Exhibitions

Samico | from 28/05/2019 to 13/07/2019

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Introduction

Samico

My dear Samico passed away shortly after the exhibition we held with his works, which was attended by him and the sweet and strong Celida, his life-long companion. He is very much missed but through his work he is immortal.
His woodcuts, one of the most important works of Brazilian art, overflow with details, colors and stories. He used abundant mythology when creating, enriching the work even more.
Born in Pernambuco, he chose Olinda to settle after having lived in Rio de Janeiro and Europe. He lived in the same seventeenth century house, which had been renovated and preserved by him and Celida. Visitors were welcome. In the living room of the large home, sitting in the rocking chair, Samico enjoyed good chatting. His life was simple, dedicated to family and work. The studio was at home so he rarely went out. He was a man who liked routine.
In 2012 we showed the works that covered the period from 1992 to 2011.
In this show curated by Ivo Mesquita, we have the privilege of displaying woodcuts that cover a longer period dating back to the 40s. They are mostly artist’s proofs or short editions, as he did until 1999, when he began to print larger editions of 120. The earliest ones have a beautiful story, they belonged to an old friend in Rio de Janeiro. With each print, Samico would take one edition for himself and one for his friend. By a happy chance, they got into our hands.

Enjoy! It is not every day that we have that opportunity.

Vilma Eid

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Curator

Samico, quasi retrospective
Ivo Mesquita

Gilvan Samico (1928-2013) is one of the most important artists of the 20th century in Brazil. His woodcuts are among the most original and representative of this art so decisive for the formation and diffusion of a modern visuality in the country. Today his name is aligned with those of Lasar Segall (1889-1957), Oswaldo Goeldi (1895-1961) and Lívio Abramo (1903-1993), founders and masters of Brazilian engraving in the 20th century, along with other greats of his generation such as Fayga Ostrower (1920-2001), Marcelo Grassmann (1925-2013), Arthur Luiz Piza (1928-2017) and Evandro Carlos Jardim (1935), who consolidated this artistic practice as a powerful poetic and social strategy.
Connected to the Atelier Coletivo da Sociedade de Arte Moderna do Recife –Collective Workshop of the Modern Art Society of Recife (1952), a similar initiative to the Porto Alegre Printing Club (1950) and inspired by the program of the Taller Popular Graphic Workshop of Mexico (1937), Samico studies with Lívio Abramo in São Paulo, to where he is transferred in 1957, and later in Rio de Janeiro in 1958, with Oswaldo Goeldi. He returns to Pernambuco in the 1960s and settles in Olinda, where he lived and worked until his death. During the years 1968-70 he resided in Paris with the Foreign Travel Prize of the 17th National Salon of Modern Art ( 1967). In the 1970s Ariano Suassuna, the creator of the Armorial Movement, whose objective is to valorize the culture of the Northeast, seeking a Brazilian art from the popular roots of the country's culture, points Samico as an exemplary artist of the poetics of this movement, his most complete accomplishment. "Plunging into the universe of the Romanceiro and rediscovering himself with the roots of his blood, Samico can return with his Saints, his Prophets, his fiery birds, his dragons, his serpents, his enchanted oxen and his mysterious horses, in engravings that give us the appearance of a sovereign simplicity, of a really impressive technical virtuosity.”1
This exhibition, almost a small retrospective of the artist, brings together three groups of engravings representative of the unfolding of the work process in the construction of his printed work, being Samico a drawer and a painter. In the first group, produced between 1958 and 1959, references are naturally made to his teachers’ works, whether from the thematic, formal or ideological point of view: Untitled, Menina com corrupios, Reading in the square (all from 1958), Three women and the Moon (1959) are some examples. At the same time, however, they enunciate the abstract thinking that articulates his compositions, playing with figurative lines and forms in space, together with the taste for textures elaborated in the exploration of wood as we can see in Interior with boy and Interior with couple (both from 1958), or in Figure and buildings, Figure and leaves (from 1959).
In the second group, part of his prolific graphic production in the 1960s, one can see the artist’s encounter with the popular traditions of cordel engraving and with the telluric and fantastic imagery of the stories and legends of the same literature. As opposed to the dense black and white of the previous period, white gains expressive force, emphasizing the planar character of the image with the sober and punctual use of vibrant colors in the delimitation of spaces and the definition of plans – one of the marks of his work, a memory of Goeldi. The gestures in the carving of the wood abandon a certain authentic expressionism in the modern woodcut, and they become deeper, direct, economic, without vestiges in the final plated image. Figuration, now enclosed in a contour, a picture, is simplified in favor of greater image efficiency and objectivity of representation, always a frontal view, without perspective or reminder of any naturalistic space. These engravings refer to the narratives of cordel literature as Hansel and Gretel and the blue bird (1960), Juvenal and the dragon (1962), Alexandrine and the bird of fire (1962), The three peasant sisters and the warrior of the air (1963), The betrayal (1964); or to biblical and religious texts such as The Virgin of the Palm (1961), The fall of the angel (1965), Francisco and the wolf of Mantua (1969), among many others.
These works consolidate his artistic language, his direct and lean style, and his commitment to the vernacular culture, allied to the great tradition of Western art represented by the approach of biblical themes and classic myths of history. It was the production of this period that made him an artist of national projection with the prize of the National Salon of Modern Art in 1967, as well as assured him an international career with participations in São Paulo Biennials (1961, 1963 and 2016, as guest artist), Paris Biennials (1961 and 1963), Tokyo Biennial (1966) and twice at the Brazil Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1963 and 1990), as well as exhibitions and works at museums such as the National Fine Arts and the Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro; the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo, the Modern Art Museum and the Pinacoteca do Estado in São Paulo; the Aloísio Magalhães Modern Art, in Recife; and MoMA in New York.
The third group of works, or the last stage of its production according to a consensus among his critics and admirers, begins with the 1966 Suzana in the bath.2 This is a classic theme of painting, a moral preaching worked by different artists since the end of the Renaissance, becoming a kind of metaphor of art itself: the Suzana caste – the personification of the beauty to be achieved, possessed – is libidinously observed by two old rabbis – the time, the masculine – while bathing. The visual harassment about her – an object of contemplation and idealization – points to the principle of art as the manifestation of desire. The scopic drive in the pursuit of beauty takes place in the pleasure of looking.
Samico seems to have chosen this moral and poetic parable to affirm the fundaments of his commitment to art and his practice of engraving ever since, adopting methods and procedures that set in motion a work debugging with compositions articulated from the geometric division of the space, demarcation of symmetrical fields, the hieratic structuring of the image between series of figures, animals, elements of landscapes, fruits, vegetation, decorative motifs. His quest for asceticism and accuracy as a program to deepen the process of thought, work, knowledge imposes limits on how to reduce or restrict the artist’s action. From 1977, Samico adopts a standard size of matrix, the cue to be engraved, and starts to produce only one engraving per year. But each of them is the object of dozens of preparatory drawings, hundreds of studies of details, in which “the artist is swallowed by the infinitely minimal”,3 in an arduous journey to arrive at the final project that guides the craftsman’s work of the carver.
Then the plates emerge from a disciplined precise gesture, carving the wood like a mantra repeated for a long silent and solitary time, something Calvinistic: extensive parallel lines, regular and serial screenings, elaborate figurations but stripped of any rhetoric. As Ronaldo Correia de Brito observes, Samico is a master “in the careful arrangement of discrete spaces".4 The mirroring of images and certain optical vibration of lines and patterns sometimes give a kinematic character to the picture, as a frame-by-frame record of the work. But in spite of this internal “dynamics” of the image or any suggestion of narrative in the titles, all this production affirms itself as something emblematic, next to a religious icon, with the direct and total delivery of its meaning, with nothing else of his singular presence and multiplied materiality, forever “a work that sets my imagination on fire”.5

Notes
1 SUASSUNA, Ariano, “Samico e eu”, in BARROS LEAL, Weydson, Samico. Rio de Janeiro: Bem-Te-Vi, 2011, p. 10.
2 The Museum of Modern Art-MoMA, New York, has a copy of this print, along with others from Samico, and it is reproduced in the catalog of the Bloc Prints exhibition, organized by Riva Castleman for that museum in 1983.
3 CORREIA DE BRITO, Ronaldo, Samico: do desenho à gravura (catálogo). São Paulo: Pinacoteca do Estado, 2004, p. 11.
4 Idem, ibidem, p. 10.
5 SUASSUNA, Ariano, op. cit., p. 9.


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Release

Samico
At Galeria Estação

Opening: May 28, 7pm (until July 13, 2019)

In June 2012, Galeria Estação held the last individual of Gilvan Samico (1928-2013) in São Paulo, with the presence of the artist, who would die the following year. In 2016, his work was featured in the 32nd edition of the São Paulo International Biennial. Now, in this exhibition curated by Ivo Mesquita, Galeria Estação pays a new tribute to the great master from the state of Pernambuco bringing together about 34 works that permeate almost all of his production: compositions full of symbology that have in their symmetry and verticality values that organize narratives about nature, sacred instances and earthly life. A member of the Armorial Movement, idealized by the playwright and author Ariano Suassuna, Samico produced in his studio-house in Olinda, and was one of the rare artists who designed, engraved and printed his work manually.
The selection of works made by gallerist Vilma Eid and curator Ivo Mesquita is divided into three groups. In the first, Mesquita highlights engravings that demonstrate the influence of the teachers of Samico (Lívio Abramo and Goeldi) in his production, as in Girl with Pin Wheels, Reading in the Square (both 1958) and Three Women and the Moon (1959). The curator points out that these works already express the abstract thinking that articulates the artist's compositions.
The second set gathers the production of the 60's, a period in which Samico is charmed by popular traditions of literature and cordel engraving, full of stories and legends that warm up his imagination. "These works consolidate his artistic language, his direct and lean style, and his commitment to the vernacular culture, allied to the great tradition of Western art, represented by the approach of biblical themes and classic myths of history," says Mesquita. According to him, it is the production of this period that makes him an artist of national projection.
In the third group, it is evident the moment in which the artist adopts a standard size of matrix and begins to produce a single engraving per year, that demanded numerous drawings and preparatory studies, a practice that he exerts until the end (from 1977 to 2013) . The works of this period demonstrate, according to Mesquita, the foundations of his commitment to art and his practice of engraving, adopting methods and procedures that set in motion a work clearance, with compositions articulated from the geometrical division of space, of symmetrical fields, the hieratic structuring of the image between series of figures, animals, elements of landscapes, fruits, vegetation, decorative motifs. "His quest for asceticism and accuracy as a program to deepen the process of thinking, work, knowledge, imposes limits on how to reduce or restrict the artist's action," he adds.
Gilvan Samico (1928, Recife, PE) founded in 1952 together with other artists, the Collective Workshop of the Modern Art Society of Recife (SAMR), idealized by Abelardo da Hora since 1924. In 1957 he studied woodcutting with Lívio Abramo at the Escola de Artesanato do Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo - MAM / SP, and the following year with Oswaldo Goeldi, at the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro. In 1965, he settled in Olinda. He teaches woodcutting at the Federal University of Paraíba - UFPA. In 1968, with the foreign travel award obtained at the 17th National Salon of Modern Art, he spends two years in Europe. In 1971, he was invited by Ariano Suassuna to join the Armorial Movement, focused on the Northeastern popular culture and cordel literature.

Exhibition: SAMICO
Opening: May 28, at 7pm (guests)
Until July 13, 2019
Monday to Friday, from 11am to 7pm
Saturday from 11am to 3pm
Free admission.

Galeria Estação
Rua Ferreira de Araújo, 625 – Pinheiros SP
Phone: +55.11.3813-7253

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