Artist

G.T.O.

G.T.O ( Geraldo Teles de Oliveira )
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Biography

G.T. O (Geraldo Teles de Oliveira)
1913 Itapecerica, MG / 1990 Divinópolis, MG

Master of a universal language, Geraldo Teles de Oliveira – G.T.O. – uses only the human figure in a schematic and repeated form, jointly with circular and rectangular geometric symbols, to build the image of himself in the large metaphysical construction of his sculpture. His work is organized on the vertical or in the middle of a circle. The plurality of his figures eventually built well-balanced formally united images. In G.T.O.’s Rodas Vivas the center is normally suggested but almost never configured, similar to oriental mandalas. In Mitopoética de nove brasileiros (1975), I also noticed the emulation between abstract and figurative in the construction of his plastic language. The multiple figures result in a single mesh that dissolves them in a pattern of filled and empty spaces. In the blocks formed by the figures, the extremities – hands, feets, and heads – touch the human network to form endless links. The open hand, or touching another figure, is the main link between the bodies. Beards and hair are associated with this connotation of spirituality and irradiate energy. G.T.O. told me about on figure: “This is Jesus Christ, bringing the people in his beard”. The hat, besides being a sign of manhood, accentuates the importance of the head and, by extension, thought. His shoes, in addition to their phallic significance, also represent the point of human contact with the earth. They are on a level crossing, and are also connecting points between human modules. The head, also a symbol of manhood in medieval art with which G.T.O.’s art has a natural affinity is an emblem of the mind and spiritual life. The inverted human figure, also inhabiting Rodas Vivas, shows the ambivalence of the opposites, placed above and below a horizontal axis. The phenomenon world is then a process of perpetual inversion: war/peace, paradise/hell. G.T.O. said: “I put everything into my art, good and bad, bad and good, because it has everything”. The sun, the moon, the rod and arrow also appear in his work alongside the dominant human. Indians appear in a very favorable light to the artist’s caboclo view – grandson of Aimoré Indian woman. “I made an Indian because I’m also from the same race”. They are portrayed with feathers radiating from their head. They help destroy prehistoric monsters like the Tarantula, and are on the side of order: “Here the people are building a church and the Indian is helping”. The idea of solidarity in communal work is very common in G.T.O.’s sculpture when he links the figures together. An encounter, meeting, festival, collective celebration also, seen clearly in the names he gives to several of his works: Dança de reinado, Our Lady of the Rosary Festivals, Our Lady of Mercês, Our Lady of Aparecida, of Bom Jesus. Sometimes what he calls epiphany festivals reminds us of congado dances , from the description made by the artist of “bells” on the revelers’ legs. Clarival do Prado Valladares (1977) discovered in his work features that can be identified with African and especially Nigerian carved relief and took it to the 1977 Lagos Festival. His first work was the outcome of a dream he had in 1965, and since then he considers sculpture a divine legacy and mission. G.T.O. spent his childhood and youth in Divinópolis, in the state of Minas Gerais. When he was 28 years old, he moved as a molder, tinsmith and caster. On his return to Divinópolis, in 1951, he got a job as a night watchman in São José hospital where he was admitted for health care. At the request of the priest, he carved an image for the Church of Bom Jesus, near his home. G.T.O.’s work was revealed by an architect from Minas Gerais and soon sold by art galleries. His excellence was already a national unanimity by the end of the 1960s. He participated in various collective exhibitions in American and European countries, and was nominated for the 1969 and 1971 São Paulo Biennials. In 1973 he took part in a major exhibition about Brazil in Brussels and then in Paris. He is part of Entre Dois Séculos, by Roberto Pontual (1987), a summary of Brazilian 20th century art in the Gilberto Chateaubriand collection. Works by him are found in the main popular art museums in Brazil. A family workshop was created around him, very common in the popular environment where an outstanding artist appears, and where his son Mário Teles and grandson Geraldo Fernandes de Oliveira make sculptures with different elements from those of their father and grandfather.

Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota




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