The motto of the 34º Panorama da Arte Brasileira – da Pedra da Terra Daqui is to highlight the first three-dimensional artistic manifestations we know of: polished stone lithic pieces sculpted between 4,000 and 1,000 years b.C., thousands of years before the Europeans’ arrival in America, and found on the coastal territory from Brazil’s Southeast to Uruguay. This edition of MAM’s biennial show is curated by Aracy Amaral, with assistant curator Paulo Miyada and with archeologist prof. André Prous as consultant. In order to draw a parallel between these pre-historical sculptures and to propose a modern dialogue, the curators invited Berna Reale, Cao Guimarães, Cildo Meireles, Erika Verzutti, Miguel Rio Branco e Pitágoras Lopes – six artists from different generations and areas, with contrasting artistic researches. Their works, which have in common representing Brazil’s complexities, are exhibited side by side with about 60 different polished stone lithic sculptures, for the first time as part of a large exhibition joining past and present, sharpening debates about Brazilian art.
The exhibit explores issues of territory, landscape, and passing of time, by transforming these archeological sculptures into a linking core for the exhibition. The artists are interlocutors of ancestry as they show relationships established between past and present through works created in different media – such as video, sculpture, photography, painting and installation – exclusively for the exhibition. This new production holds visceral, telluric contents, as well as an eventual affinity with the pre-historic artifacts.
The Great Room gathers both aspects of the show: the first axis comprises approximately 60 stone pieces in displays positioned along the length of the room. Most of these sculptures are made of magmatic rocks, and were produced by polishing and cleaving the stones with the aid of water and sand, and sometimes they were sharpened with the aid of abrasive stones. The stone pieces come from various institutions in Brazil and Uruguay. The other part of the exhibition contemplates works created exclusively for this edition of Panorama. To introduce visitors to the universe of the shell mound-builder peoples, the first work exhibited is by Cao Guimarães (b. 1965, Belo Horizonte), who was invited to travel to Santa Catarina state coast to check the places where shell mounds existed. Under an overpass in the city of Florianópolis, Cao discovered soil covered in shells, oysters and cockles. It was not a shell mound surrounded by recent urbanization, but a space occupied by workers who spend their days separating molluscs from their valves. The artist created a kind of fabulation about the place and its relationship with time and landscape. Current images were articulated on a video going through different times in that location, added to archive footage of Mexican monuments that, together, form a 15-minute video essay connecting the issues of territory, space transformation and passing of time.
Miguel Rio Branco (b. 1946, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), known for working photo, video and painting in a synesthetic form, and for dealing with issues regarding the Brazilian territory without sticking to hegemonic classifications, presents an installation involving rocks, rubble, plants and television sets. The artist construct ruins that allude to disquieting thoughts about the future of the planet after a likely disappearance of humans. The TV sets display photographs of old, broken, abandoned, dirty towns.
Cildo Meireles (b. 1948, Rio de Janeiro), acknowledged worldwide for dealing with issues of territory, history, politics and memory, has created for the show “Fronteiras Verticais” (Vertical Frontiers), one of the projects of the “Arte Física” (Physical Art) series, conceived in 1969, when the artist was 21 years old. The work consists of making the highest point of the country’s territory to go up a few centimetres with the aid of a small piece of kimberlite rock placed on the top of the Pico da Neblina, located in the North of the Amazon. To make this possible, the artist was helped in a two weeks expedition by the yanomamis, the local people that live in the territory comprising the Pico da Neblina. This project had the collaboration of the artist Edouard Fraipont and his assistent Miguel Escobar, and is presented by means of a film, plans, documents and photos of the expedition.
The youngest among selected artists, Erika Verzutti (b. 1971, São Paulo), present one of her “cemeteries,” pieces she has realizes every year, by grouping what she produced that year that did not work or was not used. These abandoned pieces are then accumulated and gathered, creating a great work that has notable relations with the shell mounds and with funerary symbols.
Pitágoras Lopes (b. 1964, Goiânia) presents eight large format canvases between abstract and figurative styles, mixing stains, doodles, and textures. Pitágoras spent months working for the show and using sand and dirt colours, navy blues and strokes that make one thinks of rock painting records and silhouettes analogue to the pieces from the shell mounds, as well as shells, seas, and hills. This artist from Goiânia has a mix of references and drinks from the waters of street painting, pop culture and illustration.
Berna Reale (b. 1965, Belém), an artist committed to the present and to the country’s social issues that also works as in the police force as a forensic expert, presents two works that finalize the exhibition’s flow and, at the same time, bring the visitors back to the present. The first is a video makes reference to urban violence by creating a poetical parallel between garment bags and the bags used by the police to cover dead bodies. The second work is an installation in a closed, dark room simulating a low class dance club, where the sounds are sirens and noises typical of a police car and the illumination is red and blue emergency lights filtered by a screen fixed on the ceiling and perforated by various calibre gunpoint shots. The installation comprises dishes with meringues offered for free in the middle of the room, contrasting with the heavy and tense atmosphere.</P
Finally, in the Paulo Figueiredo Room, a few zoolites are presented with tools utilized to create the lithic pieces. In the centre of the room, tables and windows present information about the context of civilization of the shell mound-builder peoples. On the walls, there are previous or recent works related in some way to the show by the six selected artists.