Brazilian Art at sp-arte / 2013

26 May

I took a quick look at the Sao Paulo art fair sp-arte / 2013 in a previous post. https://brasilart.org/2013/04/07/sp-arte-2013/  It’s held in alternate years to the Sao Paulo Bienal, in the Bienal building.

Famous neighbours

Female figures, famous artists

I was struck by how good an opportunity sp-arte / 2013 provided to see some of the best ‘Western’ art alongside the output of Latin American practitioners. The galleries and dealers – this is very much a selling show – showed museum-quality pieces by well-known European and North American artists. Picasso and Dali are hung casually side by side.

A famous pair

Two figures, famous artist

Picasso even looked a little over-exposed. It’s a measure of how much interest there may be in Brazil in the Western high art tradition.

Brazilian female figure

Female figure, Brazilian artist

The work of Lasar Segall, a leading Brazilian artist, was much in evidence. He makes an interesting counterpoint to the Western canon, having worked in Europe alongside leading lights of Expressionism such as Otto Dix, and in Brazil as a champion of Modernism, with Mario Andrade on  the 1923 Semana de Arte Moderna …  http://theproverbial.org/2012/06/26/brazil-1920s/

Classical subject

Máscaras oil on canvas 1938

… and on the 1932 Sociedade Pro-Arte Moderna (SPAM) initiative with artists like sculptor Victor Brecheret.  http://theproverbialdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/2012-11-18-14-19-411.jpg 

Segall still life

Segall still life

His work fits comfortably into the European canon – its subject matter, its modes and its Expressionist style are all familiar in the West.

Picasso

Picasso portrait

A sure sense of colour and a fluent line underpin his work …

Portrait sketch

Profile of Striemer Lasar Segall watercolour and gouache on paper 1915

… standing comparison with the best on show at sp-arte / 2013.

Warhol pencil sketch

Warhol pencil sketch

Although there were some hints of Brazilian influence in the work on show – the small bronze is perhaps a version of the Afro-Brazilian ibeji or twin figures  https://brasilart.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/2012-10-06-22-04-48.jpg

Small  bronze

Duas Amigas Lasar Segall patinated bronze 1936

– the work here was more comfortable viewing than the Brazilian subject matter he usually favoured – favelas, Rio prostitutes, and plantations, as well as Brazilian landscapes and the Brazilian people.

The Museu Lasar Segall in Sao Paulo holds a large collection of Segall’s paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, in the house in which he lived.  http://www.museusegall.org.br/index.asp?sLang=E

Alexander Calder 'mobile'

Alexander Calder ‘mobile’

Bronze seems remarkably quaint alongside the materials used in today’s sculpture. The Alexander Calder ‘mobile’, once so radical, has aged gracefully into an elegant classic, with a price tag to match.

Floating world

Floating world

I did see a pale imitation of his form – a series of suspended wire horizontals, but no ‘vanes’ and no colour – but the work above brought a new meaning to suspended form, and was a real crowd-pleaser. People clustered around it, taking photographs, as everyone does these days.

Material: decommissioned fire hose

From Time to Time These Hot Days get Lonely Theaster Gates

The material of this US work – decommissioned fire hose – yielded something between painting and sculpture, evoking fire hydrants amid hot New York summers.

Chagall circus scene

Chagall circus scene

Another iconic European artist, Marc Chagall, took me back to more innocent and traditional subjects. His work raises strong echoes in Brazil, where the naive approach is alive and well  http://theproverbial.org/2012/08/26/arte-naif-rio/  Naive art and indeed street art – graffiti, murals, posters – flourish here, so it was intriguing to see that there is also a fine art naif strand.

Milton Dacosta

Figura Milton Dacosta 1949

Brazilian Milton Dacosta was well-represented at sp arte / 2013. Like Segall, he had one foot in European fine art practice – he worked with Braque and Rouault in Paris in 1946 – and was influenced by Cubism in his progress from figurative to geometric and concrete styles. He was an exhibiting artist in Brazil’s first stand at the Venice Biennale in 1950, alongside Brecheret and Brazilian great Roberto Burle Marx. The typically simplfied geometric female figure above references Cubism.

Milton Dacosta leitmotif shape emerging

Alfredo Volpi leitmotif shape emerging

Alfredo Volpi is another modernist well-known in Brazil for his simple style. His subject matter during the 1950s was domestic architecture, especially the facades of houses, developing and refining a signature shape from the rooflines into a ‘pennant’ which has resonance in Brazil as the shape of the festive flags of the June holiday season, the Festa Junina. The cityscape view above over the rooftops of houses echoes that shape in their gable ends, further stylised in the accompanying drawing.

Like much else in Brazil, the cityscape has changed radically in the intervening years. The dominant shape is the tower rather than the pent roof, materials and colours more urban than suburban. Irish Brazilian James Concagh, for example, uses a predominantly monochrome palette, and includes the coarse woven raffia of sugar bags to meditative effect  https://brasilart.org/2013/03/28/james-concagh-irish-brazilian/

Rafael Vicente

Rafael Vicente

Rafael Vicente paints semi-abstract canvases which evoke the Brazilian cityscape and waterfront, crammed with horizontals and verticals, always under (re)construction. He works on an appropriately large scale, and includes materials like asphalt and iron as well as paint. A daring use of colour and perspective enhances its impact.

The Garden of Delights of Raimundo Rodrigues

The Garden of Delights Raimundo Rodrigues

Raimundo Rodrigues is daring in quite another way. He collects and repurposes what others abandon or throw out. Mounted on large panels, he makes a mythic panorama from pieces of packaging, machine parts, hand tools, children’s toys, mirrors, and miscellaneous detritus, joined and unified with scrap wood. Children take particular pleasure in looking closely at this playful ongoing work, though the reference to art works such as the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters and the complex accretion of images in the work of Hieronymus Bosch is also clear.

Africa by Jose Bechara

Africa (from the series Open House), Jose Bechara

José Bechara exhibits in the US, Spain and Portugal as well as very widely in Brazil. He produces paintings, drawings, photographs, and especially sculptures. The 3D work features furniture – tables, chairs, shelving – which by the simple expedient of upending or inclining he transforms into a disturbing commentary on contemporary life. A maquette he showed was full of power and promise despite its size.

E o muro que transborda, Daniel Murgel

Study for E o muro que transborda, Daniel Murgel

Daniel Murgel has been working with bricks over the last two years – the hollow clay brickwork from which favela houses are built – assembling them in 3D in the same casual manner. The solid wood furniture might well outlast it. Also furniture spilling out of buildings, here the walls divide, preventing dialogue between the two sides of the chess game. A commentary on Brazilian society is discernible.

The work installed

The work installed

Disturbingly, the complete chess game really is installed.

Foto Edouard Fraipon

Foto Edouard Fraipon

(from  http://dmurgel.blogspot.com.br/ )

Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel

The certainties of geography stand in sharp contrast. Julian Schnabel’s navigation chart with its bright blue trig point and elegant spatterings of black is beautifully calm by comparison – the gallery owner said he couldn’t resist buying it. Only when you discover that it shows the strait between Sakhalin Island and the Russian mainland, where Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down, do you see a similar tension.

Homage to Sao Paulo

Homage to Sao Paulo

A homage to Sao Paulo, on the other hand, with its helicopter view of the Copan building  http://theproverbial.org/2012/08/04/feijoada-copan/  a colour-by-numbers style, pop art lettering, and a pink gunship, seems to posit an exaggerated view. Life imitating art … click on the link below to read about the Brazilian police chasing a drug dealer through a favela by helicopter, gunning him down just as the painting suggests.

http://riorealblog.com/2013/05/12/reckless-rio-in-the-air-on-the-ground-and-even-under-the-earth/

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Disturbance comes in many forms. Damien Hirst needs no introduction, and continues to walk the line between decoration and disturbance with aplomb. His collection of painted insects pinned in a mirrored cabinet toys with his usual preoccupations. The familiar spot paintings make their presence felt too. Is it Hirst or sp arte / 2013 which has ‘arrived’?

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

What a delight to encounter the work of Jesús Rafael Soto! An op artist and sculptor born in Venezuela who lived in Paris from 1950, he worked with Victor Vasarely and Jean Tinguely. This small work was intriguing to the eye, as decorative as any Hirst or Vasarely, as playful and as seriously engaged with the materials and mainstream art of his time.

Mini cube, Jesus Soto, 1966

Mini cube Jesús Rafael Soto 1966

More evidence, if it were needed, that Latin American art stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the West. More of his work at http://www.jr-soto.com/fset_intro.html  Perhaps there will be more work by women artists as sp arte / 2013 continues to evolve …

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