Critics’ Picks

Adriana Varejã, O Iluminado (The Shining), 2009, oil on linen, 90 1/2 x 220 1/2".


Adriana Varejão

Fundação Edson Queiroz
Av. Washington Soares, 1321 Universidade de Fortaleza, Espaço Cultural Airton Queiroz
August 26–November 29

One of Brazil’s most expressive contemporary artists, Adriana Varejão makes artwork at once provocative and visceral, appropriating and uniquely processing an arsenal of subjects ranging from her country’s colonial past to the history of artistic practices in the West and China. She comments on the formation of Brazilian culture and identity as well as her own. “Pele do Tempo” surveys her thirty-year career via thirty-two works curated by Luisa Duarte.

Of the show’s three adjoining spaces, one holds a selection of unprecedented references: illustrated books on the history of surgery and the art of Caravaggio, for example; a Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro ceramic plate and Portuguese tiles; a Lucio Fontana painting and a video installation by Varejão (with tiles, prints, and architectural photographs shot by the artist). The second space juxtaposes phantasmagorically majestic paintings and drawings from her “Saunas and Baths,” 2001–, and “Jerked-beef Ruins,” 2000–, series (exposed, fleshy, bulbous guts sandwiched between hand-painted geometric tile grids), as well as the sensuality of four large wall-mounted decorated plates. In the third space, artworks from the series “Terra Incognita,” 1990–, echo Song dynasty landscapes, and references to cartography and Portuguese Baroque architecture and tiles feed into the “Seas and Tiles,” 1990–, series. In works from Varejão’s “Irezumis,” 1994–, and “Proposal for a Catechesis,” 1993–, series, her appropriation of European academic painting is clear, and it is transposed onto tiled canvas surfaces punctuated by images of bloodshed and severed body parts, commenting on the violence of colonialism in Brazil. This exquisitely woven show displays many of the eras and bodies that recur throughout Varejão’s oeuvre.