Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Possibilities of the Object: Experiments in Modern and Contemporary Brazilian Art

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh until May 25th
Four stars

Revolutionary spirit in abundance pervades throughout this compendium of eighteen contemporary Brazilian artists, many of whom have been rarely seen outside their volatile homeland since the 1950s which some of the earliest works on show date from. It's all too telling in the downstairs gallery that each of the ten black cubes scattered around the centre of the room that make up Antonio Dias' 'Cabecas' ('Heads') (1968) have a slot in the top. While they look as if they're awaiting a kiddy-sized bus party, they also have the air of stolen ballot boxes put into a more fun environment that redefines politics as playtime.

Elsewhere the bits and pieces of the show are denuded completely, with Jac Leirner's 'Vago 51' ('Vacant 51') (2008) a plastic bag not only flattened on the wall behind glass, but its innards gutted, rendering it useless other than the remaining handle which effectively holds the bag's frame and nothing else.Fernanda Gomes' untitled vertically standing shelf (2013) is even more functionless, sliced so close that storing anything would be impossible.

Then there is Carlos Zillo's tellingly named 'Para um jovem de brilhante futuro' ('For A Young Man With Brilliant Prospects') (1974), which puts an open briefcase filled with rows of nails pointing upwards inside a glass case with the jar of nails that make up 'Fragmentos de parsagen' ('Landscape Fragments') (1974) beside it. Ernesto Neto's 'Partula Passo' (1988) loads a pair of nylon stockings with lead balls, transforming hosiery into an undercover but no less deadly weapon. Even more disguised is Artur Barrio's 'Nocturnes (Transportative) no. 4' (2001), in which a fabric hooded bread box hangs from the ceiling, its status carefully documented on its covering. In the everyday dictatorship it sprang from, it is the contradictions inherent in the system personified to make perfect sense.
 
The List, March 2015

ends

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