Art Seen: International

IMAGINE BRAZIL // MAC LYON

by Tara Plath

Imagine Brazil, which was recently on view at le Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, filled two floors of the museum with an overwhelming breadth of painting, sculpture, video, and artist books. A curatorial endeavor of Gunnar B. Kvaran, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and MAC Lyon Director Thierry Raspail, the exhibition makes no attempt to reduce Brazil’s expansive artistic landscape into any curatorial punch line or thesis.

The five years of research, conducted and structured by the recommendations of Brazilian art historians, critics, curators, gallerists, and art enthusiasts, produces a sketch of contemporary art by young artists leading the nation’s scene today. Throughout the process, the curators seceded authority to each selected artist, asking instead that they then select one established Brazilian artist who was influential to either their practice or Brazil’s own history of art. The exhibition never ceases to engage—delightfully incoherent in its directions—and is nuanced in its connectivity, and the melding of the up-and-coming with the established.

Regardless of this method, the exhibition is not without context; an accompanying pamphlet provides viewers with an abbreviated timeline of Brazil, inspired by the fresco Brasil, cinco séculos by Aparacida Rodrigues Azedo, and “A Short History of Brazilian Modernity,” that begins with Oswald de Andrade’s 1928 Cannibal Manifesto and traces its political and social trajectory through to today.

Imagine Brazil : exhibition's view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (05th June – 17th August 2014) Works by Adriano Costa and Pedro Moraleida © Photo Blaise Adilon

Imagine Brazil : exhibition’s view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (05th June – 17th August 2014)
© Photo Blaise Adilon

Viewers would be hard pressed to synthesize the experience into any overarching theme, more appropriately, the exhibition is best experienced by the few works that stay with them. The focus on the individual works colors the rest of the collection on view.

One such instance is Pedro Moraleida’s paintings and x-ray etchings—the vibrant, violent, and hypersexualized imagery subverts religious icons and pop-imagery into haunting cartoons. Moraleida is a particularly interesting inclusion, selected by young artist Cinthia Marcelle, yet Moraleida’s oeuvre is culminated with his young death by suicide at the age of 22. He produced an enormous body of work that can be regarded at once historical and immediate, a feverish output of frustrations and excoriation as an art student in Minas Gerais in the late ‘90s. Moraleida stands in essential opposition to the works of his peers in Imagine Brazil and in contemporary art today, which often tends toward unemotional distance and familiar formulas.

20. Paulo Nimer Pjota Sintese entre Ideias Contraditórias e a Pluralidade do Objeto como Imagem, 2012 Acrylic, pencil, synthetic enamel on canvas toiland metal plate 260 x 495 cm Collection Astrup Fearnley, Oslo

Paulo Nimer Pjota, Sintese entre Ideias Contraditórias e a Pluralidade do Objeto como Imagem, 2012
Collection Astrup Fearnley, Oslo

Paulo Nimer Pjota’s fragmentary paintings on warped metal plates use disparate imagery—excavators, anatomical figures, armor, and tropical flora: the collections conjure a quiet, but well oiled globalism. Seemingly disconnected pictures read as frenzied Internet searches or superficial streams of consciousness yet are persistently painted on an all-too material background, permanently grounding it in locale.

The video The Tenant, by Rivane Neuenschwander, (selected by Rodrigo Cass), is at once intriguing and frustrating. The video tracks a seemingly large and perfect soap bubble as it drifts without reason through various empty domestic interiors, providing warped reflections and at time dizzying movements, never touching the ground or popping. It is replete with long takes, abrupt cuts, and an unnerving simplicity that challenges the viewer to suspend their belief— disembarking from a more wordly and material understanding of how things work, to senselessly following an immaterial protagonist.

J Bis- Imagine Brazil : exhibition's view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (05th June – 17th August 2014) Exhibition « Artists books » Works by J. Borges © photo Blaise Adilon

J Bis- Imagine Brazil : exhibition’s view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (05th June – 17th August 2014)
© photo Blaise Adilon

In the center of Imagine Brazil is an “exhibition within an exhibition,” which take the form of an artist book display, curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti and Ana Luiza Fonesca. The concurrent displays—artist’s books integrated within the larger exhibition—provides visitors with an opportunity to slow down and re-orient, urging viewers to re-engage with a long list of impressive young and established Brazilian artists.


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Imagine Brazil was on view from June 5, 2014 until August 17, 2014 at le Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon.

Tara Plath is an artist and writer based in New York City. She currently works at Whitebox Art Center. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and a Bachelors of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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