Building on the perception of art

Two artists from the outskirts of São Paulo, the biggest city of Brazil, and how they and their work have been touched by the rich variety of social problems and the beauty of such a complex environment.

Marcelo Cidade (who’s surname incidentally means “city” in Portuguese), grew up in a simple family and from an early age took off to the streets to look for freedom. He started climbing up tall buildings doing graffiti and interventions in public spaces. His contemporary, Andre Komatsu, would wander around collecting waste construction materials, and then explore and transform them, giving a new life and meaning.

When studying at FAAP University, a private school which they paid for off their own back, the connection between their creative process became clear; the challenge to tackle the the “sacred” character of the fine art thinking typical of the previous generation. In an attempt to divert attention to the problem of pollution, Marcelo once hid a pack of cement in his backpack and walked around the school, leaving a dusty gray track all over the corridors.

These two young Brazilian artists are currently exhibiting at the Max Wigram Gallery, in London. Although they studied together, share a studio and are represented by the same gallery (the Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo), their current show entitled The Natural Order of Things brings Marcelo and Andre’s work together for the first time.

The exhibition explores the relation between construction and deconstruction, private and public spaces, economy and power. It mixes older works with more recent ones and it makes no distinction about who made what.

Picture by Nara Paiva

In “Monoblocos” from 2004 (above), Marcelo Cidade challenges the weight of things by putting concrete blocks on wheels giving mobility and possible interaction with the public. In “é tudo a mesma BO(S)TA”, here playing with words – “bota” meaning “boots” and represented by the iconic English footwear, mixed with “bosta” which means “sh*t”, each boot’s shoe laces differ in colour: red for the left wing, black for the conservatives and white representing the radical nacionalists. The title suggests that it’s all the same thing, up on a shelf like a pedestal.

Another, “mapa de descentralização” (‘descentralisation map’, below), 2011, is a graphic representation of economic power expansion in a blanket of industrial felt, commonly used by homeless on the streets of São Paulo.

Image courtesy of Max Wigram Gallery

Andre Komatsu has an interesting architectural twist which frequently features in his pieces. “Campos magnéticos” (magnetic fields) from 2010 represents an attempt of rationalization of an accidental act into a type of cartographic plan. Putting a street sign onto a buoy base, “ponto de deriva” (drift point), refers to the loss of reference.

Image courtesy of Max Wigram Gallery

In “money talks” piles of sugar, cement and soil are on top of a fragile three-dimentional structure made of timber and brick, symbolising the unfair relation between power and exploitation present throughout the history of Brazil. “The English were the biggest pirates of all time”, he observes. It might sound a bit harsh but artists like them are important to put new light into old and everyday matters.

Detail of ‘Money Talks’, photo by Nara Paiva

I was curious to know about the process of giving a work a title. They told me that they like to give names, “it’s like naming your own child” says Marcelo; and it’s hard work. It is common for artists to not give any name and so you just end up with “untitled” pieces all around the gallery. For the public it’s like a tip, the concept is there but it also leaves space for your own interpretation.

Words and top picture by Nara Paiva


Marcelo Cidade & Andre Komatsu
The Natural Order of Things
11th March – 9th April 2011
Max Wigram Galery
106 New Bond Street,
London, W1S 1SW

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