Artist Carmela Gross, at Sesc Pompeia. Photo: Everton Ballardin

A exposure Almost circus, Carmela Gross, on display at Sesc Pompeia, in São Paulo, has a degree of opacity that forces us to think about what those objects and installations displayed there can make clear. Consisting of such dense works, from the beginning the exhibition deviates from the typical displays fast food, very common today. Almost circus It should not be confused with these “engaged” exhibitions that fill various art spaces in the city, composed of works interested in highlighting only the obvious, to the detriment of any more complex poetic/political dimension. In this regard Almost circus It must be characterized, to begin with, as an antidote against the mediocrity that is haunting the city's art circuit.

The first reflection that the exhibition triggers concerns the place where it takes place: precisely Sesc Pompeia, one of the most emblematic spaces in the city of São Paulo. Designed by the Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, Sesc Pompeia – produced during the 1970s and opened in 1982 –, since its inauguration, has meant a bet on the future of the city and the country, a landmark of architecture committed to the regeneration of Brazil as a democratic nation.

I don't perceive the presence of Carmela's works in that symbolic space as a happy junction of her poetics with that of Lina. On the contrary: for me, what increases the power of Almost circus it is the opposition between the confidence in the future that Lina projected in that space and the commitment to the present, visible in Carmela's works, as the ideal place for revolt.

It's as if Lina, with Sesc Pompeia, threw her life forward, while Carmela reminded herself at every moment that we will hardly have a future, if the transformation does not occur now, in the urgency of the present.

While the Sesc Pompeia building expresses confidence in the future, Carmela's pieces and interventions make it clear that, if the revolt does not break out, our contemporary times will remain fixed in an eternal present, violent and with no escape.

Unlike Lina, who bet on revolutionary architecture, towards utopia, the future, Carmela's pieces and installations assume that we are already living in dystopia, that she is the now and the here. Her productions do not preach revolution, like Lina's, but rather revolt, the immediate transformation of the present (it's no surprise that the show excels in shifting almost everything to the red, even the black (1997-2024).

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Another issue that the exhibition presents and which, in some way, expands and complements the first is that, despite being composed of objects, engravings, projections and installations, Almost circus It's drawing.

Drawing has always defined Carmela Gross's poetics: an artist who expresses her position on reality using as a foundation the elements of graphics and their visible extrapolations, both in her two-dimensional works and expanded by the three-dimensional pieces and installations she exhibits.

What is that “impenetrable” Ferris wheel (2019/24), other than a drawing in space, lines that have as their point of arrival (or starting point) the ruins of a city that is, at the same time, construction and dismantling? Ferris wheel It is fundamental work to politicize again – and from a different perspective – what is conventionally called “participatory art”.

It is what it is Madeira River (1994/2024), other than a set of lines configured by red and green lines on the floor – bordering the water mirror – a rectangular design?

And the Red stairs (2012/24) – light-traces in space?

Carmela's works are the very affirmation of graphics in contemporary art: dot and line/dash and stain, and it is with such a restricted set of elements (sometimes covered in color, sometimes not) that the artist interferes with the real, the disassemble and reconfigure it.

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It's strange to say that Carmela's work in theory denies the design efficacy of art, insofar as I claim that all of her production is drawing. How do her works, being drawings, doubt the future? Wouldn't pure drawing come to be?

When Carmela produces her works in neon, the use of light ends up damming (not annihilating, but containing) the design character that characterizes every drawing, as the light converts the lines into throbbing shapes, shapes that end up deliberately confusing the image. objectivity of the traits that gave rise to it. Example: light of the fire (2018/24), which is a luminous spot full of senses that pulse in their own rhythm.

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Well conceived and displayed, for me the highlight of the exhibition is Call for applications (in Italian) (2016/24): green spots printed on zinc sheets arranged in a corridor built with red wood.

What are those spots? Are they clouds, imaginary continents? Are they silhouettes of monsters, animals?

Walking through that kind of red corridor, which refers to the city always under construction and dismantling, is to understand that, if the neons pulsate in the other pieces and installations present in the exhibition, in the impressions of Call for applications (in Italian), the forms also pulsate, always on the threshold between the recognizable and the unrecognizable.

On the other hand, it would be impossible to walk among those engraved shapes and not remember that Carmela had to work hard to achieve that result. In those impressions on zinc are the stamps produced by the artist in the late 1970s, the Project to build a sky, from the beginning of the 1980s, the Quasars, from 1983, the holes, from the 1990s and many other works in which the representation schemes deliberately lose objectivity. They are also pure becoming, pure indications of the need to revolt against the established, the already schematized.

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To conclude these comments, I emphasize that the political dimension of Carmela's production, present in Almost circus, it is in no way found in a message of which each work of art is just the means to express it. On the contrary: the political character of her production is the result of the intertwining between the artist's poetics and the plastic/visual work she produces in the conception/execution of each of those works.

Carmela's works are definitely not about themes, they are about politics.

 

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