"Pateo de manobras", Paulo Pires (Foto: Isabel Amado Fotografias)

Collectible Modernism

16 Jul 2019, 11:23 am

Syntactical innovation, light and shadow contrast, exaltation of geometric forms, experimentation with different techniques, a peculiar perspective on Brazilian industrialization. These are some of the features that make the Brazilian modernist photography produced between the 1940s and 1960s so singular. Those interested in collecting or simply admiring a set of images bearing these elements shall not miss the exhibition “Fotografia moderna 1940–1960” [Modern Photography, 1940–1960], organized by Luciana Brito Galeria in partnership with Isabel Amado Fotografias.

On show until August 25th, the exhibition gathers works by Gertrudes Altschul, Geraldo de Barros, Thomaz Farkas, Mario Fiori, Gaspar Gasparian, Marcel Giró, Ademar Manarini, Paulo Pires, and Eduardo Salvatore. The works are presented in two moments: while the interior of the house hosting the gallery displays vintage prints grouped by author, in the Annex space, at the back of the house, contemporary editions are organized thematically.

Distinguished fotoformas [photoforms] by Geraldo de Barros can be seen right next to contemporary blowups of his drawings on negatives made with China ink and drypoint; or the facades by Thomas Farkas, bordering on abstraction, accompanied not only by his work of documental penchant, but also by surrealistic experimentations. Similarly, photograms, composition studies, and even vintage still lifes, in addition to contemporary prints of her architectural studies, represent the broad range of Gertrudes Altschul’s body of work on view.

Some of the photographs exhibited are part of important collections worldwide. For instance, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York holds in its collection some vintage reproductions of “Divergentes” [Divergents] (1949), by Gaspar Gasparian, and “Os bancos” [The Benches] (c. 1960), by Eduardo Salvatore. On the other hand, among the re-editions, of which some vintage prints are also part of the MoMA collection, we find “Linhas e tons” [Lines and Shades] (1950/2017; edition 1/10), by Gertrudes Altschul, as well as “Fachada lateral do Ministério da Educação e Saúde, Rio de Janeiro” [Side Facade of the Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro] (1945/2013), by Thomaz Farkas. For 2021, the North-American museum is organizing an exhibition dedicated to such emblematic pieces of Brazilian modernism.

Above: "Pateo de manobras", Paulo Pires (Photo: Isabel Amado Fotografias)

“Divergentes” (1949), Gaspar Gasparian

“Divergentes” (1949), Gaspar Gasparian

Start your own collection

For Isabel Amado, one of the exhibition’s curators, the contemporary editions represent a unique opportunity for those who want to start a collection of modernist photography. “The reprints are cheaper, usually amounting to one fifth of the price of the vintage prints. With them, it is possible to compose, at a more accessible value, a set encompassing this period of photography in Brazil,” she states. Amado also highlights the deep respect to the original intentions of the authors in such reproductions. “In Gertrudes Altschul’s case, for example, all the prints were made in gelatin silver – the technique used by the photographer – from the negatives of images selected by herself.”

Another positive aspect, underlines the curator, is that this production has very delimited qualities. Therefore, the construction of a meaningful selection becomes easier for a new collector. “Different from photojournalism or other branches of photography, in modern photography one can clearly identify the photographic language applied,” asserts Amado. “In the exhibition, there is one image by Ademar Manarini: a boy wrapped in flags made of shadows. This is a clearly modern photograph, considering its framing, the shadows and lights, and the geometry. The human figure is not predominant there, it is more of a graphic element indicating the human presence in an abstract way.”

Sem Título (1956), Gertrudes Altschul

Brazilian modernism

All the images making up the exhibition have a decidedly modernist syntax, known for rupturing with the imagistic logic valued in Brazil until then: pictorialism. In this movement, the beauty was a given, and it was up to the artist-photographer to capture the landscape in an objective manner, respecting some sort of purity of the image. “The modernists turned that over. What interested them was the camera device. From then on, they built the image to say something beyond the object itself. They used to find support not only in the equipment at hand, but also superposing and making interventions on the negative,” explains Amado.

“Taking into consideration the individual differences between the photographers, the idea of construction seems to bring together all the images here presented. The verb ‘construct’, as explained by dictionaries, is a synonym to edify, erect, architect. Such actions find materialization differently in these photographs, which at times ensue from a rigorous gaze on the world, and at others are the fruit of a creative collision with matter, by means of manipulations,” emphasizes the researcher Helouise Costa in the exhibition’s critical text.

Many of these formal changes in the Brazilian production took place inside the “photoclubs”. No wonder, all the nine artists participating in the exhibition were involved in such associations. Also, in part of the show, it is possible to observe the verse of the photographs, with the stamps and seals that the clubs used to put on the images participating in their exhibitions.

Eighty years after the foundation of Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante – the most famous of these clubs – the exhibition shows this decidedly modern thinking in a house whose architecture follows the same paradigm. Designed by Rino Levi in 1958, the Castor Delgado Perez Residence, where the gallery is currently located, is listed as Historical Heritage of the State of São Paulo. “The setting up of the exhibition was quite harmonious, and this was certainly favored by the architecture of the space – in total consonance with the thinking of the photographers exhibited,” recalls Amado.

Vintage prints

Check out below all the vintage prints on show:


The exhibition also presents reprints of the following works:

Renan Teles
“141,719 offline views and counting”, 2021

Oil on canvas
Painting: 31.5 x 39.37 inches: 80 x 100 cm

Tony Cragg
Untitled, 2019

Corten steel
Sculpture: 28.35 x 13.78 x 9.45 inches: 72 x 35 x 24 cm

Maurizio Cattelan
“L.o.v.e.”, 2020

Marble powder and resin
Sculpture: 20 x 6.73 x 6.73 inches: 50.8 x 17.1 x 17.1 cm

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