São Paulo

assume vivid astro focus, Transgeométricas (Transgeometrics) (detail), 2013, paint marker, automotive paint, 68 x 48 1/2 x 7".

assume vivid astro focus, Transgeométricas (Transgeometrics) (detail), 2013, paint marker, automotive paint, 68 x 48 1/2 x 7".

assume vivid astro focus

Casa Triângulo

assume vivid astro focus, Transgeométricas (Transgeometrics) (detail), 2013, paint marker, automotive paint, 68 x 48 1/2 x 7".

The dynamic changes in the São Paulo skyline aren’t news to locals or regular visitors to the city. But the past couple of years have seen a dramatic acceleration in real estate speculation, turning São Paulo into a developer’s paradise, to the detriment of many of its inhabitants. The collective assume vivid astro focus, whose main contributors are Brazilian artist Eli Sudbrack and his French counterpart Christophe Hamaide-Pierson, framed its recent exhibition “alisabel viril apagão fenomenal” (virile hairstraightener phenomenal blackout) as a commentary on and a manifesto against the state of (real estate) affairs.

The group found its pillar of resistance in Big Ben, a striptease bar in the heart of what is known as Baixo Augusta (Lower Augusta Street). Big Ben was the only establishment on its block that did not sell its plot to companies seeking to construct gated high-rise residential buildings in a neighborhood that has long been known (and adored) for its bohemian edge, eclectic social mix, and vibrant nightlife. The alluringly seedy entrance to Big Ben—with its garden bench, metal wall panel, illuminated fountain, red walls, and matching neon window frame—was the initial inspiration for the show. And yet Big Ben (all works 2013), the true-to-life model commissioned by avaf from the best local architectural model builders, who also supply models to all the big real estate developers in town, was shown upstairs, surrounded by the series “Abusadas São Paulo” (São Paulo Naughty Girls), a collection of framed porno magazine cutouts with handpainted geometric interventions in black, white, and red paint—the city colors, and the exclusive palette for all the pieces in the show.

Following the tropically exuberant and colorful environmental installations created by avaf over the past decade, this limited color scheme was the most obvious indicator of a change in direction for the group. Another departure was that, having worked with dozens of collaborators for each of its past projects, the collective made this show with only one outside contributor, apart from the maquette company. This was the Turkish artist Yusuf Etiman, whose contribution came in the form of a group of “sidewalk tables,” which were inspired by the ubiquitous black-and-white tiled sidewalk pattern designed for São Paulo by Mirthes dos Santos Pinto in the 1960s and were piled up in staggering heights near the entrance of the gallery. The tables’ mismatched patterns also echoed “Transgeométricas” (Transgeometrics), a group of wall pieces in the main gallery space, a surreal gathering of mdf cutouts shaped as body parts painted in red, black, and white patterns and attached to other cutouts of the same material but in geometric shapes. Transvestites and transsexuals have long figured as symbols of resistance in avaf’s work, and so the title suggests that the sculptures’ hybrid forms entice and challenge the viewer through their deviant play with familiar images and social references, while at the same time evoking the Brazilian Concrete art of the 1950s and ’60s. Painted black, the walls of the gallery were “tagged” in white and red with words such as PASSIONE and GOURMET—terms taken from ads for the new real estate developments that use foreign references in order to construct an empty “cosmopolitan” identity for the area instead of embracing and improving on an already existing identity. It was as if the streets were invading the gallery in order to expose the ongoing farce of urban development and to reclaim and celebrate the unique and complex identity of an area that has been a breeding ground for creativity within an ever-expanding megalopolis.

Camila Belchior