São Paulo

Renata Pedrosa

Galeria Virgílio

Two subjects have become conceptual pillars of the work of São Paulo–based artist Renata Pedrosa: the precariousness of life in large cities and the inexhaustible voracity for images. These topics acquired a more defined profile in 2001, when Pedrosa was commissioned by the cultural center of the Bank of Brazil to create a work of art adjacent to its historic building in downtown São Paulo. The artist constructed an undulating sculpture of Cor-Ten steel to function as a resting place for the bustling population that circulates daily in that highly concentrated urban area. After its inauguration, the work slowly became transformed into a trash repository and a wall for commercial posters, until the decision was made to remove it.

The episode had a transformational effect on Pedrosa’s production. Since that time she has been dedicated to creating impermanent works, sculptures made primarily from the same materials used in everyday construction and the life of street people: plywood, cardboard, and felt. The works are designed to be touched, dismantled, fragmented, and reshaped—an organic addition to the discontinuous flow of the city. Thus the artist’s recent installation De Meio em Meio (Half Measures) (all works 2008–2009) plays with the notion of things done badly, left half finished, precisely as in the rhythm of urban life. The title also refers to a deliberately low-tech process that the artist adopted to animate the work. Pedrosa first made a drawing based on observations of a specific scene in São Paulo. She drew the facade of a large building surrounded by construction work with wooden sheathing, stairways, and signs and linked to a crowded system of exposed wires, but also surrounded by trees, exemplifying the contradictions in the São Paulo landscape. Once the artist completed the drawing, she transferred it forty times, using a method resembling frottage, to sheets of graph paper, displacing the drawing by half a centimeter each time. Through the superimposition and photographic registration of forty drawings each shifted a little further along, Pedrosa achieved her low-tech “animation.”

This use of an apparently primitive and easily reproduced procedure was typical of the exhibition. The installation Nome (Name) likewise demonstrates the radical contrasts typical of an economic center like São Paulo. Large sheets of rice paper fl uttering in the breeze serve as unstable screens for the projection of drawings, each depicting a large suspension bridge recently constructed in the city. The beautiful and impressive bridge, which has already become the city’s visual symbol, conceals behind it a large favela. Without making use of an explicit narrative, Pedrosa echoes the contrast between these areas through a drawing of a pull-cart typically used by the shantytown’s residents, who move through the streets and pick from the trash anything of value to resell in informal marketplaces. The drawing of the cart, executed in pencil and dry pastel on rice paper, serves as a background for the projected bridge, creating an illusion of three-dimensionality. Moreover, Nome has as its musical background a song by the Brazilian rapper B Negão, who makes a point of distributing his music for free online. Pedrosa thus alludes to the contrast between the ease with which images and sounds can be reproduced today and the increasing stringency of copyright laws that ultimately reinforce the enormous material and cultural gap between rich and poor. The power of Pedrosa’s art is based on the permeable boundary between the two.

Katia Canton

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.