Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo celebrates three decades of Clube de Colecionadores de Gravura with a retrospective exhibiton, Print Club: 30 Years (Clube de Gravura: 30 anos) features 173 works produced over the course of three decades by artists belonging to different profiles and generations. Since 1986, MAM’s Clube de Colecionadores de Gravura has been fulfilling the goal of promoting Brazilian collections by allowing a large number of people to join and purchase works of art, encouraging artistic production in the process. In all these years, the Clube has enabled the execution of special projects developed by guest artists and, simultaneously, has expanded the Museum’s collection. The Clube’s manager since 2006, Cauê Alves, is the curator of the show, which will be on display in MAM’s Grande Sala (Great Room).
In the exhibition, visitors will be able to enjoy different curatorial guidelines adopted by the club throughout the past 30 years. The show is divided into panels and organized as if it were a library or a large archive, reminiscent of a collector’s home in which some walls are almost full, with works busily arranged side by side, while others have more empty spaces, leading to a sense of calm that enables better observation of the works. The Andrade Morettin Arquitetos studio designed the exhibition, which is not organized in an unflexible or chronological order, but rather establishes stylistic and harmonious relationships between works, even though prints from the same decade are located in proximity to each other.
The Clube has never drawn a determining line to favor one trend over another. Since the beginning, the works produced have approached lyrical abstractionism and constructivism. Gradually, artists whose main media for production was not printmaking were also invited to join. From the later half of the 1990s on, the Museum started to invite artists from the 1980s generation such as Ana Tavares, Claudio Mubarac, Daniel Senise, Fábio Miguez, Leda Catunda, Mônica Nador, and Nuno Ramos, who were then at a more mature phase in their artistic production. They appeared alongside renowned artists such as Regina Silveira and Evandro Carlos Jardim, who were crucial to the development of printmaking in Brazil. “In 1996, the Clube changed its guidelines: whereas before the participating artists were sound printmakers, the invitations have increasingly been sent to artists who worked primarily with other media, like painting and sculpture,” says the curator.
MAM was interested in keeping up with the discussions of the contemporary scene that questioned the very definition of printmaking, thus it took on the role of a lab and space for experimentation, giving artists the freedom to develop works that surpassed the limits of language. Photography and other new technologies, such as stamping, merged with traditional techniques, enabling the development of a more hybrid and wider sense of printing. “Since then, the Clube prioritizes a questioning of the rules of printmaking and continues to encourage production that furthers the discussion,” says Alves.
After deep and varied experiments, MAM started to edit prints that moved away from three-dimensional objects, such as works of Iran do Espírito Santo, Sandra Cinto, Mabe Bethônico, Dora Longo Bahia and Jac Leirner. However, the Clube has never stopped investing in the reflection of current problems of art and in the investigation of the boundaries of printmaking, whether it be the inheritance of issues dealt with by painting (as in the cases of Cássio Michalany, Fábio Miguez, Helio Cabral, Paulo Pasta and Tomie Ohtake) or the evolution of research issues (as in the cases of José Damasceno, Cildo Meireles, Waltercio Caldas and Antonio Dias).
Throughout its history, the Clube has always invited artists with consistent research in xylography, as in the works of Fabricio Lopez (2010) printed by hand and engraved in large boards. Fernando Vilela, who has a solid research in printing, performed Cidade (City, 2014), a work in which he merged photography with xylography. The photographic image is also one of the curatorial directives. Albano Afonso, Iole de Freitas and Nazareth Pacheco are among those who enhanced the relationship between photography and printing. Meanwhile, painting and sculpture have contributed to the expansion of languages. While Rodrigo Andrade printed on metal in Estrada (Road, 2013), Paulo Monteiro saw silk-screen from the perspective of his painting experience using leaden objects in O miolo da coisa massa (The Brain of the Mass Thing, 2011).
Over the years, The Clube de Gravura presented works by artists like Brígida Baltar, Cinthia Marcelle, Cristiano Lenhardt, Ernesto Neto, Laura Lima, Nino Cais, Jarbas Lopes, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Tatiana Blass. It also invited more experienced artists such as Paulo Bruscky, Milton Machado, and Nelson Felix. Most of them were interested in an experimental course in printing. The curators have also explored boundaries by inviting artists who promoted contact between notions of printing and diverse traditions. Marepe, using typical scenes from Brazil’s Northeastern region, embraced elements such as the bundles and tents of street vendors to reflect on the context of these items. By portraying these characters with children’s stamps, the items became other images, subverting the rigid characters in the stamps.
Elida Tessler was invited to develop a book/object and created Phosphoros (2014) based on the novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, a science fiction tale in which books and critical thinking are forbidden. The title refers to the temperature of 451F, the burning temperature of paper on the Fahrenheit scale. The artist used a laser to engrave all the authors’ names on one side of a wood plate and the titles of works on the other side. Each of the 122 works is represented by a matchstick in a box. The collector has the possibility of burning the matchsticks, but this implies destroying the print and eliminating a literary reference.
Political engagement is present, for instance, in the poetic prints of Lourival Cuquinha (2015), who worked with immigrants from Africa and Latin America working as street vendors. They are usually seen as second-class, unappreciated and almost invisible citizens, but gain visibility in the prints by Cuquinha, who purchased all goods from each of the one hundred immigrants chosen, took pictures of the front and back of each vendor and then printed them on copper plates. The goods purchased, whose value is equivalent to the plate where the portrait is printed, also make up the final piece.
Under Cauê Alves’s management of the Clube for the past ten years, actions have been undertaken to publicize and reflect upon MAM’s print collection. The curator’s idea was to continue with renowned names along with promising names, in addition to giving space to renowned and recognized artists in the art scene, but who do not necessarily have a connection with printmaking. “The guiding principle is always the quality of the guest artists’ works. Therefore, the collectors take the risks and the dividends of having works of art from the collection of the museum in their hands,” says Cauê. “Rare and lasting initiatives such as Clube de Gravura indicate that, besides being well-structured, they have cultural relevance whether by contributing to the formation of art collections or by debating printmaking and art in general”, says the curator.
How does it work
Each year, members of the Clubes de Colecionadores do MAM receive five works especially created by prestigious names selected by the responsible curators jointly with the Museum’s curatorship sector, lending credibility to the acquisitions. The works are produced in series of 100 copies, which are delivered to members with certificates of authenticity. To join the Photography or the Print Clubs, the interested parties must enroll to one of them each year, and at the end of the year, receive five prints or five photographs. Each series has 117 numbered works. One hundred of them are distributed to members, two works are donated to MAM’s collection, three are given to Clube, ten to the artist, and two to the clubs’ curators.
Clube de Colecionadores de Gravura was founded at MAM in 1986 with the support of artists and under the initiative of the Argentinian Maria Pérez Sola. This initiative happened one year after the creation of Division of Graphic Arts at MAM and was crucial to uphold the new division’s activities and to encourage graphic arts. The activities started at the time of the political transition back to democracy in Brazil, after 20 years of military regime. The Clube has always aimed at promoting art collection and at encouraging art production. Pérez Sola lead the initiative until 1989, when she was replaced by Liliana Lobo Ferreira, who had returned from London, where she studied printing at Slade School of Fine Arts. In 1997, Liliana left and Salete Barreto de Abreu took over, until 2001. Tadeu Chiarelli was MAM’s chief-curator from 1996 and 2000, a period when the Clube underwent significative changes. Fátima Pinheiro has been coordinating both the print and photograpy clubs since 2005. Cauê Alves has been the curator since 2006. This year, he has chosen Brazilian acclaimed artists such as Lenora de Barros, Nelson Felix, Cristiano Lenhardt and Brígida Baltar, as well as Jorge Macchi, from Argentina.
- Poster for the opening of the Graphic Arts Wall of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo. Courtesy of Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo