São Paulo

Járed Domício

Centro Cultural São Paulo is the municipal cultural center of Brazil’s (and Latin America’s) richest city, a metropolis whose budget is the third largest in the country after those of the federal government and the state of São Paulo. In contrast to the sparkling Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the state’s well-kept art museum, however, the CCSP is by no means an expression of Paulistano wealth. On the contrary, it enjoys very limited resources for its exhibitions. Its building is also far from efficient and seems like yet another example of those ambitiously commissioned government structures—spectacular, poorly designed, and haphazardly finished—typical of the Latin American megalopolis. Yet, overcoming its exigencies through seriousness and shrewd curating, the CCSP has since 1990 been organizing a series of yearly projects with emerging artists that has launched many of the most notable new Brazilian names. These “simultaneous one-person exhibitions” are always accompanied by simple, straightforward brochures, featuring tiny illustrations (at least they’re in color) and texts written by likewise emerging critics.

The specific contextual contradictions of the CCSP’s exhibition program are particularly relevant to one of its recent shows, that of Járed Domício. Domício lives and works in Fortaleza, Ceará, in the poor northeastern part of Brazil. Very few contemporary artists from this region have gained international or even domestic recognition; one thinks only of Antonio Dias, from João Pessoa; Tunga, from Palmares; and Leonilson, also from Fortaleza. All three moved very early on to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, the country’s main cultural capitals, in order to pursue their work. Marepe, living in a small town in Bahia, remains a notable exception. Domicio’s exhibition didn’t address the geopolitics of the Brazilian art world directly but somehow seemed to tap into them.

Selected for what is perhaps the country’s most prestigious venue for young artists, Domício strolled the streets of the big city in search of nothing but small stones that for some reason attracted his attention. With a handful of these, the artist produced his In calço, 2004. Within the space that the CCSP is able to offer, Domício’s gesture was a small one and could almost have passed unnoticed: The artist propped up the white partition walls with a few unremarkable stones collected outdoors. (The work’s title is an untranslatable pun with the Portuguese word for “propped” rendered as a fake Latin expression.) The effect was of one of the type that is almost too subtle, but once perceived takes on a surprising and powerful dimension: The slightly propped walls have cracked, making evident their precarious construction, their poorly finished joints and edges. This slight unbalancing and fracturing of the temporary exhibition architecture in turn echoed the same features found in the supposedly more solid and permanent one that encloses it. Domício’s installation faces the CCSP’s large atrium space, filled with mezzanines and crisscrossing ramps cast in stained concrete, which, despite their grandiloquence, seem strangely to compound our loss of equipoise here. Furthermore, the CCSP building is positioned on a slope that joins two roads; perhaps Domício’s stones, temporarily propping up its inner walls, succeeded in lending, after all, a final and well-balanced equilibrium to the great city’s cultural center.

Adriano Pedrosa