São Paulo

Lia Chaia, Pôsteres 1 (detail), 2017, ink-jet print, paper, paper fasteners, three panels, each 42 1/2 x 2 7/8".

Lia Chaia, Pôsteres 1 (detail), 2017, ink-jet print, paper, paper fasteners, three panels, each 42 1/2 x 2 7/8".

Lia Chaia

Lia Chaia, Pôsteres 1 (detail), 2017, ink-jet print, paper, paper fasteners, three panels, each 42 1/2 x 2 7/8".

Although it might sound surprising to say this of an artist not yet forty years old, Lia Chaia’s recent exhibition “Pulso” (Pulse) had the virtues of a retrospective. In the gallery’s main space she showed several groups of recent works, themselves a clear demonstration of the breadth of her production. In one of the adjacent building’s rooms, transformed into a comfortable auditorium for the occasion, she presented eighteen videos made between 2000 and 2016 (with a total running time of more than four hours). These provided the necessary background for a full understanding of the themes presented in the new pieces.

At the heart of Chaia’s work is an investigation of the relationships between the body and nature on the one hand, and the city and geometry on the other. Her output reveals her interests in ways that are quite direct and perceptible, yet at the same time very subtle. And the work possesses a formal simplicity that helps clarify the complexity of its underlying connections.

The groups of works titled Pôsteres (Posters) and Tiras (Strips), both 2017, make explicit the link between the references to human anatomy and to nature. In Pôsteres, joined sets of cutout elements––in pink and red, with curved forms that evoke beans, kidneys, or enlarged cells––are superimposed onto representative maps of the human body, the kind you might see in medical books or on the walls of doctors’ offices. These movable components put forward a kind of hypothesis of connection and mobility that can be seen as an alternative to the schematized and codified representations of the body offered by medical science. In Tiras, the same type of cutout elements, now printed with images of leaves, are hung on the wall, forming “strips” that each evoke the form of a tree trunk. The corporeal and arboreal are even more explicitly assimilated in the photographic diptych Camuflagem (Camouflage), 2017, in which, as the title indicates, the figure blends into surrounding vegetation.

In Articulações (Articulations), 2017, the assembled cutouts reappear on gray nylon screens (in Brazil they are known as fachadeiras and are used to protect buildings under construction) to form rhythmic abstract compositions. In counterpoint, geometry makes its most direct entrance in Cabeças (Heads), 2017: sculptures probing the contradiction between geometrical forms (plinths or bases) and entanglements of wires/hair that hang from them. The give-and-take between straight lines and curves replicates that between body and geometry. This dialectic is revisited, simply and ludically, in the video Para GB (For GB), 2015, dedicated to the artist Geraldo de Barros–a pioneer of geometric abstraction in Brazil—in which Chaia composes rectilinear forms out of drinking straws.

In the video Comendo paisagens (Eating Landscapes), 2005, Chaia literally chews up a sequence of landscape photographs. Faces, 2016, in which we see a spinning head covered with successive masks, underlines the indecipherability of—and the potential multiplicity of meaning in—a human face. Bolas (Balls), 2016, records the artist walking through the city, her body enclosed in a large bubble of semitranslucent white balloons. It is an eloquent example of her performance practices and indicative of the importance she places on her direct physical relationship with urban space. Chaia’s work enjoins us to think, at every moment, of what our bodies can do and what movements we can demand of them––to articulate embodiment in such a way as to be part of (to absorb, feel, react, respond to) the natural and man-made landscapes through which we pass and that we inhabit every day.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.