21/08/2014 | Popular art meets erudite art at an exhibition - Caderno 2 Section - O Estado de São Paulo

Two art galleries team up to produce an exhibition that brings different trends together


The “tricky task” that art critic and curator Lorenzo Mammì took on, with the exhibition by the title of Quase Figura, Quase Forma (Almost a Figure, Almost a Shape), which opened this Thursday at the Galeria Estação art gallery in São Paulo, extends well beyond putting works of artists with erudite backgrounds side by side with those artistic creators of a more popular ilk. This exhibition brings together not only works representing different trends, but also two art galleries working in different directions – the Galeria Estação, closer to the popular artists, and the Millan gallery, which concentrates on erudite contemporary artists.

In this case, the risk would be that of establishing an inconvenient hierarchy between them or even a scale of values which, at times, may be unfair. For this reason, on accepting the invitation made jointly by the galleries to choose the works, Lorenzo Mammì thought more about the convergence between the two lines of artistic production rather than the differences between them. For Mammì, the return to appearances over the last three decades brought the erudite artists closer to those of simpler roots. The generation of painters which are now about 50 years old, which is represented at the exhibition by artists such as Fábio Miguez (52), Paulo Pasta (54) and others, establishes a dialogue both with this generation’s disciples such as Ana Prata (34) and Marina Rheingantz (31) as also with sensitive painters and sculptors from the more popular line, including Neves Torres, who is the owner of a light palette, from the Renaissance, and also the figure of Ranchinho (1923 – 2003), a son of farm workers and a self-taught man, who participated in Biennial Exhibitions.

After a hiatus in activities of conceptual art in the 1970s, painting came back stronger again in the 1980s, with the appearance of the neoexpressionists, which marked the generation of Miguez, Pasta and also painter Sergio Sister (66). Photography and video helped to re-establish the bond with pictures in the 1980s, according to Mammì. "One could even say that the 20th Century was marked by a trend towards abstraction, while the 21st Century has started as a figurative century”, the curator well observed, mentioning Pasta, a painter who sits on the threshold between abstraction and concrete appearance. “He prepares the setting so that something like a figure may appear, but does not let this figure materialise.” The forms that appear on the surface in Pasta’s paintings may suggest beams and pillars, observes Mammì, but just “suggest”. These are almost excuses to embark on a painting project, like the bottles and vases present in the works of Morandi.

A greater value given to popular art in Brazil, the curator well remembers, was already a concern of the Modernists who participated in the Modern Art Week in São Paulo, in 1922, especially Mário de Andrade, passing through a string of movements whose mentors (Mario Pedrosa, for example) had the ideological commitment of making an artistic style legitimate (like that of the mentally challenged) when it had traditionally been rejected by the art system. For example, Ranchinho had serious mental health problems, as also did Bispo do Rosário, but they left a legacy which is now acknowledged even by the erudite world. “Popular art also makes progress”, notes Mammì, mentioning two artists who have shown a rare degree of formal sophistication, these being Véio (Cícero Alves dos Santos) and José Bezerra, who recycle tree trunks and create fantastic creatures. About the erudite contemporaries of the younger generation, the curator notes that there is trend to give much more value to the formal issue, even if “suspicious of highly assertive shapes”. The curator, as an example, mentions the paintings by Marina Rheingantz – and one of her paintings in particular, the picture entitled ‘Sigmar’, painted this year, in which some red stains suggest a flight of insects. In this painting, “each stroke of paint is reminiscent of something, albeit never univocally.”

One artist who alternates between popular and erudite styles in the exhibition is Lorenzato, who hails from Minas Gerais (1900 – 1995) who, in spite of his modest background, got to visit some museums and also worked on restoration of pictures in Rome. “He, however, is a unique case”, the curator of the exhibition concludes.

Galeria Estação