São Paulo

Jac Leirner

Galeria Camargo Vilaça

Jac Leirner’s work has frequently been discussed in terms of post-Minimalist trends and compared to Marcel Duchamp’s and Joseph Bueys’. On the other hand, her link to contemporary Brazilian art does not seem to have been sufficiently established. Toward this goal, the series “Corpus Delecti,” 1985–1992, seems especially pertinent. Not only are the references to other Brazilian artists especially clear in these works, but the exhibition in its entirety seems to be set up as an oblique homage to the utopianism of the Brazilian Neoconcrete project.

In 1959 a group of artists including Amilcar de Castro, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape published a manifesto in Rio de Janeiro in which they declared their desire to separate themselves from the “dangerous rationalist exacerbation of Concrete art.” Influenced by the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the Neoconcrete group recovered the expressive value of the work of art, keeping a distance from what they viewed as the mechanistic excesses of the Brazilian Concrete artists of the period. Neoconcretism opened a field of experimentation in which the work was conceived as a careful, formal operation, yet considered a living organism that could interact with the spectator. In this respect, Hélio Oticica’s works of the ’60s and ’70s (“Parangolés” and “Penetrables”) and those of Clark (the objectos relacionais“ [relational objects] along with her theories about the ”nostalgia of the body") most completely fulfill the goals of that manifesto.

Leirner’s work can be understood as the mark of that attempt to overcome, through an intelligence of forms, the delimited space of the real object in order to project it violently into the imaginary space of the body. In Leirner this operation appears emptied of the utopian innocence which seemed to permeate the works of Oiticica, Pape, and Clark. The delicate elegance of pieces such a Sem título—Corpus Delicti (Untitled—corpus delecti, 1993), in which a column of glasses from different airlines wrapped in a piece of felt is held together by a polyurethane cord, seems to have little in common with the revulsive esthetic of Oiticica’s “Parangolés”—capes or mutable garments to be used by the “spectators/work.” In spite of this, the fact that the greater part of these objects with which Leirner composes her recent works are stolen from various airlines brings to mind Oiticica’s Parangolé titled Eu Incarno a Revolta" (I embody the revolt). What these works propose is to parody the strategies of late capitalism: through extreme formalization and the obsessive, libidinal accumulation of objects destined to be consumed and discarded, and by means of the refetishization which the act of stealing implies, Leirner’s recent works actualize the theories of the Brazilian Neoconcrete artists that deal with the relationship between the work and the body, between the object and desire. The fact that that body is now a synonym of crime and that the space of desire is the apparently amorphous vastness of the social field is nothign but a sign, perhaps painful, of the differences and distances between the artistic practices of the ’60s and ’90s.

Carlos Basualdo

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.