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Exhibition Catalogue – Alcides | means of transport and other stories | 05/07/2007

An inventor of forms.

The curatorships recently held in Brazil, related to popular art, have concentrated their focus mainly on sculpture and ceramic, while painting has been relatively forgotten. Even though this may be partly due to the stress caused by the problem that has haunted us for some time – the “globanalisation” of the “naïf” mannerism -, it is a characteristic of painting not to be a form of artistic expression with immediate acknowledgement, which causes certain difficulties for the curator. It does not happen with so much clarity as in the case of three-dimensional work. Meticulous and complex, it reserves certain mysteries that are only dissipated after a certain period of coexistence, like any language in sign form. However, Brazilian popular painting is at least just as important as sculpture. It surprises us with each and every new bid on the market, as this shows the untapped scope for increase in value and also wide recognition, to the extent that it shall appear to become a collectors’ fetish. Painting has remained at limbo. If we pay attention to the number of important popular painters that Brazil has seen, we shall probably get a higher number than that of major sculptors. Its origins have to be sought in the issue of religiosity, particularly in the case of painted ex-votos, abundant in the 18th and 19th Centuries, an expression of faith that the Counter-Reformation has encouraged in European societies, on recognising that the most popular forms of Catholicism include a spontaneous movement of resistance to heresies. I have also discovered that there was also another field as applicable to painting, in these remote days: advertising signs, which identified places by pictures, as the vast majority of the colonial population did not know how to read or write. This is a hypothesis which is based only on intuitive deduction and also on historical reports, as nearly nothing remains from these days, either because the signs were made from precarious materials, or because they were not considered artistic objects and hence became disposable as soon as their use came to an end. However, even today, successors to this image communication remains in all Brazilian outposts, providing reading to those who cannot read, and also providing their first visual references to now budding popular artists. It is precisely from this activity that some of the most important popular painters have descended. Two cases immediately spring to mind: the pernambucano artist Bajado, who started his life by preparing advertising signs for cinema and also for general propaganda, and this Alcides Pereira de Santos, a cuiabano from Bahia, who came from the free studio that Aline Figueiredo and Humberto Espíndola opened in the late 1970s, in the capital of Mato Grosso, with the didactic guidance of the incredible painter Dalva de Barros. From there came a whole generation of regional artists, with great personalities, including Adir Sodré, Gervane de Paula, Nilson Pimenta and Alcides Pereira dos Santos. I have followed Alcides’ work since these days, and have always thought that there would come a moment in which his art would be fully understood, and in which the market would finally be mature enough to open space to an artist of his magnitude. Apart from Pietro Maria Bardi, who was one of the first to be impressed with his work, he had already been highlighted by Aracy Amaral, in the text written for the presentation catalogue of the Cuiabano Group, in an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo (MAM-SP) and in Rio (MAM-Rio). He had also impressed Lélia Coelho Frota and Olívio Tavares de Araújo, who called him a shape inventor in a critique in Isto É magazine. He had already been chosen by Emanoel Araújo for important participations, such as the Rediscovery Exhibition and the “Heirs of the Night”, held at the Pinacothèque. However, never again, since 1979, when a memorable exhibition was held at the Museum of Art and Popular Culture, at the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT). Alcides had made an individual exhibition worthy of his work, as this was an event that required the proper moment. This moment is now, when the popular assets in the country are full of vitality, in a market which often stumbles on repetition of the same, in values that are not sustained, and paralysis of the new, as Ferreira Gullar warns. Having also held the post of “sign person”, among other occupations with which he has managed to keep afloat, from this activity Alcides obtained the skill of synthesis: how to get a maximum of representation and communicability with simple techniques and a few elements. His painting has the mark of atemporality and universality. It is sometimes considered to be like cave painting, and does not strip itself of its Native Brazilian and African roots. Alcides’ work is packed with modernity, in an absolute manner. He went deep into current trails – also followed by pop artists – on using the whole of an iconography coming from the culture of the masses, which Alcides reprepares in a way which is better than that of any other artist who I know of in Brazil, including those of an erudite line, in evidence that popular art is part of the contemporary spirit, maybe its most understandable and renewable side, not yet fully perceived by curators and marchands.

Roberto Rugiero, June 2007.

Galeria Estação