The way the gallerist Lourdina Jean Rabieh describes it the Brazilian art world is heating up. Because the art market and the greater economy are interlinked, the number of galleries and museums taking root in major cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro has grown significantly as the economy has flourished. There may not be an art district, like Chelsea in New York, but there are well over one hundred galleries in São Paulo, Rabieh muses, before offering the boom in contemporary Chinese art half a decade ago as a possible precedent.
There was never a Chinese art fair, but now there is the Brazil Art Fair, and it is utterly unique in so far as it is the only nationally oriented fair in the mix. All the galleries are either from Rio or São Paulo, but there is no more homogeneity to the artwork on view than one would expect from LA or NYC. In fact, it’s wildly diverse. Prior to entering the fair, I was terribly ignorant about Brazilian art. Now I’m a fan, and that’s partly because of the infectious enthusiasm of the gallerists, all of whom I spoke with were showing in Miami for the first time.
Cris Bierrenbach, "The Encounter", 2011, daguerreotypes of digital files,10 x 13 cm.; Courtesy the artist and Galeria Lourdina Jean Rabieh.
Ricardo Kimaid Jr., the owner of Galeria Movimento, is showing two rising stars in the world of street art: Toz (from Rio) and Tinho (from São Paulo). Both work on traditional canvases in addition to their street murals and share a penchant for the figurative. Toz has invented an array of fantastic characters that populate his pieces. In one series of six canvases, called The Joy Seller / Tropical Insomnia (2013) the image of a balloon man, based on the vendors who walk Brazilian beaches with colorful balloons that children find irresistible, transforms into a superhero named Insomnia. Adjacent the booth, Toz built a black light installation that allows visitors to enter the realm of The Joy Seller. It’s irresistibly playful.
Photography is strong in multiple booths. Lourdina Jean Rabieh’s gallery is showing the work of Cris Bierrenbach who utilizes alternative processes in conjunction with digital technology. The Encounter (2011) is a set of elegant daguerreotypes whose images were taken with a digital camera and manipulated in Photoshop before being printed on the metal plates. Claudia Jaguaribe, who has shown at H.A.P. Galeria since its inception twelve years ago, blurs the line between reality and fantasy in luscious landscapes of her native Brazil. Some are doctored, some aren’t; all of them approach an epic quality and beg for close inspection.
Claudia Jaguaribe, Boy with a chess table (2012), chromogenic print, 130 x 80 cm. Courtesy H.A.P. Galeria.
The artwork on display in Galeria Estação stands out. There are two artists who have work on view, a painter and a sculptor, both autodidacts and shining examples of Naïve Art. The painter, Alcides (1932 – 2007), worked in a style that is clean and geometric. There is a warmth to his paintings of such banal subjects as airplanes, plants, and apartment buildings. As I learned, Alcides understood all man made objects to embody a trace of Providence. He reveled in what man could produce. His aren’t religious pictures, but they are adamantly spiritual. The sculptor, Veio, transforms stumps and tree limbs into imaginary beings. Each has a distinct character, though none are given titles that might solidify the creature’s nature. Rather he leaves his work untitled so that the viewer can participate in the creative act of identification, which often turns out to be rather inventive.
Almost diametrically opposed to the inner visions and intuitive processes of Alcides and Veio, the artists that Gabriela Inui works with are fiercely contemporary creators. Instead of representing artists, her company, Multiplique Boutique, works exclusively in editioned works. “Most of the artists I work with,” Inui says with a sly grin, “are represented in Art Basel. They are already in major international collections and showing in major museums.” She isn’t exaggerating. And when she explains pieces by Cildo Meireles, such as Zero Dollar (1978-1984), or Paulo Bruscky’s mail art Em Branco (1979-ongoing), she tells the story of revolutionary artists in a tumultuous period of Brazil’s history. It’s riveting. My skin rippled.
Veio, "Untitled", 2013 , wood and paint, 86 x 98 x 47cm; Courtesy Galeria Estacao
“Four years ago,” Inui noted, “Paulo Bruscky couldn’t sell a thing. Now he is an international phenomenon. In his youth he was jailed for his art, and now he’s celebrated for it.” If that’s not a story worth hearing, I don’t know what is.
(Image on top: Toz, "The Joy Seller / Tropical Insomnia", Installation View, 2013, Mixed Media Installation; Courtesy Galeria Movimento.)