Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brazilian Opening Reception

On Wednesday I attended an opening reception at YBCA for a show called, When Lives Become Form: Contemporary Brazilian Art, 1960s to the Present. It was a lot of fun and totally worth getting a mild sore throat over the next day.

It started out slow and the place was swarming with security. I took two photos but got stopped because only press were allowed to take pictures (I later found out they needed special stickers because I had to work at the press table). As a result, most of this blog is going to be compiled of pictures from online. Anyways, the night started a little slow, but after a couple of hours it was crowded with people. There were live Brazilian bands (both traditional and contemporary), Brazilian cocktails, ladies dressed in pink feathers and half naked, and there was art too. It was a show that could only be fully experienced at the reception because it really transformed the atmosphere from a museum to a party.

Purpose of the Show: The art show was about using cultural, historical, traditional, and societal influences that were deeply rooted in Brazil in order to create a movement of contemporary artistic statements using modern American and European inspirations, such as Dadaism and Deconstructionism to name a couple. Made up of Brazilian, Japanese-Brazilian, Jewish-Brazilian, and Afro-Brazilian artists, the show consisted of visual art, music, fashion design, sculpture, film, and architecture. The central theme revolved around Tropicália.


Tropicália was an art movement in Brazil from 1967 to 1972 that focused on how art was shifting from what was considered “high brow” to commercial art. The idea originated from Hélico Oiticica –who was also the central figure of the art show. In 1967, Oiticica used clichés and tropical tropes, such as palm trees and tropical birds, to show how the culture had been consumed by commercialistic art. It was a form of expression that protested what society was becoming.

By 1972, a military dictatorship emerged in Brazil, which established censorships on art and freedom of speech. Many of the artists who led and followed the ideas and beliefs of Tropicália were incarcerated, exiled, or executed. Despite years of having a military dictatorship, Brazil returned to its democratic government in 1985 and the spirit and ideas of Tropicália flourish once again, but with a modern twist.

Enough with the History: I will show some artists that I really enjoyed at the show and briefly discuss their work. Some work may relate to other issues and themes depending on the artist’s ethnic background.

Fashion Design:
Jum Nakao. Sewing the Invisible.

This is a modified version of the video at the museum –the one at the museum is better. Fashion designer Jum Nakao created all of these clothing articles out of paper. Yes, paper. The featured fashion show was based on traditional Japanese dresses. Nakao wanted to show the rigidness of the past and how people tried so hard to conform to these ideals and to obey governmental authority. By busting out of the delicate dresses, the models were breaking away from the rigid past and governmental restrictions and becoming free to the modern ways of self-expression and freedom. It was stated that some people who saw the fashion show had cried because they could not picture a life without the strict traditions.

Lygia Pape. Roda dos Prazeres (Wheel of Delights).

(this was not taken at YBCA)

Lygia Pape constantly worked in different media. This piece of hers was presented because of its Tropicália theme that involved antropofago*.

*antropofago or anthropophagy: a.k.a. cannibalism

Long story short, antropofago is a metaphorical explanation of cannibalism practiced by one of Brazil’s largest indigenous tribes, the Tupi. After capturing their enemies, the Tupi would select certain body parts from their enemies that they felt were "superior." By eating these parts, the individual would receive the strength and power of their enemy (eating other people was common in Mesoamerica). The strength was not to emulate the enemy, but to enhance one’s self through the actual process of ingesting, digesting, and absorbing the blood and flesh through one’s self (I guess you can look at it as a meditative thing where you put all of your attention on what you’re eating and how your body is absorbing it. In this case…nevermind).

With Pape’s piece, the bowls are filled with water, food coloring (I'm assuming), and a flavor that you would not associate with that color. For instance, a bowl with green water would be coconut-flavored. The purpose was to drop some of the liquid into your mouth and to focus on what you were tasting so you could embrace the senses –resembling the practice of antropofago. (Someone told me they saw “double-dipping” going on, so I didn’t try it).

Hélico Oiticica. Cosmococa CCI Trashiscapes.

(this was not taken at YBCA -the walls were painted black)

This piece by Hélico Oiticica was interesting. Hours before the show started, I saw people scrambling about, painting the walls, and installing things. The walls for this space were installed and you could still smell the paint when you walked inside –but I think it helped this particular piece. There were large cushions to lie down on, nail files, a video of drug references, and music that played both reggae and even some Jimi Hendrix-inspired music. It was actually a nice place to hang out for a while because it was dark and completely chilled. Well, I think you can guess where this is going and I don’t think I really need to add too many explanations. The only important thing I could say is Oiticica was a man who “was influenced by his observations and experience[s]” and felt that art should not divide the artist from the viewer –the artist and the viewer should be able to experience the same thing.

Visual Arts:
Osgemeos. Title Unknown, sorry.

I really liked osgemeos’ work. I have seen this spelled Os Gemeos, but everything at YBCA spelled it as osgemeos. Osgemeos is Portuguese for “twins.” The artist is really twin brothers who create graffiti art using mixed media on canvas and on the streets. I have seen a lot of graffiti art, but it generally uses the same media. What I liked was their art consists of incredibly thin ink lines, backgrounds made with printmaking techniques, spray paint to emphasize shadows and texture, and paint rollers to cover large spaces. Something about it really struck me and I really enjoyed staring at their pieces because there were so many details. The picture I posted is not what I saw and I searched like crazy to find it, but it is a painting from the same series.

Osgemeos creates art that reflects the graffiti streets of Brazil. However, they also add their own elements by using mixed media. Their themes range from culture to politics. Osgemeos also use bright vibrant colors to reflect how their contemporary art still consists of the roots from their cultural past.

Visual Arts:
Rogério Degaki. Vicky.

This was the only thing I was able to take a picture of, so it’s going in the blog. When I first saw this piece by Rogério Degaki, I thought it was a giant crochet of a dog with a beret. When I read the label and discovered it was an oil painting on canvas, I was shocked because the piece consisted of a lot of texture that made it seem like it was painted based on each strand of yarn. It was very bright and I enjoyed the rich colors. This dog with a beret is the only proof I have that I was at this event. I hope you all believe me.

In Conclusion: It was a very fun and exciting event. It’s still open, so if you get the chance, you should definitely check it out (keeping in mind that they don’t offer cocktails on normal business hours). There’s more to look at and I wish I could have taken pictures.

Apologies: I apologize for any long and unnecessary explanations that may have bored you all to death. If you got this far, thanks for reading!

Resources: My sources came from what I learned at YBCA. They give tours that explain everything too.


  1. Great post Leslie. I do not know much about contemporary Brazilian art so this was informative. Thanks.

  2. Thanks, Zsuzsanna! I was worried that I made this so boring that I caused contemporary Brazilian to become less cool after this post.

  3. whoops, *contemporary Brazilian art

  4. Groovy! look forward to seeing the show on our field about you Leslie?...Joking! will you be interning on Sat?