Alcides | means of transport and other stories. | from 05/07/2007 to 29/09/2007

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Born in Bahia and brought up in Mato Grosso, he lived in São Paulo in a slum in the East Zone, where we cannot say he had a favourable environment for his work. A simple person, very humble and without any kind of educational background or general information, he painted through the need that the soul enforced. He has already been called “the concretist of the spontaneous” and, on seeing his work, the comment does not need an explanation. He was present at the opening of the exhibition, emotional with what was, for him, a historical fact: an individual exhibition in the city of São Paulo.

 Vilma Eid

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Alcides | means of transport and other stories.

An inventor of shapes. The curatorships which have recently been carried out in Brazil, in relation to popular art, have concentrated their focus exclusively on sculpture and ceramics, while painting has been largely forgotten. Even though this may be partly a consequence of the stress caused by the mistaken view which had been with us for a while – the globanalisation of the naive mannerisms – painting has a characteristic of not being an artistic expression of immediate recognition, which causes a certain difficulty for the curator. This does not happen with as much clarity as the case of the tridimensional. Detailed and complex, this reserves certain mysteries that only vanish after a certain period of coexistence, like all sign language. However, Brazilian popular painting is at least as important as sculpture. This surprises us at each new market transaction, showing the strength of its valuation and widespread recognition, to the extent that it seems that it shall become a collectors’ fetish. Painting has largely remained in limbo. If we pay attention to the number of important popular painters that there have already been in the country, we shall reach a number probably higher than that of important sculptors. Its origins have to be sought in religiousness, particularly in the painted ex-votos, which abounded in the 18th and 19th Centuries, an expression of the faith which the Catholic Revival encouraged in European societies, on regarding the most popular expressions of Catholicism as a spontaneous movement for resistance against heresies. I also see that there has been another field of application for painting, in these remote times: advertising signs which identified places by means of pictures, as the vast majority of the Colonial population was illiterate. This is a hypothesis based exclusively on deductive intuition and also historical reports, as almost nothing has been left from these days, either because these signs were made with fragile materials, or because they were not considered as artistic objects, and therefore became disposable as soon as their use ceased. However, even today they persist in all corners of Brazil that succeeded this communication through pictures, giving reading to those who cannot read, and also supplying budding popular artists with their first visual references. It is precisely from this activity that some important national popular painters descend. Two immediately come to mind: Bajado, from Pernambuco, who started his life by designing cinema signs and other forms of advertising, and this Alcides Pereira dos Santos, a cuiabano from Bahia, arising from the free studio that Aline Figueiredo and Humberto Espíndola opened in the second half of the 1970s, in the capital of Mato Grosso, under the direction of the extraordinary painter, Dalva Barros. There was born a whole generation of regional artists of strong personality, such as Adir Sodré, Gervane de Paula, Nilson Pimenta and Alcides Pereira dos Santos. I have followed the work of Alcides since this time and I have always considered that there would come a moment when his art would be understood in its entirety, in which the market would finally be mature enough to open space to an artist of his grandeur. Apart from Pietro Maria Bardi, one of the first to be impressed with his work, he had already been highlighted by Aracy Amaral, in the text written for the catalogue to present the Grupo Cuiabano in an exhibition showed at the Modern Art Museum in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in 1981. He had already impressed Lélia Coelho Frota and Olívio Tavares de Araújo, who dubbed him an inventor of shapes, in a critique in IstoÉ Magazine. He had also already been chosen by Emanoel Araújo for important participations, such as the Rediscovery Exhibition and “Heirs of the Night” at the Pinacothèque, but never again since 1979, when there was a memorable exhibition at the Popular Culture and Art Museum at the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT), had Alcides made an individual exhibition worthy of his work, as this was a happening that requested the ideal moment. This moment is now, when the popular assets of the country shows vitality, in a market which stumbles on repetitiveness, values that are not sustained, in the paralysis of the new, as Ferreira Gullar warns. Having also worked in the “plaque trade”, among other occupations through which he gained sustenance, Alcides brought from this activity the wisdom of synthesis: to manage to get a maximum of representation and communicability through a simple technique and a minimum of elements. His painting has the stamp of the atemporal and also universality. Sometimes it is like rock art, and does not leave its African and Native Brazilian roots. However, Alcides’ work is impregnated with modernity in an absolute manner. He delved deep into current paths, also trailed by pop artists, on using a whole iconography proceeding from the culture of the masses, which Alcides re-elaborates in a higher form compared with any other artist that I know in Brazil, including the erudite artists. In an evidence that popular art is part of the contemporary spirit, maybe its most understandable and most renewable face, an aspect not yet fully perceived by curators and marchands.

Roberto Rugiero

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Galeria Estação