By Hope Christerson
Imagine Brazil is an exhibition of contemporary Brazilian art inspired by the acronym BRIC. BRIC is a term used in the study of global economics, coined at the turn of the century, which refers to the countries Brazil, Russia, India and China and is based on the idea that global economic power was shifting from the more established economies to those in the developing world.
In an effort to trace this shift through artistic production, the curators of the exhibition, Gunnar B. Kavran, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Thierry Raspail, decided to focus on Brazil, selecting fourteen emerging Brazilian artists they felt “delve into the multitude of possibilities offered by conceptually based works.” These fourteen young artists were then asked to invite one established artist each in order to contextualize their work, thus offering their own “original and unique version of Brazilian art history”—hence the name, Imagine Brazil.
Usually, curators will choose a group of established artists, and have them invite different emerging artists that they find particularly promising. The inverse model used for Imagine Brazil is therefore very refreshing, and provides an opportunity to contextualize the works of the emerging artists without claiming any sort of singular truths or generalizations about the rich and diverse history of contemporary art in Brazil. The works of the emerging and establishing artists were not necessarily displayed next to each other, thus allowing the viewer to note the implicit relationships between them without getting too caught up in the notion of “influence.”
While they tried not to generalize contemporary art production in Brazil, the curators did note a few key distinctions that made the work in Imagine Brazil different from the modernist tradition that preceded it. In their terms, the generation of contemporary Brazilian artists exhibited “art that communicates about art, about memory and self-reflexive considerations,” and, above all, “about urgent social and political issues,” such as discrimination, racism, urban violence, the failure of he modernist utopia, and the fragility and exploitation of the Amazonian rainforest. Indeed, although Brazil came to be the world’s 6th largest economy by 2011, the country continues to suffer from a deep level of social inequality, inspiring a lot of public unrest in the form of demonstrations.
This extremely unique curation model thus compliments the extremely unique social, economic, and political environment of contemporary Brazil, which has inspired some very captivating pieces. Here are some of my favorites:
The exhibition also includes a selection of artists’ books from emerging practitioners outside of the original 28 artists, some of which can be flipped through wearing protective gloves. This is a very interesting and participatory feature, which gives the viewer a more intimate sense of the artists’ creative process. The pages below are from a book by the artist Gustavo Speridiao, who made the large white canvas with black writing on it above. His work is related to concrete poetry, a practice where the appearance of the poem is as important as its content. This book was titled “The Great Art History,” and was made by drawing over a book documenting the history of photographs published in Life Magazine.
This is the last weekend to see the exhibition, which ends on March 13th, 2016. I highly recommend you go and check it out while you still can, even just to experience the lovely exhibition space that is the DHC.