Critics’ Picks

Cildo Meireles, “Inserção em circuitos ideológicos - Projeto cédula” (Insertion into ideological circuits - Banknote project) (detail), 1970–, rubber stamp on banknotes, dimensions variable.

São Paulo

“Cães sem plumas (prólogo)”

Roesler Hotel at Galeria Nara Roesler
Avenida Europa, 655
September 11 - November 9

Curated by Moacir dos Anjos, this important exhibition presents work from fifteen Brazilian artists—Cildo Meireles, Antonio Dias, Rosângela Rennó, Paula Trope, Berna Reale, and Virginia de Medeiros, among others—who critically embrace the social, political, and economic contexts in which their works are made—contexts that, despite the great progress that Brazilian society has experienced over the past two decades, are brimming with inequalities and omissions.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by a poem by João Cabral de Melo Neto. “O cão sem plumas” (Dogs Without Feathers) speaks of the destitute, the victims of discrimination, and those who live on the margins. From this point of departure, dos Anjos binds together works to weave a symbolic landscape of the invisible layers of society. The curatorial vision is enriched by pieces that deal with these eclipsed populations but never fall into propagandistic illustration or populism. These interventions, simultaneously political and poetic, put forth a humanism urgently needed in this region.

Cildo Meireles’s ongoing series “Inserção em circuitos ideológicos - Projeto cédula” (Insertion into ideological circuits - Banknote project), 1970–, is a work in which the artist stamps critical and timely questions on banknotes. In 1970, he stamped “Who killed Herzog?,” a reference to the journalist Vladmir Herzog, who was a victim of the Brazilian dictatorship. According to a declaration made in the 1970s by the Brazilian military, Herzog committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell. It was only in June 2013 that a new death certificate, which is also on view in the show, was issued by the state, recognizing that Herzog’s death was due to “lesions and maltreatment” while in the custody of the military government (the DOI-CODI) of São Paulo. Today, Meireles asks, “Where is Amarildo?”—a reference to a resident of Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, who was kidnapped and killed by the police in 2013. This piece offers up the best example in the show of how ethics and aesthetics can go hand in hand. As a whole, the exhibition follows Meireles’s guiding light, showing Brazilian art that reaffirms the importance of solidarity. “Cães sem plumas (prólogo)” is a concise and opportune exhibition, a prologue that merits prolonging.

Translated from Portuguese by Jane Brodie.