Ela Bittencourt

  • Detail from “Room 30” in The Hotel by Sophie Calle, Siglio, 2021. Photo: Sophie Calle and Siglio Press.
    books January 31, 2022

    Dirty Laundry

    THE HOTEL, BY SOPHIE CALLE. Catskill: Siglio Press, 2021. 243 pages. 

    THE ENGLISH EDITION, now out from Siglio, of Sophie Calle’s seminal photographic essay, The Hotel (1984), boasts a cover with a florid design and gilded lettering, which suggest preciousness and the idea of hospitality as genteel comfort. Yet the French artist ruthlessly unpacks such notions in the series—quite literally, since she made it while working as a chambermaid at a Venetian inn, raiding and photographing private articles left by guests in the rooms and by opening their luggage. The list of Calle’s playful transgressions

  • Rafael Carneiro, Balthus-chiclete (Balthus–Bubble Gum), 2020, oil on canvas, 59 × 78 3⁄4".

    Rafael Carneiro

    Luciana Brito Galeria occupies a modernist home designed in 1958 by Rino Levi, with elegant landscaping by Roberto Burle Marx. So it’s particularly apropos that Rafael Carneiro’s recent show there, “Casa Família Deleite” (Home Family Fulfillment), took “family values” as its satirical theme.

    In the past, Carneiro often based his paintings on photographic images—for instance, a group of oils from 2013 depict wet-glazed desserts, tantalizing temptations to gluttony. Poised between hyperrealism and surreal excess, these works invite viewers to relish the somewhat icky boundary where mundane pleasures

  • Jaider Esbell, A conversa das entidades intergalácticas para decidir o futuro universal da humanidade (The Conversation of Intergalactic Entities to Decide the Universal Future of Humanity), 2021, acrylic and Posca pen on canvas, 44 1⁄8 × 90 1⁄2".

    Jaider Esbell

    Brazilian Indigenous art has stood in a peculiar paradoxical position in relation to the country’s hegemonic culture since Brazilian writer and critic Oswald de Andrade came up with the concept of anthropofagia (anthropophagy) in 1928. De Andrade claimed that Brazilian modernism was unique because it absorbed, or “devoured,” not only Western influences, but also Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian ones. Indigenous culture was thus claimed as a vital primordial source. And yet it remained historically marginalized. That is now changing. Brazilian Indigenous artists are gradually gaining visibility with

  • Ana Mazzei, Romana (Roman Woman) (detail), 2020, wood, pigmented wax painting, iron, engine, 4' 1 1/4" × 15' 4 1/2" × 15' 4 1/2".

    Ana Mazzei

    Ana Mazzei works at the juncture of sculpture, painting, architecture, and theater. This cross-disciplinarity was manifested in the Brazilian artist’s recent solo show, “Vesuvius,” which foregrounded her ingenious use of humble materials. Prime among them is wood, which she varnishes and coats with wax paints, at times adding found objects to construct dreamy scenarios. The show revolved around the idea of remnants, in particular those of the frescoes at Pompeii. One might liken Mazzei’s approach to that of Canadian poet Anne Carson, whose 2002 translation of the works of Greek poet Sappho left

  • Antônio Henrique Amaral, Expansão, 1977, oil on canvas, 56 x 79".
    picks January 13, 2021

    Antônio Henrique Amaral

    The protean Brazilian artist Antônio Henrique Amaral (1935–2015) didn’t identify with any movement, though critics often tie him to neo-Cubism and Surrealism, with forays into Pop. And rightly so: Braqueian collage haunts Amaral’s blocky linocuts and drawings as Klee’s faux-naïf figuration and Picasso’s frank erotic drawings do his bawdy works in graphite, pen, gouache, and watercolor. As for Pop, one is inevitably reminded of Warhol’s deathly serial silkscreens when regarding Amaral’s own obsessive reiterations of toothy mouths, tortured overripe bananas, bloody meat scraps, and menacing cutlery.

  • Bruno Dunley, Cabeça de ferro (Head of Iron), 2019, oil on canvas, 86 5⁄8 × 70 7⁄8".

    Bruno Dunley

    There was something arrestingly fraught about the latest works of Brazilian artist Bruno Dunley. Although the show’s title, “Virá” (It Will Come), taken from one of the works on view, had an upbeat ring, the eight large oil paintings and twelve smaller works on paper (made with conté crayon, oil pastel, charcoal, and graphite) nevertheless emanated a keen sense of tension, even unease.

    In the text accompanying the exhibition, Luis Pérez-Oramas invoked the works of Brazilian painter Alfredo Volpi as well as artist Jordan Kantor’s 2004 Artforum essay “The Tuymans Effect.” Indeed, Dunley’s work

  • Alfredo Jaar, Oswald de Andrade VOLTA!, 2017, neon, 23 5/8 × 35 3/8 × 2". From “Nuestra América” (Our America).

    “Nuestra América”

    Interrupted by the pandemic, this ambitious show borrows its title, “Nuestra América” (Our America), from an essay by nineteenth-century Cuban poet José Martí, who called for a uniquely South American culture, freed from a Western Eurocentric framework. The exhibition, commemorating Galeria Luisa Strina’s forty-fifth anniversary and featuring forty-one works by twenty-five artists, traces the recent history of a persistent tension in Latin American art, namely that between urgent sociopolitical critique and formal experimentation, especially in abstraction.

    A Logo for America (Miami Beach), 2018,

  • Marepe, Satélite baldio (Vacant Satellite), 2006–2007, buckets, screws, 118 1⁄8 × 118 1⁄8 × 118 1⁄8".


    The Brazilian artist Marepe has been called a regional Surrealist and a Bahian Duchamp. He draws on a range of Surrealist strategies to produce his readymade-based works, or “necéssaires,” as he calls them. Dislocation, condensation, repetition, transposition, and puns both visual and linguistic are all part of his process. The thirty-three pieces on view in the large-scale solo exhibition “Marepe: estranhamente comum” (Marepe: Oddly Common) included assemblage, sculpture, video, photography, drawing, and painting, but installations predominated, often combining natural materials such as wood

  • Ana Vaz, Há Terra! (There Is Land!), 2016, 16 mm, color, sound, 12 minutes.
    film July 01, 2016

    Young at Heart

    “PRESENTING POSSIBILITIES of cinematographic language” was how Antônio Junior, the artistic director of the international film festival Olhar de Cinema in Curitiba, Brazil, summarized its fifth edition. And indeed, across the board one could sense Latin American cinema’s appetite for experimentation.

    The most rapturous film I saw this year was Há Terra! (There Is Land!), a short by Brazilian visual artist Ana Vaz, whose Occidente (2015) played in last year’s New York Film Festival. Há Terra! picks up on another short, Idade de Pedra (2013), in which Vaz imagined premodernity in her native Brasilia,

  • Tinatin Gurchiani, The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, 2012, digital video, color, sound, 97 minutes.
    film May 13, 2013

    Truth and Circumstance

    “MEMORY IS WHAT WE RECORD IT TO BE,” filmmaker Peter Wintonick said at the conference of the eighteenth “It’s All True” (IAT) documentary festival. No one understood this better than Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose montages extolled the Bolshevik revolution. In collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum, the festival, with over eighty titles reaching five Brazilian cities, staged a Vertov retrospective, comprising early newsreels, shorts, and seven full-length films.

    From reverse to stop-motion and concealed camera positions, Vertov embraced cinema’s ability to awe and to estrange. In A