There is no neutral colour. As well as being an optical phenomenon, colour is a social construction. And as it acts in the field of sensitivity, it also acts politically. As such, from the experimentation of forms of perception to the public dimension of colour, colouring has never been a naive, apolitical, or an arbitrary act. There are many projects of colour in society.
The exhibition The colour of Brazil presents the inflections and transformations of colour in the history of Brazilian art. Starting from the dramatic colour projects of Baroque, the chromatic pallet of nature of the travelling painters from the 17th-19th centuries, and from French-like academic investigations, the exhibition opens a wide panorama for modern experimentations relating to colour in the 20th century. Works by such important artists as Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral, Flávio de Carvalho, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Ismael Nery, Lasar Segall, Vicente do Rego Monteiro and Candido Portinari form a vibrant journey through the historical moment in which Brazil invented itself as a nation, from the plethora of colours of the Brazilwood tree, in which colour takes on a crucial role.
Moving on, the second room of the exhibition shows the period in which the disconnection of colour from its nationalist dimension was sought, in order to radicalise experiments that were, as a priority, perceptive, and linked to the autonomy of art. It is the environment both of the Bernardelli Group, with the first exercises into abstract, as well as the constructive affirmation of Brazil, with the concrete and neo-concrete movements, from which the masterpieces of artists who remain little-known to the public stand out here, such as Décio Vieira, Aluísio Carvão and Ivan Serpa.
The last room of the exhibition sets off from the abstract Japanese gesticularity of artists like Manabu Mabe, Flávio-Shiró and Tomie Ohtake, and leads the visitor to the voluptuousness of the gesticular colour of the 80s generation, whose research into painting made up a unique phase of art in the country. Reaching the 21st century, the colour of Brazil returns to the implications and political projects of colour in the present, now considering an expanded Brazil, from North to South, the example of a nucleus dedicated to the revision of the idea of a “national”, which has the flag as its greatest icon.
Multiple intentions and resonances of colour are revealed through art: colour invents a nation; it transforms it into a republic; it recreates – through the landscape – the relationship of man with nature, with the earth, with minerals, with the sky, and with the clouds; it interposes science and art; it promotes meetings between distinct cultures, forms of colouring the body, and the political affirmation between colour and ethnicity; it repositions the body; it acts politically; and it symbolises. It constantly recreates means of perception, even in the absence of colour, or in projects of “inexistent colour” (Israel Pedrosa).
What is imperative in The colour of Brazil is the strength of art from one of its essential, and therefore fundamental gestures: the invention of colour.