Jacopo Crivelli Visconti and the second edition of the Open Plan sector

11 May 2016, 5:18 pm

Since its first edition, Open Plan was conceived as  an exception area that, even though it is part of SP-Arte, in a certain way transcends it, seeking a direct and timeless relationship with Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture. In spite of the beauty of the famous ramp connecting the three floors, or the organic line that designs the open span, the true heart of this architecture resides in the functional simplicity of the building’s exterior and, especially, in the meticulous precision in which the series of columns organizes the space into rectangles measuring 10 x 12 meters and, near the frames, 

10 x 6 meters.

The neutrality of bars is the epitome of international modernist architecture, which took over the open plan as one of its recurring elements. It is precisely this neutrality that permits the opening – in the sense of power and possibility –, which constitutes one of the Open Plan’s characteristics. The events, at times chaotic, that marked the last months in Brazil and worldwide, from a social, political and economic perspective, imposed the need to rethink the format of this segment, something that for its own open nature seemed, from the very beginning, perfectly coherent. If last year’s edition was marked by large size installations, the emphasis now is on the production of new works, commissioned by the Fair from a new support program through which SP-Arte restates its commitment to contemporary art production. Despite not having a general theme for the section, the works proposed by guest artists establish a very clear and direct relationship between them and Niemeyer’s building, some of which this text seeks to highlight.

One of the works by Christodoulos Panayiotou (Limassol, Cyprus, 1978) for the exhibition summarizes the basic premises of the Open Plan, by indissolubly merging artistic creation and the building’s architecture through the apparently unpretentious insertion of a colored glass in one of the frames that close the building’s gables. As part of a series initiated in 2012, the work does not consist so much in the glass, but rather in the color of light that, after crossing it, designs the floor in a pink rectangle. In the subtly poetic universe of the Cyprian artist, almost everything remits to myths and stories. In this case, it makes reference to the first rainbow flag of the LGBT movement, created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, which included a stripe of this same pink tone, subsequently eliminated due to lack of fabric. The End, the other work presented, consists of an enormous piece of painted fabric – previously used as the backdrop of a theater play – folded and supported by the artist on the floor, as if steered to a state of rest or mere power.

The allusion to something that no longer exists, or cannot be seen, allows relating these works with the sculptures presented by Asier Mendizabal (Ordizia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, 1973), whose starting point is a series of Jorge Oteiza sculptures (1908-2003) or, more specifically, a few leftover pieces found in his studio. Oteiza has been the object of in-depth studies by Mendizabal, who, for the Open Plan, also re-edits a poster/text produced for the last Bienal de São Paulo. By creating these theoretically malleable objects, directly inspired by the leftovers scattered by the great Basque sculptor, however, Mendizabal goes beyond a simple reflection, tribute, or academic study: as if trying to transform himself into Oteiza, just like Jorge Luis Borges’ Pierre Menard tried to transform himself into Don Quixote.

The attempt to merge historical moments and distinct personalities also marks the work of Francesco Arena (Torre Santa Susanna, Italy, 1978), who conceived for the Open Plan a sculpture/performance extremely representative of his modus operandi. Arena frequently utilizes data and measurements meticulously calculated to intertwine, in an indissoluble but also ironic and even absurd manner, history (social, political and economic) and story (personal, minimal). In this case, the artist folds over themselves two bars with the exact length of the perimeter of his studio (21.72 meters), in order to obtain the internal measures of the tents used by American philosopher, author and poet Henry David Thoreau (305 x 457 centimeters) and terrorist Theodore John Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber (300 x 306 centimeters). In regular intervals, eight performers position themselves at the four corners of each sculpture, lift them and spin them, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise, “like two planets that revolve over themselves, but in an opposite manner in relation to one another,” in the words of the artist.

Not too distant from there, another house/tent/sculpture constitutes the central element of Radamés Juni Figueroa’s installation. Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, in 1982, Juni is an artist fascinated by the precarious and contradictory – but, at the same time, captivating – reality of the Tropics. The first module of the series in process was built around a tree in the Naguabo Forest, in Puerto Rico, in 2013, and ended up becoming the starting point for various installations where the sculpture is conceived as a temporary shelter, a space of intimacy in the interior of the white cube, catalyzer of social activities, either spontaneous or orchestrated by the artist himself, which can include exhibitions, talks, concerts, or simple interaction, preferably refreshed by an exuberant Never Ending Tropical Fountain.

In the particular balance of the Open Plan, the blatant colors of Juni Figueroa’s Tropics find a surprising counterpoint in the multimedia installation by Victoria Fu (Santa Monica, USA, 1978), in which the Californian artist utilizes extremely saturated chromatic fields, typical of her production. In the majority of her works, Fu resorts to video to reflect on the way images are built in the contemporary era, and on how digital technologies influence the interpretation or understanding of these images. The error, planned or not, is one of the epistemological tools favored by the artist, and her videos are frequently constructed by overlapping enigmatic narratives abounding with (fragments of) characters repeating ambiguous movements, which seem familiar to us, but remain incomprehensive or abstract. In their majority, these gestures are appropriated from advertisements or associated to the use of new technologies, such as the thumb and index finger, which come together and then separate to expand an image on a smartphone or tablet.

If such movements and images point to a society that is yet to come, at least for a large part of the world population, the molds recovered by Marcelo Cidade (São Paulo, Brazil, 1978) from an old plastic products plant in Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo da Maré speak, at the same time, about an idea of tropical country stereotyped and almost touching in its naivety, and also about the dramatic abandonment and striping of the country’s industrialization project. The heavy resin blocks – with their figurative and abstract drawings, sometimes stylized, others almost mannerist in their abundance of details –, previously used to produce trays and small plastic containers, are now exposed as bizarre specimens of a natural history or, perhaps, anthropological museum, becoming silent portraits of a failure.

The three videos that comprise the Ensayo sobre lo fluido video installation by Héctor Zamora (Mexico City, Mexico, 1974), filmed in Cuba during the performance that kicked off the 12th Bienal da Havana, show a fascinating and decadent architecture, originally designed to be the building for the Universidad de las Artes’ music school, but was never finished. The beauty of the images, the poetry of the mixture of bird and instrument sounds, as well as the enthusiasm of young musicians who, in spite of everything, continue playing, cannot erase the feeling that the work is, above all, a poetic portrayal, but also an unequivocal abandonment of cultural and educational policies of an entire continent; that it alludes, in other words, to the reality of the Tropics and the historical (and current) contradictions of Latin America in a manner no less explicit than the works of Marcelo Cidade and Juni Figueroa. Or, yet, to make another comparison, the estrutura espacial indissociável, by Daniel de Paula (Boston, USA, 1987), the result of his recent research on the relationship between rocks and stones, that talk about a geological time,
and great construction works, which frequently only target immediate profit. The Testemunhos [Trace, mark, witness] of the eponymous installation done last year, the first of the series, were recovered from surveys executed for public
urban-mobility works in the state of São Paulo and already suggested the artist’s objection to the manner how the territory is managed and harmed. However,
the organized and regular layout on the floor, in a certain way, implied a respect and an order that the sculptures here presented, resembling more anti-tank hedgehogs introduced in World War i, seem to refute, perhaps pointing to the compelling need of more radical dissension manifestations.

The urgency in facing major battles in the social and political fields, the desire for a profound transformation in human relations, and the desire of coming into direct, intimate and personal relationship with historical episodes and characters: these are some of the recurring themes of this Open Plan edition, and also propel the work of Seb Patane (Catania, Italy, 1970). In the majority of his installations, the artist starts out with existing images, modifying them digitally or recurring to pictorial interventions, drawings or collages, in constant pursuit of an ambivalence (between the real and the possible, the theatrical and the document, the record and the representation, the disguise and the transparency), which arguably constitutes the central attribute of his work. The installation presented in Open Plan, Other Libertines, perfectly synthesizes this dimension of his work and makes an allusion to the performative nature that characterizes him, which the artist calls decontextualized performative revolution. It is from this revolution – that may become more or less performative (for example, in Christodoulos Panayiotou, Francesco Arena, Radamés Juni Figueroa, Héctor Zamora), but is always an operation of decontextualization and recontextualization (Asier Mendizabal, Victoria Fu, Marcelo Cidade, Daniel de Paula) – that this edition of Open Plan talks about.


Jacopo Crivelli Visconti is a critic and independent curator. He holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of São Paulo (USP) and is the author of Novas derivas (WMF Martins Fontes, 2014). As curator of Fundação Bienal de São Paulo (2007-2009), Jacopo was responsible for Brazil’s official participation in the 52nd Biennale di Venezia (2007). His most representative works as independent curator include: Memórias del subdesarrollo (2017), at Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego, CA), Museo de Arte de Lima (Peru) and Museo Jumex (Mexico); Sean Scully (2015), at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (Brazil); 12th Bienal de Cuenca (2014), in Cuenca (Ecuador); and Ponto de equilíbrio (2010), at Instituto Tomie Ohtake (São Paulo, Brazil). He is a regular contributor to contemporary art, architecture and design magazines, in addition to writing exhibition catalogs and artist monographs. Since 2015, he is the curator of SP-Arte’s Open Plan sector.

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