Sérgio Sister, Stretched
Sérgio Sister, Stretched, 1967, acrylic paint on canvas 97 x 130 cm

The exhibition by Sérgio Sister at Galeria Nara Roesler, in São Paulo (until October 5), is timely, featuring paintings he made in the late 1960s and drawings produced in prison between 1970 and 1971. Timely for at least two reasons : in the first place because, in these days when they try to deny the excesses committed by the last Brazilian civil-military dictatorship (some of which try to deny that it actually took place), it is didactic to put the public in front of testimonies of victims of that period that never will be erased from the country's history; a second reason for the relevance of the show is that it presents the first two moments of the trajectory of an artist who was then very young (Sister was born in 1945) and who, over the years, would come to be recognized as one of the main references in painting. in Brazil.

Visiting Images of a Pop youth: political paintings and prison drawingsa, what initially draws attention are the differences in plastic approaches used by Sister in her paintings and drawings.

In the first group, the vivacity that emanates from those paintings is astonishing. denounce and how they denounce. In them, it is remarkable how Sister – like some colleagues of the generation – managed to filter and make them her own, the codes of the then most in vogue strands (the Pop, Nova Figuração, etc.), all riddled with a type of architecture of the plastic field that – liable to be associated with the structure of comic book pages –, nothing gets me out of my head that could be equally indebted to the concrete experience, still strong. in São Paulo at the time (perhaps the same debt as Claudio Tozzi, in his first productions).

This strong conception, however, seems to liquefy in the drawings produced by Sister during the period she spent in the former Presídio Tiradentes, in São Paulo, of sad memory. If in the immediately preceding paintings there was something like an affirmation of discourse, a youthful voluntarism full of vivacity and irony, in the sharp drawings made in prison, the architecture of the scenes tends to disappear, flowing through the corners (in this sense, a drawing in particular, which shows the Brazilian flag in the process of dilution, seems emblematic to me). The paper plane receives countless situations, as if they were recorded in the background. There are several scenes produced in the form of collages, in which the artist attests to cynicism, barbarism, torture – tragic scenes and – amazing! – filled with an almost hurtful and sad humour.

Despite being serious and important as insurmountable testimonies of the state's action on the common citizen, these drawings are more than that, and do not fit in as solemn emblems of that situation in which the artist was one victim among many. They are documents of a crime, it is true, but also their own overcoming. They act as the best response to agency because they ridicule it while questioning themselves. These drawings refuse to mean mere documents about the barbarity suffered, to act as critical re-elaborations of the evils they point out, not letting themselves be brought down by them. They are weapons of resistance.

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As mentioned, after five decades, Sérgio Sister’s work is considered one of the main references of current Brazilian painting and, apparently, does not have any reference to those early career productions: neither the denunciation of his first paintings, nor the critical content of your drawings. Will be?

In recent years, Sister's production has been characterized as an affirmation of certain constitutive elements of painting, revered in modernity, as strategies for the delimitation of its own field: the reiteration of two-dimensionality, the emphasis on the act of painting and the planned use from monochrome to emphasize all these peculiarities. No representation – the painting does not represent the real, it presents itself as a new data –; no more strident color – the lower tones tend to reinforce the planar dimension of the painting and enhance the indices of the painter's action on the surface.

However, the distance between the two moments of Sister's production tends to shorten when analyzing the structuring that the artist made of his paintings at the beginning of his career. There, perhaps the teachings of Brazilian constructive currents informed the way the artist architected the pictorial field, dividing it into a type of grid that echoed the structures of those strands, dividing the support field into communicating but autonomous areas. Now, looking at her recent paintings, it seems that Sister focuses her attention and works on each of these areas in particular, detaching them from the general body of the grid, making them achieve their protagonism.

Difficult to sustain this bond proposed for the two moments of the artist? It may be, since this is an issue apparently of pure formal interest, as if to justify Sister's alleged lack of current engagement with the political and social situation.

Mistake. The austere and rigorous paintings that Sister produces today retain, from the paintings and above all the drawings of her early period, the same role as weapons of resistance. By asserting the specificities of pictorial language – so dear to modernity – the artist’s most recent production seems to place itself at a critical distance from the cooptation that the practice of painting has suffered in recent decades, almost always an easy prey to the process of alienation to which it comes. being submitted – a more than plausible index of the process of alienation and brutalization that our society is currently suffering.

 

 

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