São Paulo

Contact sheet by Afonso Ropperto showing performance of Xerox Action, 1980, by Hudinilson Jr.

Contact sheet by Afonso Ropperto showing performance of Xerox Action, 1980, by Hudinilson Jr.

Hudinilson Jr.

Contact sheet by Afonso Ropperto showing performance of Xerox Action, 1980, by Hudinilson Jr.

“Zone of Tension” was the first institutional retrospective of Hudinilson Jr.’s work, and follows his untimely passing in 2013 at the age of fifty-six. It was only appropriate that the exhibition take place at the multipurpose Centro Cultural São Paulo; situated close to the artist’s former studio/apartment, the center was a regular stop on his walks through the city, and he donated many works to it over the years. Indeed, the exhibition drew works largely from the center’s collections, as well as from the holdings of the artist’s family, and it was organized by the Centro Cultural’s visual arts team, composed of curators Marcio Harum and Maria Adelaide Pontes and senior researcher Maria Olímpia Vassão, all three of whom had long, personal relationships with the artist.

Some fifty works—ranging from scrapbooks, xerographic pieces, mail art, and collages to installations and documentation of performances and graffiti—were arrayed thematically. On entering the gallery, viewers saw a selection of the datebooks in which Hudinilson tirelessly created collages from 1980 onward. These “reference notebooks” also include annotations, telephone numbers, to-do lists, newspaper clippings, and, most prominently, homoerotic images of the nude male body. They can be considered a paradigm for his obsession with collecting and classifying, which is also evident in the exhibition’s section on urban art, which includes approximately 150 of about seven thousand newspaper clippings collected by the artist between 1970 and 2013, all dedicated to interventions in public space in the urban centers of Brazil.

Hudinilson himself took part in such actions with 3Nós3, the collective he formed with Mario Ramiro and Rafael França in 1979. As shown in black-and-white photographs from the Ensacamento (Bagging) intervention that year, one night in the midst of the military dictatorship the group bagged the heads of approximately sixty statues around São Paulo. Television footage shows the results of Conecção (Connection), 1981, for which Hudinilson, Ramiro, and França placed more than a thousand square feet of red plastic film on a subway ventilation shaft and the surrounding lawn. 3Nós3 anonymously leaked the news of their interventions to several media outlets and thus momentarily took ownership of both public space and the mass media.

Hudinilson’s experiments with photocopy art evoke an intimate relationship between body and machine. In three Xerox works from the series “Exercício de me ver” (Exercise to Look at Myself), 1980–83, the artist portrays himself climbing onto and caressing the mechanism. The rarely shown installation Ecco / Narcisse, 1991/2010, consists of three enlarged photocopied images printed on strips of thermographic fax paper: Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1647–52, is faced by a detail of Jesus Christ in Michelangelo’s Pietá, 1498–1500, while in the background looms an image of an unknown male nude whom the artist nicknamed Sudário (Shroud). The reflections of the three figures converge on a mirrored floorboard, itself a representation of the spring that triggered Narcissus’s desire, leading him to die of longing for his own image.

Posição Amorosa (Amorous Position), 1981, was a mail-art project that proposed the body as a stimulus for research and dialogue. Under the ambiguous imperative POSITION YOURSELF! Hudinilson invited his addressees to respond with drawings, collages, or poems about their sexual preferences and favorite positions. The 115 responses received by the artist were exhibited in the “Mail Art” section of the Sixteenth Bienal de São Paulo in 1981.

Outside the gallery, the curators re-created Zona de tensão, 1983, a large-scale outdoor piece originally censored for depicting a male organ. The reproduced billboard pays tribute to Hudinilson’s subversive, albeit often narcissistic, activities. In an era when the unbound use of the narcissistic selfie dominates much of the social-media landscape around us, this unorthodox oeuvre is timelier than ever.

Tobi Maier