Adriana Varejão, Proposal for a Catechesis - Part I - Death and Dismemberment Diptych (1993) [Photo by Eduardo Ortega]

The exposure Adriana Varejão – for a cannibal rhetoric rekindles questions about the baroque and Brazilian colonization under the keen eye of the artist from Rio de Janeiro. Shown at Mamam – Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães, in Recife, the show brings together 25 works produced between 1992 and 2018 and brings out obscure points in Brazilian history.

The interest aroused by these works, already known from the Rio/São Paulo axis, now comes from the right combination of the curator Luisa Duarte's cut, with specific works inserted in the Northeast, a territory strongly influenced by the Baroque. Above all, a privileged place to think about the colonization that made forced use of slave labor, in the massive exploitation of sugar cane. Just remember that the Captaincy of Pernambuco, in 1534, was the richest and most powerful among the 14 created by the Portuguese. To experience this confrontation is to bring back to the surface submerged impressions of a vast undigested past.                                                                

The exhibition begins with the visitor being led, naturally, to the projection room where transbaroque, a video installation created and directed by the artist and Adriano Pedrosa, is shown on a large screen. Scenes chosen from four films, with simultaneous projections, show fragments of Brazilian Baroque churches. The visual excitement of the images works like a living organism, one entering the other, in such a way that the spectator does not remain in a contemplative state. The soundtrack mixes percussion from Oludum, organ chords from the Church of Mariana, bells and samba rhythms. Almost like a whisper, the voice of the Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa can be heard speaking excerpts from Casa Grande and Senzala, by Gilberto Freyre. transbaroque it is a free interpretation that places the visitor in the midst of photography, cinema and installation, reinforcing Mário Pedrosa: “art is an experimental exercise in freedom”.

he Tatuada à moda de azulejaria, 1995. PHOTO: Jaime Acioli

Maman's architecture, as a spatial plan, suspends time in poetic reverie and embraces the exhibition without interference. Some works, born in different temporalities, dialogue with the contemporary like painting Incisions a la fountain, 2000, which exposes internal matter, living human flesh, inspired by the famous canvas by Italian-Argentine artist Lucio Fontana. In the course of a revisit to colonialism, it is worth reflecting on Proposal for a catechesis – Part 1 diptych: Death by dismemberment, 1993. This work alone accounts for the concept of counter-catechesis, defended by Varejão. In one detail of the work, a man is impaled, a method of torture and execution that consists of inserting a stake into the victim's body, until her death. The transgression of the scene repositions the senses and opens a new place to feel and think about violence in Brazil today and its colonial heritage.

There is a strong authorial mark in Varejão's works inspired by tiles, an icon of Portuguese culture, due to the systematization of the movement of repetition and the multiplicity of geometric shapes, present in both older and more recent works. The series beef jerky ruins, from 2000, simulates pieces of architecture with paintings of these tiles, interspersed with the representation of beef jerky. Throughout her research, Adriana has collected more than six thousand of them recorded by her since 1988, with images that inspire her.

Consuming diverse poetics, digesting and returning them in an authorial work, is part of the record of the real and the fantasy that populate Varejão's production and almost all Brazilian art. The inaugural milestone of national anthropophagism may be the episode in which Father Don Pero Sardinha is devoured by the C Indians.aetés, in 1556, in a cannibal ritual on the coast of the Northeast. This occurred 372 years before the Anthropophagous Manifesto by Oswald de Andrade to be released in 1928.

Tile (Neo-concrete), 2016. PHOTO: Vicente de Mello

Varejão's interest in the Baroque dates back to her beginnings in the arts, when I met her in 1988, at the Thomas Cohn gallery in Rio de Janeiro. She was doing her first solo show at the age of 23 and said that the paintings on display were the result of a trip to Minas, where she was surprised by the baroque of the churches. This inspiration, which persists to this day, led her to study and research in Salvador and Cachoeirinha, (Bahia), Recife (Pernambuco), Mariana (Minas Gerais) and, later, in Portugal. Hal Forster, in his text The artist as ethnographer, talks about the role that anthropology as a discourse plays on contemporary production, considering the growing interest in the Other as an ethnographic turn.

Sample of Varejão was inserted by Mamam in its project Solo Exhibition of Female Artists, being the third in the series. Director Mabel Medeiros comments that the museum is currently re-studying the collection with attention to women's production, which is still scarce in the collection. The exposure Adriana Varejão – for a cannibal rhetoric should continue until the end of the year to other Brazilian states outside the Rio/São Paulo axis.

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