Maspe tells the unofficial history of Brazil and highlights black and indigenous art

Maspe tells the unofficial history of Brazil and highlights black and indigenous art

A black ribbon covers the words “Order and Progress” on a black Brazilian flag hanging vertically on the wall, as if in the wrong place. Next to the “Afro-Brazilian Flag” by Bruno Baptistelli, another copy of the national ensign, signed by Leandro Vieira, former Carnavalesco da Mangueira, changes the original, ostentatious tone of the inscription “Indians, Blacks and the Poor”.

The works that opened the exhibition “Brazilian Stories,” which begins Friday at the Masp, São Paulo Museum of Art, imagine unofficial stories of the national symbol that the Bolsonaristas have acquired in recent years, giving it a unique meaning. Copies of the flag made by artists who are now part of the canon during the dictatorship are also on display, like a poster by Wesley Duke Lee that says “Today is always yesterday.”

A critical review of Brazil’s history as it celebrates 200 years of independence is the main objective of the museum’s largest exhibition of the year. After a controversy that nearly removed a set of no-land movement photographs from the exhibition due to a veto by Masp herself, Brazilian Stories ended up including these works in the montage.

The gallery contains nearly 400 works by 250 artists and groups spread over two floors, reflecting on painting, photography, video, sculpture and documentation, from an arch stretching from the colonial period until today, constituting an encyclopedia of Brazilian art.

Although it starts on the eve of September 7, says Adriano Pedrosa, the museum’s artistic director, it’s not an exhibition about independence. “It’s time to think about Brazilian stories. We are more interested in everyday topics and contemporary topics. And by the succession of topics listed, you can see that we are more interested in social, cultural and political history that is relevant to people’s daily life.”

Judging by the eight cores of the show, our stories are numerous disputes – from indigenous peoples over the right to land expropriated by colonists, from blacks against whites, from various nationalities looking for a place in asymmetric society, to the subject against the state.

The pavilion called “Rebellions and Revolutions,” for example, displays the word “Fight” in giant red letters in the middle of the gallery, weaving ties between Rubens Gershmann’s dictatorship-era sculptures with images of the June 2013 protests and last year’s anti-Bolsonaro government.

Following the theme of the moment in the artistic circle, in “Histórias Brasileiras” there are dozens of figurative paintings with black figures, represented at religious services, at parties and in the slums, but also as princes of their own image.

In the “Paintings” wing, the museum commissioned complete portraits of black and indigenous artists. There are, among others, works by O Bastardo, Wallace Pato, Panmela Castro and Yacunã Tuxá.

Toxa portrayed herself as a serious-expression native woman, holding a rainbow flag, in a painting that appears next to the serene classic self-portrait of modernist Tarsila do Amaral draped in a red cloak—the contrast between the two is evident.

Organized as a gallery of Brazilian portraits, the nucleus occupies the largest exhibition space, and its idea is to question the European pictorial tradition of representing the nobility, “white men in general,” Pedrosa says, while recounting the portraits by Velazquez and Rubens in the museum’s collection. “In 2014, there was no work by a black artist on display at Masp. Those were different times, right?” , he wonders, recalling the year he took office.

Histórias Brasileiras now begins after two months of engaging the museum in a discussion of the art world’s extrapolation. By objecting to the inclusion of some images of Movimento Sem Terra and indigenous communities during production of the show, Masp became the target of public criticism when kernel curators with such works canceled the entire section.

The museum denied the accusation of censorship and said the exclusion of the images was due to a question of a deadline. Finally, he went back and postponed the opening of the show so that the works of André Villaron, João Zinclar and Edgar Canaiko Zacariaba could be included and their essence was assembled.

This pavilion called “Retomadas” shows a photo in which the Indian Tuíra Kayapó places a scythe on the face of the former president of Eletronorte and of course the rejected photos. Curator Clarissa Deniz says, “retomadas,” a term that has been used by indigenous movements since the 1980s, is also close to struggles for agrarian reform.

“So it is a general term to talk about the struggle for land.” But she adds that it could have other meanings, such as the resumption of gender itself, which is exemplified in Nidya Aranha’s work – the artist puts the milk produced by her transformed female body into an ampoule.

Pedrosa, the museum’s director, says the controversy with the core made the institution “review several processes, and do an internal analysis, of things that could be improved.” “We as a museum are very involved in contemporary debates. When you get involved more, you end up more likely to be exposed to these kinds of questions. These things are more difficult and challenging than you do at 19th century exhibitions or around Modern Art Week from 1922,” he says.

Also according to Pedrosa, the complex situation means that “Histórias Brasileiras” has been shortened to just over two months compared to the four initially planned, even though this exhibition is the largest human resource investment in the museum this year, with nearly All in-house curators and producers participated, as well as several invited outside professionals.

It’s not possible to extend the deadline because the museum’s basement needs clearing for the annual November fundraising dinner, an event that “generates a huge resource,” says the director.

In addition to questioning the role of the museum, the controversy will further spread the work of some artists and possibly attract more audiences. In response to a request from “Retomadas” curators, Masp will distribute printouts of initially rejected photos of Joao Zinclar, André Villarón and Edgar Canaiko to visitors and extend free admission to two days a week while the show is on display.

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