PRINT September 2020


Where we’re at: Mexico City, São Paulo

Camila Gb, Conejo malo (Bad Bunny), 2020, oil pastel on paper, 11 3/4 × 8 1/4".


DURING THE MONTH of August, the Museo Anahuacalli and the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City received solo visitors, allowing them to freely wander the premises by themselves for forty minutes each. Called Museos Uno en Uno, the initiative was a way to expand museological practices to respond to the emotional needs of the Covid-drained-art-hungry public. It was only possible through the work of a disinterested group of museum professionals, art enthusiasts, and artists, many of whom volunteered as museum guards.

Another support structure in Mexico City’s art world was the feminist collective Prras!, whose Blue Diamond grant was created to help women artists in need of medical treatment during the pandemic. And Carlos Amorales, who has played with identity, fantasy, and the form of the mask in his performances and self-portraits, collaborated with a local sewing shop to produce cloth face masks, supporting the city’s garment workers while providing protection for those who have to work outside the home.

The pandemic has infused everyday life with new significance, making each little gesture and interpersonal interaction into something carefully considered and intimately felt. Alongside the exposure of the fragility of our civilization, the holes in our social safety net, and our wild disparities of wealth, health, and power, this new sensitivity, I hope, will be one of the indelible legacies of Covid-19.

Mario García Torres is an artist living in Mexico City and Los Angeles.



IT’S HARD TO SAY what in the arts is giving me energy right now. Sometimes it’s small gatherings with people I would otherwise run into when things were “normal.” We now meet intermittently, turning up at each other’s houses out of desperation—never unannounced, and always expecting the now-familiar choreography of hand sanitizer and awkward touchless greetings.

The cultural sector in Mexico City is convulsing: The government cut 75 percent of public museums’ budgets, hundreds of people were fired, dozens of shows canceled. Nothing is certain but the fact that the rich remain rich and they’re still shopping for art, now at reduced prices—smelling blood in the water, they are hungry for a discount. This does not sound energizing! But perhaps I am not energized? Maybe few of us are? We are more alienated than usual. We kick and scream in tweets and toxic Facebook conversations.

Yet here I will end on a positive note: Young women artists are still making art as we were taught, creating much with very little, ignoring the boundaries set for us. I thank these artists very much. When my attention span is not fried from anxiety and fear, I check the Instagram and Twitter feeds of La Movimienta, Silvana Cerviño, Paloma Contreras Lomas, Anahí Dragonzito Juárez, Mili Herrera, Miranda Rosales, Tobías Dirty, Camila Gb, Noe Valdez, Sofi Benetti, Maruki Nowacki, and many others. Studio visits must wait for now; in the meantime, these social-media feeds have become the tiny haven where my hope grows.

Gaby Cepeda is a writer based in Mexico City.

Éder Oliveira, Sem título (textos históricos) (Untitled [Historical Texts]), 2019, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 × 59".


THEY WERE THERE BEFORE the lockdowns became routine and are among the most impacted victims of the virus sweeping the world. The subjects of Éder Oliveira’s paintings, most of them dark-skinned young men, are often culled from newspapers. He pins onto canvas images of the moment these boys are taken by police, bare-chested, sometimes handcuffed, and looking at the ground to avoid the glare of camera flashes. But all the commotion of a crime scene is gone in the paintings; the subjects stand alone against empty bloodred backgrounds.

Oliveira’s chronicle of incarceration is also a diary of what it means to be Brazilian. He portrays the poor, the Black, the dispossessed—those most likely to end up in jail. A painter from the northern city of Belém, Oliveira was always looking for himself in these men’s bewildered gazes. As Covid-related deaths skyrocketed in our country—as of this writing, Brazil has the second-highest number of virus fatalities in the world, trailing only the US—he began to make self-portraits, some of them with medical records from hundreds of years ago that predicted a thriving white population and the near genocide of all other ethnic groups. Right now, Oliveira’s work is perhaps the most powerful expression of how, over the centuries, this nation has failed to see itself in the mirror. From a studio near the flaming Amazon, Oliveira points to the absurd figures lurking in the white crystal palaces of Brasília.

Silas Martí is a writer based in São Paulo.

Abdias do Nascimento, Okê Oxóssi, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 35 3/8 × 23 5/8".


THE DAYS HAVE BEEN very difficult since life turned into this long violence. I’ve looked often to Gilberto Gil’s Refavela (1977) to remind me that it is possible to resist and that our struggle boasts many victories. The album came out of Gil’s participation in FESTAC ’77, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, which took place in Lagos and Kaduna, Nigeria, and which featured a truly diverse program of concerts and dance, lectures and debates, and film and art exhibitions. In Africa, hope for the future pulsed, fueled by the independence won by liberation struggles that rose up across the continent in the 1960s and ’70s. Counting on the diaspora, there were about fifty countries represented by artists, intellectuals, and politicians including Ama Ata Aidoo, James Baldwin, Cheikh Anta Diop, Jeff Donaldson, Audre Lorde, Miriam Makeba, Abdias do Nascimento, and Uche Okeke, among so many others.

At the beginning of the quarantine period, I received the Chimurenga collective’s book about FESTAC ’77, which has a few pages about Brazil’s participation. In Brazil, it was a period of military dictatorship, and the country’s delegation was financed by the state. Nascimento wanted to present on the “myth of racial democracy in Brazil”; his participation was vetoed for political reasons. Beginning in 1950, in alignment with his activist practice, he cultivated the development of the Museu de Arte Negra (Black Arts Museum) in our country. Working with documentation of this proposal both takes me back in time and projects me into the future. It’s a way to materialize what Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo pointed out in her book Olhos d’água (2014), which in 2018 became a performance by the artist Jota Mombaça: “They agreed to kill us, but we agreed not to die.”

Amanda Carneiro is an assistant curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo.



THE UNPRECEDENTED global halt prompted an overdue deprogramming of the so-called art world. In Brazil, where the pandemic has given way to pandemonium on account of the government’s autocratic misdeeds, I’ve been following with great enthusiasm the rise of a new generation of BIPOC artists and curators who are putting the decolonization discussions of the past decade into action through new initiatives.

The platform Projeto Afro (, founded by Brazilian journalist and art researcher Deri Andrade, is doing an outstanding job of mapping and showcasing work made by Black artists all over the country through interviews and profiles, as well as channeling events and exhibitions that contribute to racial justice and equity. The site is in Portuguese, so I briefly hesitated before submitting my pick. But then I remembered something Cuban curator and art critic Gerardo Mosquera wrote in his 2010 essay “Against Latin American Art”: “Although art benefits from the rise of artists from all over the world who circulate internationally and exercise influence . . . it is simplified since artists have to express themselves in a lingua franca that has been hegemonically constructed and established.” Even though it might seem cryptic to some visitors, Projeto Afro is a great entry point to a new art scene that is mindful of the entire ecosystem of art and willing to come up with alternative grammars to well-known idioms.

Fernanda Brenner is the founding director of Pivô, São Paulo.

Denilson Baniwa, Brasil terra indígena (Brazil Indigenous Land), 2020, HD video, color, silent, 4 minutes 52 seconds. Installation view, Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo. In collaboration with Coletivo Coletores.


IN MID-JULY, I invited the artist Denilson Baniwa to participate in Voices Against Racism, an initiative by the city of São Paulo that assembled dozens of Black and Indigenous thinkers and artists to debate perspectives and stage in situ interventions. Denilson and I imagined projecting a video across the Monumento às Bandeiras (Monument to the Bandeiras), a much-contested sculpture at the entrance of Ibirapuera Park by Italian Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret that pays homage to mercenary enslavers of Maroon and Indigenous peoples. An artist from the Amazonian region working against one of São Paulo’s greatest symbols and postcards is a strong act in itself, but Denilson’s response took it further than I could have imagined. His five-minute video Brasil terra indígena (Brazil Indigenous Land), 2020, begins with a Portuguese caravel destroyed by forces of nature. From the wreckage appear powerful plants, spiritual beings, primordial animals, and Indigenous ancestral forms in luminous neon, conjuring a psychedelic trip, sprouting from the granite of the obscured monument that serves only as a backdrop for this divination of a world before colonialism. 

The work bent the urban landscape to the artist’s vision, subverting the racist symbology of this monument at the heart of the largest city in the Western and Southern Hemispheres. Denilson temporarily but effectively erased the sculpture by digitally spraying over it the phrases SÃO PAULO INDIGENOUS LAND AND BRAZIL INDIGENOUS LAND in Portuguese—a language imposed by colonialism on millions of Native people. Denilson reversed the experience of linguistic exclusion, projecting iconography of the Baniwa ethnic group and a sequence of symbols in a constructed language, decipherable only to those who could access the coded alphabet. Denilson’s magical beings and idylls of another country were a passport to dream again of a possible Brazil, a place where Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous voices are not persecuted but instead pave the way for a future free of fascism.

Hélio Menezes is a curator of contemporary art at the Centro Cultural São Paulo.