He believes, however, that this placement of the works together with paintings by Celso Renato that are also displayed there leads to readings that are not usually done: “It is in these frictions of these works that the most interesting part of the exhibition is found”.

The period of works extends from the 70s to works in 2018, including some being commissioned by the PAC itself. It's the installation We are, by André Komatsu, artist from Galeria Vermelho who represented Brazil at the 56th Venice Biennale. Made with powdered cement, used cement bags and iron. According to the artist, the work arises from his observations of Marcel Gautherot's photographs of the construction of Brasília and the context of the villages where the candangos, workers who worked in the construction of the capital, lived.

“One of these cities/villages emerged from the remains of material from the construction of Brasília. It was called Sacolândia, because the houses were made with a half-bamboo structure, made of slats/wood scraps. The walls were made from the accumulation of cement bags,” says Komatsu. Gautherot wanted to publish a book with photographs about these villages, but it was boycotted by the government: “When I heard about this story, I started to develop this project here, because the exhibition has, in a way, the intention of bringing a somewhat historical character and political”.

The developmental contrast of the built city with the villages in which its builders lived turned the artist's attention to the inequality relationship existing there. For André, if one thinks of a less idealistic and utopian point of view, one still lives in a colonial structure: “We live in a slaveholding heritage. In a way, this [developmentalist] utopia becomes a lie.” Interested in political and social issues, the artist points out that the works in the exhibition are not literal in this sense, as Jacopo has previously pointed out. “I think, in fact, it is something that art allows. It doesn't have to be literal."

 

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