MUSEU DE ARTE DE SĂO PAULO - Assis Chateaubriand

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, O divĂŁ [The Divan], circa 1893, Acervo [Collection] MASP, Compra [Purchase], 1958

TOLOUSE-LAUTREC in red

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) was one of the most important European artists of the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, a decisive moment for modern art as well as stage for various political, economic and social transformations that have marked life in the city until today. MASP is presenting the largest exhibition ever dedicated to the artist in Brazil, covering his entire production, spanning from the first years, in the 1880s, up to the end of his life, and featuring 75 artworks and 50 documents. Toulouse-Lautrec em vermelho [Toulouse-Lautrec in Red] alludes to the entrance hall of a luxurious Parisian maison close that the artist frequented in the 1890s and where he forged a relationship of friendship with the women who worked there. Extrapolating the interior scene of the red entrance hall, the exhibition brings a profusion of characters – members of the bourgeoisie, bohemians, workers, dancers and artists who lived in Paris and were part of Toulouse-Lautrec’s affective and artistic circle.

Toulouse-Lautrec em vermelho is divided into five sections. The first of them presents the world of the maison closes — “closed houses,” in French – and reveals the painter’s care and sympathy in relation to the women portrayed. The three central artworks are shown on a red panel, evoking the famous entrance hall of the maison La Fleur Blanche in Paris. The exhibition’s second section features other depictions of women – something that Toulouse-Lautrec dedicated special attention to, portraying washerwomen, studio models, women of the bourgeoisie and nobility, stressing or questioning their social role. The third segment is dedicated to male portraits. Unlike the case of the depictions of women, we know the names of all the men in Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings included in the exhibition, an eloquent symptom of the discrimination between men and women and of the role that they each play in society, in history, and in visual culture. Finally, the fourth and fifth sections feature depictions of the night life, with its bars, restaurants, concert halls and cabarets that proliferated in Paris after the city began to be illuminated by electric lighting. Here we see various characters, such as the workers who frequented the Moulin de la Galette at night to try to forget their tough work days, the celebrated dancer Jane Avril (1868–1943) or the cabaret’s debauched owner Aristide Bruant (1851–1925), immortalized in large posters that announce his shows and profoundly marked the urban landscape. Toulouse-Lautrec em vermelho also presents a selection of 50 documents, including letters, notes, telegrams and photographs of the artist and his circle, which constitute a living memory of that time.

In a wider context of the histories of sexuality and the representations of gender, this Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition dialogues with the individual shows of Teresinha Soares, Wanda Pimentel, Miguel Rio Branco and Tracey Moffatt. It will later be related with the exhibitions by Pedro Correia de AraĂşjo in August and the Guerrilla Girls in September and, in October, the group show HistĂłrias da sexualidade [Histories of Sexuality].

Toulouse-Lautrec em vermelho is being held with the exclusive sponsorship of Pinheiro Neto Advogados, on the occasion of the firm’s 75th anniversary.


Miguel Rio Branco, sem título, da série Maciel, 1979, fotografia, coleção do artista

MIGUEL RIO BRANCO - When I die I will take nothing

This exhibition features 61 photographs from the series Maciel, produced in 1979 by Miguel Rio Branco in an area of prostitution known as the neighborhood of Maciel in the district of Pelourinho, Salvador, Bahia. This is the largest presentation of the series to date, featuring a selection being shown here for the first time.

Whn [sic] I die I will take nothing, those who owe my [sic] I will charge in hell is a phrase that Rio Branco captured on a wall inside a house in the neighborhood of Maciel. This sentence with a prophetic tone offers a key for understanding the world of this area of Pelourinho, abandoned for decades by the public power and known for being a place of prostitution and criminality as well as a dwelling place for marginalized populations. For months, Rio Branco frequented Maciel and established a link of affinity and affection with the people he portrayed there — just as was also done by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) in the late-19th-century Parisian brothels that he depicted. Rio Branco began by making a pact with the people he portrayed: that the images would not be shown in Salvador, thus ensuring a closer and franker relationship and allowing the proud and resolute attitude of the characters to gain protagonism and power in the images.

The exhibition is organized on four walls, each of which emphasizes determined aspects of Rio Branco’s work. On the first wall, we have the photograph that captures the phrase that lends the show its title, as well as various street scenes in which the state of deterioration of the buildings dialogues with the uses the inhabitants make of them. On the second wall there is a greater presence of sex, in portraits and scenes of nudity that take place within the buildings. On the third wall, we observe the photographs shot from the inside outward, or from the outside inward, of bars, houses and brothels. Interior scenes once again dominate the photographs on the exhibition’s fourth wall, recording complex montages made with magazine images within the zone, establishing relationships between the people photographed and other representations of sex and of the woman.

Part of MASP’s axis of programming with shows around the themes of sexuality and gender, the exhibition of photographs by Miguel Rio Branco dialogues directly with the exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec in red, located in the gallery on the museum’s first floor, and with Tracey Moffatt: Montage, being held in the video room on the museum’s second sub-level.


Tracey Moffatt, OTHER, 2009, collaboration with Gary Hillberg, courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

TRACEY MOFFATT: MONTAGES

Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane, Australia, 1960) works with video, film and photography, drawing on the field of visual culture. The artist uses film directing techniques and images from cinema, art history and popular culture around the themes of sexuality and identity. The videos in this show — LOVE (2003), OTHER (2009) and LIP (1999) — are part of the series Montages (1999–2015), made with footage from cult classics and Hollywood films, in collaboration with film editor Gary Hillberg. These works focus on stereotypes and representations of gender, social class and otherness in cinema.

LOVE is a combination of excerpts from films in which heterosexual romantic love is represented by passionate declarations of love, breakups, rejections or violence. The drama of the scenes is intensified by a soundtrack that follows the different stages of a relationship, in a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. The video reveals how male and female roles are translated into cinematographic clichés. In the scenes, love is the battlefield that unveils power relations based on gender and social positions.

In OTHER, colonization and desire are fused in Hollywood’s “non-Western” representations. Identity and colonization are main themes in the work of Moffatt, who has an aboriginal background. The other is interpreted as the exotic seducer, able to trigger fear, curiosity, fascination and sexual desire in the white colonizer. As the narrative unfolds, the encounters between “colonized” and “colonizer” are intensified, culminating in the sexual act per se, abolishing frontiers and differences between them. The video also reveals a frequent narrative construction on colonization conveyed by cinema, which, through the eroticizing of the other, romantically placates violent colonial histories.

LIP brings together excerpts from films in which black actresses play the roles of cleaners, nannies, cooks and waitresses “answering” to their bosses, white women. The title is a reference to the expression “giving lip,” which means speaking to someone in an impertinent way, for instance, when a subaltern makes insolent comments to a superior. Moffatt’s chosen characters invert the notion of subservience as their humor and irony is a satire of racist and classist behaviors.

This show dialogues with the exhibitions Toulouse-Lautrec in Red; Miguel Rio Branco: Whn I Die I Will Take Nothing; Wanda Pimentel: Involvements and Who’s afraid of Teresinha Soares? — which make up MASP’s annual program dealing with the theme of sexuality.


Wanda Pimentel, Untitled, from the Involvment series, 1968 and Untitled, from the Involvment series,1968.

WANDA PIMENTEL: INVOLVEMENTS

This show features, for the first time, a set of 27 paintings from the Envolvimento [Involvement] series, produced at the outset of the career of Wanda Pimentel (Rio de Janeiro, 1943) — a series that remains one of the artist’s most emblematic. The focus of this exhibition is Pimentel’s most productive period for the Envolvimentos, the years 1968 and 1969, although she worked on this series until 1984.

Wanda Pimentel began her studies in art in 1964, in Rio de Janeiro, where she was a student of Ivan Serpa (1923-1973), a painter known for his rigorous geometric abstractions. A good part of artistic production in the 1960s explored new paths for figurative art (in opposition to abstract art) through the pop art of the United States and in England, the nouveau réalisme in France, and the new figuration and new objectivity movements in Brazil. Pimentel’s work, and particularly the Envolvimento series, can be understood in light of the clashing of these two apparently irreconcilable references: on the one hand, the rigor of the lines and abstract, geometric shapes; on the other, the desire to represent the contemporary and everyday world in transformation, as it is experienced and perceived.

The world represented in the paintings of this series involves a female body (even though we only see the body’s legs and feet) in concise framings of household environments — the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, the sewing room. The fragmented representation of the body and of the house is made in a synthetic, schematic, geometrized way, through precise (straight or curved) lines, fields of flat colors (without variations of hue, shadowings or gradations), a meticulous technique of applying the paint (there are no traces of gestures or brushstrokes apparent on the canvas) and a reduced color palette (often with black, white and one, two or three primary colors). The result is multicolored, bright, precise and stiff paintings with fragmented spaces and incongruent perspectives, as well as a strong tension between the bodies, the objects and the involvements among them.

From the sewing machine to the saw, from the articles of clothing and the shoes to the kitchen utensils, from the liquids that run and flow from the bottles and pans to the wisps of smoke or steam that rise from cigarettes and teacups, from the legs to the feet — everything appears to be simultaneously on the verge of chaos and yet submitted to the rigor of an order and discipline, something that the sequence of 27 works presented here (more than the paintings considered individually) reveals and underscores in an elegant way.

These readings take on a special significance if we consider the historical context of the late 1960s outside the history of art: all around the world a boom in mass media and consumer culture, and the women’s rights movements; in Brazil, the military dictatorship (1964-80), which was intensified in 1968 with Institutional Act #5 (AI-5), prohibiting political protests of every sort. In this sense, Pimentel’s simultaneously strident and asphyxiating Envolvimentos can be understood as critical and subtle surgical strikes against the entire system that was then being consolidated.

PICTURE GALLERY IN TRANSFORMATION

The return of Lina Bo Bardi’s radical crystal easels to the display of the collection presents a selection of 119 artworks drawn from the museum’s diverse holdings, spanning from the 4th century BC to 2008. The easels were first presented at the opening of the museum’s current venue in 1968, and withdrawn in 1996.

The return of the easels is not a fetishistic or nostalgic gesture in regard to what has become an iconic exhibition display device, but should rather be understood as part of a programmatic revision of Bo Bardi’s spatial and conceptual contributions to museum practice. The political dimension of her proposals is suggested by  the open, transparent, fluid, and permeable picture gallery, which offers multiple possibilities for access and reading, eliminates hierarchies and predetermined paths, and challenges canonical art-historical narratives. The gesture of taking the paintings off the wall and placing them on the easels implies their desacralization, rendering them more familiar to the public. Moreover, the placement of the labels on their backs allows for an initial direct encounter with the work, free from an interpretive framework. In this context, the museum experience becomes more human, plural, and democratic

In the original configuration of the easels, Lina Bo Bardi and Pietro Maria Bardi organized the works by artistic schools or regions. Now they will be placed in strict chronological order, laid out in a meandering path. This organization does not coincide with the chronology of art history, with its schools and movements, nor does it oblige the public to follow its course. The spatial transparency of the open floor plan and the easels invites visitors to construct their own path, enabling unexpected juxtapositions and dialogues between Asian, African, Brazilian, and European art. Furthermore, Picture Gallery in Transformation is a semi-permanent collection display, as it will remain open to frequent changes, adjustments and modifications, already planned for early 2016. In this sense, the exhibition avoids the typical ossification and sedimentation of permanent collection displays.

The exhibition’s focus on figurative art reflects the history of the collection and the interests of Bo Bardi and Bardi, who resisted the hegemony of the abstract tradition in Brazil in the 1940s and 1950s. They were both wary of abstraction’s potentially depoliticizing effects, in the context of the promotion of geometric abstraction by the US through its Good Neighbor policy during the Cold War. The current display also includes works by artists traditionally considered outside of the Brazilian art-historical canon – such as Agostinho Batista de Freitas, Djanira, JosĂ© AntĂ´nio da Silva, and Maria Auxiliadora – highlighting MASP’s commitment to diversity and multiplicity. The only contemporary work in the display, Marcelo Cidade’s Tempo suspenso de um estado provisĂłrio[Suspended Time of a Provisory State], 2008, turns the glass easel into an object of institutional reflection. Its presence also signals the museum’s desire to resume its dialogue with contemporary art in the picture gallery.