Constructivist dialogues in Brazil: past and present
The concept of this exhibition comes from two assumptions. The first is stimulating a discussion from two generations of artists (the first based on the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the other which started its research around 90s) on the constructive language, important for the foundations of the modern concept of national visual arts, behaves in its most distinct sides in contemporary times. Besides a morphology that can be found in the dialogues between the two generations, as in the case of Raul Mourão’s arrows and Geraldo de Barros’ geometric research that can be moved to Nassar’s paintings, or how Palatnik and Patricio show us the instability of the plan from elements that merge with the geometry, but that are found in ordinary markets, the exhibition displays an atmosphere of renewal of the constructive thought.
The second point that unites this group of artists is how each one in his own way symbolically operates the street. Volpi became internationally known for geometric facades of houses and how nature could be invented and become geometrizing. Abraham Palatnik, Athos Bulcão and Geraldo de Barros made numerous projects that had the street as an inspiration. Bulcão has Brasília as its action plan for the exit, à la Bauhaus, of the art from museums and galleries to the common life of citizens in a highly relevant dialogue with the architecture. Athos proved itself to be an artistic intervenor in architecture. As a partner of Niemeyer, João Filgueiras Lima, Milton Ramos, among others, he has explored the potential of tiles and painting in his career. He has helped to create the "muralism with tiles" in Brazil, building intricate puzzles, exploring the visuality of abstract compositions and allowing an organic opening in the implementation of parts, since Athos has always left to the worker's charge the application of tiles in building panels. The formatted balance is lost, and the free will, disorder, personal desire, randomness and chance take part in the poetic construction of the artistic work.
Barros and Palatnik, the first in São Paulo and the second in Rio de Janeiro at similar times, were involved in their projects with design, furniture production and painting concepts. Both making art more democratic and visible, mistaking it for the everyday and the use we make of objects that are around us. Each of them founded in the mid-1950s and 60s factories (the Barros’ Hobjeto and Palatnik’s Arte Viva) engaged in the production of furniture, merging the craft of the artist with the serial production of a factory. Barros is one of the crafters, along with Waldemar Cordeiro, of the group Ruptura in São Paulo. As one of the first groups of artists related to the thought of constructive languages, Ruptura laid the foundations of abstract research in the country along with the group Frente, based in Rio. Its work has a complex and fruitful range of research: it begins with innovative photographs of the Fotoformas series in 1949, exploring the density of light and shadow and building constructive landscapes from elements of the city; then, it passes by the concrete paintings of the Ruptura period and advances to a survey by Pop Art in the 1960s and 70s. The projects of Hobjeto and Unilabor (other action involving furniture, concrete art and industry) seem to bring back the concrete research in the 80s. In the later years, they start the project Sobras, in which, from family and travel photographs, they make interventions such as clippings, inclusion and exclusion and overlapping of backgrounds, people and objects, spaces that are filled with clippings in white or black. A series that combines a deep melancholy to the simplicity and poetry.
The street by itself is one of the strongest leads of Raul Mourão’s work. She's theme, symbol and motto largely of his works. The new Fenestra series (2015) creates a relevant dialogue with Grades [Grids], a photo collection made in the 1980s and the 90s. It is amazing to realize that in both cases the dialogue between art and politics is not fleeting and symptoms of the times in which these works were created remain the same. The years 1980/90 were marked by an increase in violence in large Brazilian cities, now that circumstance is no different. Fear and suspicion facing each other gradually gained contours that symbolized the city itself. The public space was absorbed by the private totalitarian form, and an example of this was the rapid growth of railings and safety equipment moving on the sidewalks and demarcating the spaces of buildings. Or the shards of glass on the low walls. Bars is the result of that time, and Fenestra, with its windows and a gloomy atmosphere, dirty, noisy, that make our attention state longer. Acid form Raul exposes what happens on the street and criticize a kind of collective spirit that distorts or confuses the meanings of territory, property and public space. On the other hand, his Balanços [Swings] expose how the kinetics can range from a playful aspect to the highest quality of the Brazilian sculptural tradition. Relativizing the weight and dimensions of iron, these works manage to convey a softer quality of the material while the density that passes through the urban aspect of our daily lives is not forgotten.
In Bechara the fact replace the blank screen for a dirty surface, dusty, steeped in history, which are the tarps used trucks is the first step to understand the experimental aspect of his work and how creates another variable to this geometric accent in Brazilian art. The artist superimposed layers time to make use of that material oxidation processes. Bechara incorporates the slow oxidation as a condition for the appearance of random. The changes that occur - marks, textures and stains - weave an overlap volume, color and texture. Lines are built at random, memory signs, passing in a poetic gesture to be incorporated as painting. In his most recent works, we find wooden boxes whose interior is formed by overlapping of glass plates with some intervals. On the plates, the application of spray paint of different colors has been done, like a brush that prints a free game of geometric shapes. At the bottom of some of these boxes, there are cut wooden boards that emphasize not only the constructive legacy in the Bechara’s work, but also the research on color and flatness that interests to his production.
José Patricio brings a popular element - the clothes buttons – that is largely found in downtown and becomes a part of our daily life. It is interesting that Patrick index is the game: by buttons, dominoes, pencils, nails, he builds an internal circuit of rhythms, pauses and accelerations. Since the 1980s experimenting with new appropriations for the constructive languages, this artist from Pernambuco has built a geometric pattern to his works. The fact that he works with the spiral as the figure which promotes the centripetal and centrifugal directions produced two effects: the optical disorientation and a summary of the treatment of gestalt possibilities of figure/background, a relationship in which the figure in which the work is based on is increased or decreased progressively, since his work focuses on this visual ambiguity to the extent that the viewer chooses where he wants to start reading the array of game parts, by the center or the periphery of the work, focusing more energy and creating the illusion of expansion and rotation of the elements. The accumulation and the way rearranged the pieces forming a geometrical, optical and highly stimulating game puts constructivism to a new level and helps us to understand this sense of expanding the artistic language.
Emmanuel Nassar exposes a kind of cynical and vigorous tribute to the constructive language. His work has the colors, the shapes and the city's history, but substantially the insight of one who is aware of the street movements and subtleties. The plates have the sound and fury of the city. It is amazing how Nassar, collecting, processing the images of the plates with the inclusion, in some cases, of small details, transmits them no longer a character of disposal, but, on the contrary, impressive pride, connecting them to a serious and meaningful dialogue with the history of Brazilian art. In these plates, there are a typical plastic of constructivism, the urban density, the chaos, the Brazilian invention, and the perfect harmony between color, shape and artistic process. His drawings and paintings exhibit a malicious component that mixes signs from art history to indices which show a fine irony or themes that allegorically refer to Constructivism, as in the case of Mouse Trap (2014). It is in this hostile environment and tragic, and at the same effervescent and satirical time that his work, like a pendulum, operates.