Critics’ Picks

Claudia Andujar, “Família mineira (Minas Gerais family),” 1964, gelatin silver print, 7 x 9 1/2".

Claudia Andujar, “Família mineira (Minas Gerais family),” 1964, gelatin silver print, 7 x 9 1/2".

Rio de Janeiro

Claudia Andujar

Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) | Rio de Janeiro
Rua Marquês de São Vicente, 476, Gávea
July 25–November 15, 2015

I still feel as if there is a knifepoint underneath my eyelid: Such is the somatic staying power of Claudia Andujar’s 1967 photographs of “psychic surgeon” Zé Arigó, who performed his “miracles” with cutlery on that most delicate of facial features. It’s this power to compel the body of the viewer that has been Andujar’s trademark throughout the past half century of her work, the origins of which are under retrospective here. The show leads up until the early 70s, when she became renowned for dancerly depictions of the Yanomami tribes of northern Brazil. Their absence in this show, titled “no lugar do outro” (“in the place of the other”), makes way for generous attention to the photographs in which their techniques were developed, as her documentary and more experimental styles moved toward a union.

On display are early portraits that could nearly be mistaken for the work of Mary Ellen Mark, such as the series “Família mineira (Minas Gerais family),” 1964, one of which depicts a girl in profile staring into space. You might say that she’s resigned, or bored and dreaming, or else angry; as in Mark’s practice, the ambiguity reflects respect for the opaque within the intimate. Andujar’s oeuvre retains this quality throughout the psychedelic decade, even as her subjects sometimes turn to waterfalls and darkly glowing seaweed. But it’s in the garish filters and vertiginous perspectives of her coverage of the drug trade and the therapeutic practice known as psychodrama that her forms and subject matter fully intersect, as in Reportagem sobre psicodrama feita para a revista Realidade (Report on psychodrama for Reality Magazine), circa 1969. There she would perfect a flexible distortion that recalls what Zola wrote of Pissarro: “hallucinogenic truth.”