Brazil’s experimentalism

brasilobserver - Feb 13 2015
Paulo Bruscky vaccinates people against boredom during the opening day of the exhibition at the Embassy of Brazil

(Leia em Português)

Through narratives which are both particular and universal, an exhibition of the works of Pernambuco’s artists shows us a way of seeing the world, says the curator of the exhibition

By Beth da Matta

The state of Pernambuco in northeast Brazil has long been known as a territory rich in cultural and artistic production. Emblematic names have been engraved in memory and are part of the history of experimentalism in the making of art and in the production of critical and literary works reflecting Brazil and the northeast region.

Creators such as Ariano Suassuna, Cícero Dias, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, Francisco Brennand, Gilberto Freyre, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Clarice Lispector and Chico Science have and continue to contribute – to the region’s distinctive character and culture.

Several visual artists from Pernambuco have risen to national and international prominence, their work displaying the heritage and the novelty of a Brazil exploding with creativity, and attracting the critical and popular acclaim thanks to their diverse poetic forms.

In the mid-1990s, Pernambucan artistic production, principally films, music and visual arts, expanded beyond regional themes, driven by cultural and economic globalisation and by research and technological developments. As artists moved beyond the state capital of Recife, as did the focus of their work, the city also welcomed the arrival of artists and critics from elsewhere in Brazil and from abroad.

The dynamics of arts are changing. The increased circulation of work through important art fairs, biennales and international exhibitions has given greater visibility to some of Pernambuco’s artistic production, in diverse, ephemeral and fragmentary ways.

The repertories, methods and materials of those artists act as an amplifier for the region, simultaneously making it both local and international. We discover ramifications, echoes and reverberations of their productions in other countries, contributing to a local and international re-imagining of what Brazil, the northeast and the sertão could be.

The journey of these designers and artists is now being presented in Art from Pernambuco an exhibition organised by the Embassy of Brazil in London that entices us to discover their way of representing themselves and their world.

Through boldness and originality in the use of materials and the themes addressed, the featured artists reveal an experimental attitude toward the artistic medium.

The exhibition aims to present important visual artists and various forms of art produced in Pernambuco, and at the same time to initiate a debate about the multiplicity of this production and of these artists.

‘Cortiço do Recife’, by Jeims Duarte

‘Cortiço do Recife’, by Jeims Duarte

‘Game Over’, by Kilian Glasner

‘Game Over’, by Kilian Glasner

‘Mealheiro’, by Renato Valle

‘Mealheiro’, by Renato Valle

‘Round’, by Amanda Melo

‘Round’, by Amanda Melo


The exhibition brings together 17 artists from Pernambuco, spanning four generations, and incorporating a wide range of mediums. Daniel Santiago, Eudes Mota and Paulo Bruscky represent the artistic experimentation of the 1970s. Sebastião Pedrosa, a professor of art theory at the Federal University in Pernambuco for almost three decades, delves into other media.

Gil Vicente and Renato Valle, who were very young in the 1970s, started with paintings and then moved on to drawings and engravings during the following decades.

From the 1980s onward, Marcelo Silveira, Márcio Almeida, Oriana Duarte, Paulo Meira and José Paulo, heirs to the conceptual generation before them, explored the boundaries of language, media, and semantic fields of the artistic medium itself, producing cracks and ruptures in the tradition of Pernambuco’s visual arts.

And finally we discover an outline of post-millennium artistic production through the actions and attitudes of Lourival Cuquinha, Rodrigo Braga’s look at the body and the natural world, through the constructed mythology of Bruno Vilela and Armanda Melo, and the graphic experimentation of Kilian Glasner and Jeims Duarte.

In speaking about themselves and about Recife the artists simultaneously communicate global themes. So a world we all inhabit is related to us by artists from Pernambuco, through narratives which are both particular and universal. It is a world of hybridity, of mixture, of temporal flows – a world which produces very diverse and different cultural practices that are as familiar as they are different.

*Beth da Matta is curator of the exhibition and director of Aloísio Magalhães Modern Art Museum in Recife, capital of Pernambuco



When: Until 28 February – Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-6pm

Where: Sala Brasil – 14-16 Cockspur Street (SW1Y 5BL)

Entrance: Free