365 Curatorship : Empty Night
11 May 2021, 9 am
My inspiration for this selection from SP–Arte 365 is the 1964 movie “Noite vazia”, directed by Walter Hugo Khouri (and available on YouTube). The film, set in upper middle-class São Paulo, follows two disillusioned young men as they search for entertainment, love, and sex in the big city.
The overall atmosphere of the film is equally seductive and melancholic, each apparent conquest revealing a bigger void in their lives. The masterful black-and-white cinematography depicts a sexy but indifferent city of neon lights, seedy bars, and sleek modern apartment buildings, in which the individual seems to be always lost and vulnerable. The works I have chosen all remind me of the very particular mood of this movie, of nights full of longing, frustration, beauty, and pathos.
Rio Branco is perhaps the master of depicting the Brazilian underworld. His works often focus on the socially marginalized: prostitutes, boxers, gamblers… His lush treatment of color and saturated tones perfectly match the seedy aesthetics of his chosen locales. In this work, we see a cheap poster of the Mona Lisa, probably the most iconic image in high European culture, serving as a backdrop to what looks like an underage girl who may be soliciting sex work. The stark contrast between the staged aristocratic image in the poster and the young girl is as poetic as it is shocking.
This blurry image of an anodyne waiting room seems to communicate a certain dread, a feeling of bureaucratic indifference and timelessness that we have all faced at one time or another. The empty chairs become ominous in their lack of personality, and the absence of figures encourages us to ask who is waiting for whom?
Braga’s work focuses on the traditions of the northeast of Brazil, particularly the African diaspora in Salvador de Bahia, where he was born and makes most of his work. The images are taken from the Bloco Afro Bankoma in Salvador, a group that works with arts education to recover African traditions and encourage a sense of pride in its local creativity. The image presents a spectacular woman dressed in an elaborate costume during the carnival, a moment of personal and cultural nobility.
Vania Mignone’s work often imagines a post-apocalyptic world, in which people are stranded in a melancholy solitude. In this work, the figure imagines a world where we are “all together”, as the words above him announce, and the planetary system suggests that perhaps there is hope after all in a harmonic universe.
This work comes out of a series that Calzavara made of nocturnal scenes on Brazilian highways. In this case she reversed the colors, making a reference to “White Nights” a famous story by Dostoyevsky, later made into a film by Luciano Visconti. The artist refers to her works as “ways to focus attention”, typically choosing apparently unremarkable subjects, but portraying them with great painterly sensibility and visual skill to make the everyday magical.
Vicente do Rego Monteiro
“Still Life — The World the Coffee Maker Created”, 1942
Painting: 50 x 33 cm
Rego Monteiro is best known for his large Art Deco compositions, but he also produced a number of fascinating still life paintings, in which his audacious sense of composition stands out. In this work, a table, a jug, and an ashtray evoke the table of a café or bar, while the elaborate patterns of the tablecloth could almost suggest a network of streets or highways that spill into the foreground to meet the viewer.
This simple image of a moon with clouds epitomizes Luzzati’s interest in landscape, and particularly in depicting poetic scenes with very little information. Her characteristic blurred technique invites multiple readings into the image, readings that are welcome, and can be held simultaneously.
In this image, Greco portrays his partner Helena in an intimate moment of showering. This image forms part of a series in which he photographs Helena in different close moments of their life together. The image is tender and private, yet because of the photographic format we as viewers are also invited in, as a voyeuristic act, a fourth wall in the drama of their lives.