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Miguel Rio Branco

Christopher Grimes Gallery

You’d be hard-pressed to conjure a phrase at once more earthy and more theatrical than “I won’t take anything with me when I die, those who owe me something will pay me in hell.” Miguel Rio Branco found the line scrawled on a wall in the Brazilian city of Salvador and employed it as the title of a nineteen-minute thirty-eight-second film he made between 1979 and 1981 and also as the title of this exhibition, which presented the film alongside photographs shot in Salvador in ’79. The textual lift is just one example of the artist’s penchant for finding baroque theater in the grittiest elements of the everyday—a habit of mind that led David Levi Strauss to compare Rio Branco to Caravaggio in these pages a decade ago.

The Rio Branco who gained notoriety in the ’90s is more polished than the one who made the work in this show, but the core of his project is fully formed even in these early

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