Rio de Janeiro

Cinthia Marcelle, em entre para perante (in between for before), 2015, acrylic paint on fabric, shoelaces on hardware, dimensions variable. Photo: Jaime Acioli.

Cinthia Marcelle, em entre para perante (in between for before), 2015, acrylic paint on fabric, shoelaces on hardware, dimensions variable. Photo: Jaime Acioli.

Cinthia Marcelle

Silvia Cintra Galeria de Arte + Box 4

Cinthia Marcelle, em entre para perante (in between for before), 2015, acrylic paint on fabric, shoelaces on hardware, dimensions variable. Photo: Jaime Acioli.

These days, viewers have to enter art galleries ready for anything. And yet there are still certain basic things they usually do expect to find, such as explanatory shortcuts: either a critical text, a title, or an anecdote about the conception of the work on display that provides a hint of meaning or topicality—or, at the very least, a familiar kind of opaqueness that recurs often enough to reassure us, as viewers, that we are well-moored in the realm of contemporary art. It may be going too far to claim that Cinthia Marcelle’s recent show “em entre para perante”(in between for before) subverts these expectations, but it certainly does manipulate and detourn them in a deliberate, subtle manner.

The exhibition comprised neither discrete art objects nor dispersed and heterogeneous elements in a conventional installation. Instead, it featured a single 2015 work, after which the exhibition was titled, consisting of a vast array of tools wrapped in black shoelaces arranged on the floor, juxtaposed with sheets of white fabric—with white stripes painted atop black—that hung from the surrounding walls. The overall contrast of black and white resulted in an understated chromatic cohesion that brought the two parts together, implicating the white cube as a whole.

Arranged in stripes, the tools themselves became painterly. Conversely, the striped paintings registered as objects—some of them flags, some hanging like bedsheets, others tied in knots. The narrative reference at play might not have been obvious at first glance, but it soon became apparent. The tied pieces of fabric evoked the use of bedsheets in prison escapes, and the tools clearly corroborated the reference. With almost no elements at eye level, viewers had to look either up or down all the time; thus apprehended, the architecture took on an unexpected claustrophobic affect that conjured the ghost of another place where black, white, and gray possess a much bleaker connotation. The arrangement also intensified the palpable sense of manual labor pervading the show, for instance in the obsessive wrapping of the tools or in the knotting of fabric. Consequently, one’s own body felt subtly displaced, evoking the memory of other bodies that are subjected to discipline and labor, but whose desires are irreducible to the instrumental. The architect was also visible in the one tool that broke the gridded pattern on the floor, an open pair of shears. Its X shape animated it, as if it were a wandering spider in a defensive position. It was in such formal and allusive details that the metaphor of escape became most cogent.

Finally, almost hidden at the far end of the back corridor, a clipboard hanging from the wall displayed a faxed photograph of ropes coming out of an open manhole, an image whose faded appearance made it seem strikingly melancholic and unreal. Its title, Manifesto, signals the disappearing relevance of the avant-gardes. The knowledge that Marcelle had sent the same fax every day to the gallery during the show strikes one as an almost hopeless compensation for this loss; the gesture functions as a mournful reflection on the resonance between an outdated technology and the anonymous histories to which those bodily traces allude. In a show that thrived on oppositions, the explanatory narrative literally became a vanishing mediator.

Sérgio B. Martins