Sérgio B. Martins

  • Cecilia López, RED, 2018, audio cables, double basses, sound equipment, dimensions variable. From the 14th Bienal de Cuenca.

    14th Bienal de Cuenca

    It is hard to determine the Bienal de Cuenca’s position within the jet set of contemporary-art biennials. Not only does it take place in Ecuador, which is surrounded by far more established South American art scenes, but for the first fifteen years or so since its founding in 1987, it was a primarily national show dedicated to painting. After opening up to so-called international contemporary art in recent years, it expanded in scale and historical reach. This time around, for its fourteenth edition, the exhibition spread through dozens of venues in Cuenca, addressing the city’s pre-Columbian

  • Matheus Rocha Pitta, Reintegração de posse (Repossession Suit), 2018, taipa, secondhand furniture, chain. Installation view. Photo: Matheus Rocha Pitta.

    Matheus Rocha Pitta

    Modernist architect and urbanist Lúcio Costa considered taipa, or rammed earth, used in the construction of Brazilian colonial houses, an expression of authentic rural life. He considered these structures made using this technique to be “legitimate things of the earth,” like anthills or fig trees, and thus connected to the very soil that gave the rural family sustenance and meaning. But he also considered taipaa predecessor of the reinforced concrete that he and his peers would put to use in some of the country’s most revered architectural landmarks. In São Paulo, moreover, the rediscovery of

  • Tunga, Untitled, 2011, ink on paper, 29 7⁄8 × 20". From the series “La voie humide,” 2011–16.


    There is a stark contrast between this exhibition, “O rigor da distração” (The Rigor of Distraction), and the first retrospective after Tunga’s death in 2016, “O corpo em obras” (The Body in Works) , held earlier this year at the São Paulo Museum of Art. While the earlier show presented a conventional display organized around discrete sculptural works, the show in Rio de Janeiro, curated by Luisa Duarte and Evandro Salles, focuses on drawing and presents it as a generative force rather than a stable medium. Given the protean nature of Tunga’s oeuvre, with its plethora of materials, multiple

  • passages August 09, 2018

    Antonio Dias (1944–2018)

    THE MORNING AFTER the opening of Antonio Dias’s 2009 retrospective at Daros, Zurich, the news broke that a fire in Rio had consumed the vast majority of Hélio Oiticica’s work. My second visit to the exhibition, one day later, was shot-through with a vivid sense of uneasiness and urgency. Dias and Oiticica were peers in one of the most defining moments of twentieth-century Brazilian art—the mid 1960s avant-garde that coalesced apropos of exhibitions such as “Opinião 65” and “Nova Objetividade Brasileira.” Yet no one knew what exactly had been lost forever to the flames. It was as if history was

  • Lais Myrrha, Corpo de prova #5 (Body of Proof #5), 2017, bronze, concrete, watercolor on paper, dimensions variable.

    Lais Myrrha

    Lais Myrrha’s exhibition “Cálculo das diferenças”(Calculation of Differences) explored the problem of equivalence as it plays out formally and materially. More importantly, the show addressed the ideological underpinnings of equivalence itself as a social and cultural doxa. Such was the case in recent works such as Dois pesos, duas medidas (Double Standard), 2016, shown at the Thirty-Second São Paulo Bienal (but not on view here), in which a pair of twenty-six-foot rectangular structures combined indigenous building materials (vines, logs, and straw) with those of industrial construction materials

  • Abraham Palatnik, Objeto Cinético KK - 9ª (Kinetic Object KK - 9ª), 1966/2009, wood, Formica, steel, motor, 24 × 38 5/8 × 6 5/8". From the series “Objetos Cinéticos” (Kinetic Objects), 1964–.

    Abraham Palatnik

    Eighteen years have passed since octogenarian Abraham Palatnik’s last retrospective. In the meantime, the burgeoning historiography of midcentury Brazilian geometric and constructive abstraction has left his role relatively unexamined. Indeed, as Palatnik himself recognizes, his interest in kineticism distanced him from the debates that raged around Concretism and Neo-Concretism throughout the 1950s and ultimately defined the critical reception of the art of the period. Curated by Felipe Scovino and Pieter Tjabbes, the eighty-six works in “Abraham Palatnik—a reinvenção da pintura” (Abraham

  • Ferreira Gullar

    FIRST-TIME VISITORS to the poet Ferreira Gullar’s apartment were often struck by his homemade replicas of works by Piet Mondrian and Alexander Calder. “Since I cannot afford originals,” he used to say, “I make my own.” His nonchalance about copying these masters underscores just how close Gullar and the midcentury circle of Brazilian artists around him felt to the modernist lineage they admired; Lygia Clark even wrote a personal letter to the long-deceased Mondrian in which she told him, “You are more alive today for me than all the people who understand me, up to a point.” Instead of revering

  • Tunga

    LEGEND HAS IT that the Brazilian modernist master Alberto da Veiga Guignard was a guest in the house of an eminent Rio de Janeiro politician when he produced one of his best-known works, a large portrait of his host’s twin daughters, As gêmeas (The Twins), 1940. The painting is an enigmatic study in likeness and difference: The sisters wear identical dresses and similar hairdos, yet their faces remain distinct. They are linked most of all by the ornate colonial settee on which they are perched, its carved wooden swirls merging with their curls. It is an uncanny image, all the more so with the

  • Cinthia Marcelle, em entre para perante (in between for before), 2015, acrylic paint on fabric, shoelaces on hardware, dimensions variable. Photo: Jaime Acioli.

    Cinthia Marcelle

    These days, viewers have to enter art galleries ready for anything. And yet there are still certain basic things they usually do expect to find, such as explanatory shortcuts: either a critical text, a title, or an anecdote about the conception of the work on display that provides a hint of meaning or topicality—or, at the very least, a familiar kind of opaqueness that recurs often enough to reassure us, as viewers, that we are well-moored in the realm of contemporary art. It may be going too far to claim that Cinthia Marcelle’s recent show “em entre para perante”(in between for before)

  • Bernardes & Jacobsen Arquitetura, Museu de Arte do Rio, 2013, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Leonardo Finotti.

    Sérgio B. Martins

    AT THE START OF 2013, no one could have imagined the wave of demonstrations that would rock the streets of Brazilian cities just a few months later—the most widespread protests in the country since the Diretas Já! (Direct [Elections] Now!)movement in 1984. The recent unrest began largely as a response to poor public services, police brutality, the perceived bankruptcy of political representation, and the government’s massive spending on urban and social “reforms” in preparation for hosting both the World Cup this June and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. Yet, at the inaugural opening of