In his debut at Galeria Nara Roesler in Rio de Janeiro, Cao Guimarães presents “Retroatos (Retroactions)”, a show featuring 18 all-new photographs and a video. A new series, after Gambiarras and Paquerinhas, “Retroatos” explores the classic art genre of the portrait in an original way. In its current sense, portrait is an ambiguous word when it comes to photography, since it implies two meanings. Its first definition is the image of a person interpreted through painting, drawing, sculpture, photography etc… But when it comes to photography specifically, any image is a portrait. One can make a portrait of a landscape, of a flower pot or even of a sculpture. The exhibition “Retroatos” operates in this lexical gap.
In this show, Cao Guimarães omits precisely what one would first expect to find in a portrait, i.e. the representation of the faces of one or more people. Because it has been erased, or because the subject had their back to the camera, or because the portrait, since it is a photograph, is just that: a portrait, the 18 different-sized pictures, shown in a direct way. Faced with this ambiguous situation, the visitor can intuit what is at once absent and present.
In this zone of instability of the word portrait suggested here, there emerges a second gap in the lexicon with the addition of the word retro, which implies the past, the time that has passed and will not come back. In the history of photography, the portrait has always been associated with memory, with a repository of recollections. But more than anything else, retro means the back of something, the other side in space. This hints at a reversal of the famous saying “The eyes are the windows to the soul” that is typical of portraits. Thus, retro alludes to both space and time.
By reaching for an ontological datum from the photographic process, the space/light and time, Cao Guimarães presents the photographer’s poetical exercise via a discourse of image as language. The poetics emerge from choices made later, during image editing. The choices made with images found over time in the photographer’s archive build a possible narrative for this roaming artist.