Mauro Restiffe

Pinacoteca do Estado / Estação Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz, 2
August 5, 2017–November 6, 2017

Mauro Restiffe, Álbum(Tempestade, 2003), 1996–2017, silver gelatin print, 15 3/4 x 23 1/2".

The cover of a 1909 book titled Atlas do Brazil, photographed alongside documents and pictures on a desk, is the enigmatic opening image of this important panoramic exhibition featuring Mauro Restiffe’s work. Presented as a prelude to the show’s predominant scenes—a variety of bucolic landscapes, crowds gathered during historical events—the still life also introduces significant ways to read the work on view. It immediately evokes the artist’s archive, which prompted this exhibition, which gathers never-before-displayed photos, including a good number of intimate family portraits taken over the past thirty years. The notion of an atlas, referenced in the book’s title, is relevant as well, offering a conceptual path to understanding Restiffe’s interest in mapping the world without attachment to any particular genre.

The curatorial approach, devised by Rodrigo Moura, in which images from different epochs are each shown in several formats and settings, is reminiscent of Aby Warburg’s famous Mnemosyne Atlas (1924–29). For example, twenty-five paintings from two museums (Pinacoteca and MASP) are placed in dialogue with Restiffe’s analog black-and-white photographs. But paintings appear as well in many of his pictures—from Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow (1565) to unknown canvases depicted in domestic scenes. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, ca. 1483, is here seen as a trivial image stamped on a shirt hanging from a clothesline. If the mirroring effect of images is what interests Restiffe most when he photographs paintings, the juxtaposition of canvas and photos sheds light on this strategy. A recurring object in his pictures, mirrors are even more abundant in the pieces on view. One appears, for instance, in the last work—an intriguing metapicture of two of his photos (each in turn depicting a mirror) drying in the darkroom. An interesting counterpoint to the Atlas do Brazil’s first image, it conjures the labyrinthine properties of photography in its attempts to map reality.

— Nathalia Lavigne