The 80s Generation: audacity & affirmation
“We don’t want only food,
We want food, fun and art”
“Comida” (“Food”) – Titãs, a 80s hit
About thirty years ago, one hundred twenty-three young artists gathered at the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, in the emblematic date of July 14, to invade and expand the frontiers of Brazilian art, in the celebrated exhibition "How are you, 80s generation?" Those were different times, full of optimism, and the youth was so sure of the need of taking the streets, occupying the avenues and lanes of the city, celebrating the democracy that was reborn in Brazil after a long period of darkness. We were all like this, romantic and courageous young people wanting to talk of affection and freedom, willing to build a new country and to feed an artistic production that reflects the cultural and ethnic plurality of the country.
The Brazil – and especially Rio de Janeiro – lived a time of political and cultural activity. Leonel Brizola and Darcy Ribeiro built the CIEPs (Integrated Centers of Public Education), fulfilling the dreams of Anísio Teixeira and Paulo Freire. The pool at the Parque Lage was the perfect metaphor for creativity bath which occupied Gabriela Bezanzoni’s mansion and its gardens. The curator (Paulo Roberto Leal, Sandra Mager and me) was also young and did not seek theoretical excesses that eventually transform artists into mere illustration of brilliant academic theses of fulltime thinkers. In the explanatory text of the exhibition, the criteria were so explained: "... throughout the process, we, the curators, have never tried to impose ways, forcing the existence of movements, groups, and, well, overcome behaviors from which only a few ‘smarties’ benefit. We do not care about what they really do, because we care about the freedom to do it. That was the principle that guided our roles in the coordination."
The total freedom that allowed the artists to choose the places to expose and the correct action of curatorship contributed to the amazing success of the event. Amid so many names, works and paths appeared that today have a role in the recent history of artistic production in Brazil. The exhibition defined the plural and mature vocation of Brazilian art; it allowed the emergence of a criticism more committed to the inclusion of art in the Brazilian cultural panorama, gave a new atmosphere to the market and reevaluated institutional aspects. In its democratic essence, the 80s generation was, is and always will be a voice in the service of diversity. "Like it or not, it's all there, all colors, all shapes, squares, transparencies, raw materials, painted material, human material, sweat, little plane, saw generation, radicals and liberals, transvanguard, punks and queers, post-modern and pre-modern, neoexpressionist and neoconservatives, old acquaintances, shy, aggressive, passionate, unprepared and early ejaculatory people. Everyone, in short, equal to any of you. Maybe a little more cheerful and courageous, a bit more ... After all, this is a new generation, new heads."
Today, in the second decade of a new millennium, it is gratifying to see that the audacity of these forever-young artists is present in the contemporary art scene. Some international careers established, others with the certainty that time walks at their side, eternal accomplice of the quality of the truly significant works. The exhibition presented here reaffirms the importance of a story already lived and a future in which freedom will walk hand in hand with the maturity and the wide domain of expressive means. Gathering in the same physical space that group of friends allows curators - and especially the public – to see again works that are part of our knowledge and our feelings. The exhibition brings together works from different decades and works like a kaleidoscope: the images juxtapose themselves, move themselves and take turns in building a set that is integral and proud of a generation that believes in what it does and that helps to compose every day the picture of its time, its country, and our feelings and our ideas.
Marcus de Lontra Costa