Dialogues with the Contemporary
The Oscar Niemeyer Museum is holding the second edition of the exhibition "Africa, Artistic Expressions of a Continent", which is made up of a selection of the great collection of African art objects from the 20th century, donated to MON by the Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection in 2021.
At this stage, in addition to the pieces from the collection, the show will show works by six Brazilian artists, which motivates its new title: "África: Dialogues with the Contemporary".
The exhibition is curated by Paula Braga and Renato Araújo da Silva and intends to highlight, with the mix between African pieces and contemporary works, the miscegenated core of Western culture and the undeniable presence of Africa in art and spirituality.
Arjan Martins, Fernando Velázquez, Julio Vilani, Paulo Nenflídio, Pjota e Rosana Paulino
Paula Braga and Renato Araújo
From 24 de junho de 2023
Until 28 de janeiro de 2024
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In the new edition of the African art exhibition, MON promotes a dialogue with contemporary artists
The exhibition “Africa, Artistic Expressions of a Continent”, held by the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (MON) with works from its collection, wins a second edition:
“Africa: Dialogues with the Contemporary”, which will be inaugurated on June 24, in Sala 4. The curatorship is by Paula Braga and Renato Araújo da Silva.
The exhibition is a part of the great donation made by the Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection (CIJY) to MON, in 2021, with approximately 1,700 works from one of the most important and significant collections of African art objects of the 20th century.
“Now the exhibition has been renewed with the proposal to establish an instigating dialogue with works by contemporary artists”, explains MON's CEO, Juliana Vosnika. Proving the power of this interlocution, Fernando Velázquez, Paulo Nenflídio, Rosana Paulino, Arjan Martins, Julio Vilani, and Paulo Nimer Pjota have some of their works alongside the collection of works that belong to the MON collection.
If, throughout history, artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Braque have been aesthetically inspired by that continent to recreate Western artistic concepts, such influence is maintained and renewed.
“Today we are talking about artists who investigate artificial intelligence, for example, and here they bring us works produced by an algorithm, based on the analysis of multiple images of African art”, says Juliana. “Or electronic technology that allows us to participate in the forest sounds emitted by the interesting communication between the digital circuits of sculptures.”
A museum exists based on its collection, but it is through the interaction between the public and its works that culture and knowledge are disseminated. “We are certain that the grand collection of African art will always be a source of thought-provoking and enriching experiences”, says the director-president.
“The exhibition, which is a landmark for MON and the entire State of Paraná, gains new nuances. A living and pulsating museum needs to promote this dialogue between the past and the present to instigate and always offer something new to the public”, says Secretary of State for Culture, Luciana Casagrande Pereira.
Dialogues with the contemporary
According to the curator of the exhibition “Africa, Artistic Expressions of a Continent”, Renato Araújo da Silva, the works donated to MON in 2021 were acquired over more than 50 years by the couple Ivani and Jorge Yunes, owners of one of the largest art collections in Brazil.
“Considering that Brazilian culture has African ancestors both on the side that came from Europe and on the side that came directly from Africa, the exhibition ‘Africa: Dialogues with the Contemporary’ puts pieces from MON’s collection of African art in contact – donation of the Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection – with works produced by six Brazilian artists that demonstrate the miscegenated core of Western culture”, explain the curators.
By denial or clear adherence, African culture is the basis of European artistic production. “In the proposed mix of African pieces and contemporary Brazilian works, the miscegenated core of Western culture is evident and the undeniable presence of Africa in art, spirituality and contemporary efforts to establish a healthier relationship between peoples and with the Earth”, said Paula Braga and Renato Araújo.
Paula Braga is a Professor of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art at UFABC. Researching art, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, she published “Contemporary Art: Ways of Using” (Ed. Elefante, 2021) and “Hélio Oiticica: Singularity, Multiplicity” (Ed. Perspectiva, 2013). She edited the collection “Loose Wires: The Art of Hélio Oiticica” (Ed. Perspectiva, 2008) and publishes it in art catalogs and magazines.
Renato Araújo da Silva is a Philosophy historian from the University of São Paulo, a collaborating professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU-USP), and author, among other published works, of the book “Outra África: Trabalho e Religiosidade (2020)”; “Afro-Brazilian Art: Ups and Downs of a Concept” (Ed. Ferreavox, 2016). Curator and researcher, he worked at the Afro Museum and held other exhibitions in museums, such as the Sacred Art Museum in São Paulo and the Religious Diversity Museum in Olímpia (SP).
Arjan Martins - Courtesy the artist and A Gentil Carioca
Arjan Martins - Courtesy the artist and A Gentil Carioca
Africa: Dialogues with the Contemporary
Where does European culture come from? It came from Greece, we'll be told. Then, comes the next question: where did Greek culture come from? The answer lies in Africa, whether in Plato's texts that praise Egyptian art, in the formation of Saint Augustine in Tunisia, or in the African Islamic elements that constitute the culture of the Iberian Peninsula. After being silenced for a few centuries, African culture returned to influence European art and imagination from the 19th century onwards, even if it was involved in the mists of the exotic in French romanticism painting. At the beginning of the 20th century, Henri Matisse's encounter with the sculptures of the Vili people of Congo and Pablo Picasso's visits to the African art section of the Museum of Mankind, in Paris, defined the paths of the European vanguard.
So, considering that Brazilian culture has African ancestors both on the side that came from Europe and on the side that came directly from Africa, the exhibition “África: Diálogos com o Contemporâneo” (“Africa: Dialogues with the Contemporary”) unites pieces from MON's collection of African art – a donation from the Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection – with works produced by six Brazilian artists that demonstrate the mixed-race core of western culture.
Fernando Velázquez's works were produced by an algorithm that examined hundreds of images of African masks and Greek sculptures to generate an image of a new mask and a new sculpture, subsequently expanded to the third dimension and modeled by a 3D printer. These new pieces at the same time look like and are different from what we usually recognize as Greek or as African. This is because the artist used a bank of images containing noise, that is, photographs that also presented the environment in which the African masks and Greek sculptures were. As if simulating the indetermination of cultural encounters and the richness of the clash with alterity, the result of the machine-learning process reached the new by eliminating the bias of data purity.
Fluent in the mysteries of electronic technology, Paulo Nenflídio presents a – sculpture or robot? – metallic cicada that communicates with seven other small cicadas by radio waves. Every hour they all sing in unison the sounds of the forests. The communication between the digital circuits of Nenflídio's pieces is a metaphor for the communication between two epistemological veins that constitute us, but that we insist on believing can be separated: one of them focused on technological positivism, the other attuned to forests, mountains, and rivers. As if two worldviews were singing together, Nenflídio's work proposes the sound of integration.
Rosana Paulino has been researching the image of Africans and their descendants in Brazil for decades and has sent work from the series “Geometria à Brasileira chega ao Paraíso Tropical” (“Brazilian style geometry comes to Tropical Paradise”) to the dialogue between contemporary art and the MON collection of African works. In this series, Paulino questions the preponderance of geometric abstraction from constructivist trends in the history of Brazilian art, identifying it with strategies for diverting the most traumatic issues in our society. To this end, the artist combines colorful rectangles characteristic of Brazilian concretism with photographs of black people taken in studios in imperial Brazil, which distributed these images to European travelers. Geometric shapes cover the faces of the photographed people, erasing their identities. At the bottom of the composition, the scientific name of an orchid corroborates the violence of the photograph, which equates people with other exotic elements of the Brazilian landscape.
Arjan Martins' large canvas includes striking iconographic references in the work of the artist from Rio de Janeiro: the Portuguese caravel, crowns, cables tensioned by the wind on the sails, hatches, a detail of the map of Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean. In the painting “Etcetera”, from 2016, the structure of the ship forms a mask that seems to stare at the viewer, just as Arjan Martins' painting faces colonial power and its consequences in Brazilian society. In MON's expography, this mask finds interlocutors and vital force in the African pieces to discover an anti-racist history of Brazil.
Working in Paris, Julio Vilani constructs playful pieces with everyday objects, dialoguing both with the creativity of African masks and with the reception of African art made by the European modernist vanguard. Thus, paintings that refer to Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst are aligned with pictorial compositions inspired by African sculptures. In the painting “De Nattiers a meus Dias” (“From Nattiers to my Days”), Vilani joins reproductions of Jean-Marc Nattier's paintings, from the 18th century to a web of faces defined by lines that are the antithesis of French academic art. The lightness and dynamism of these scribbled portraits define the autonomy that African art has provided to artists from the 20th century onwards, distancing art from mimesis and opening the way to the imaginary machines of Vilani's other two large canvases, which interconnect geometric figures and words in an anthropomorphic totality. They are machines of thought and artistic freedom.
Like an archaeologist of the present, Paulo Nimer Pjota finds cultural fragments of who we are in the streets and unearths masks, stones, vases, and decorative motifs from the collective imagination. The masks look Greek, but the proportions are as free as those of African masks. The adornments on the screens refer to different times and geographies but maintain the character of collective creation, of what appears spontaneously in the streets, whether in a metropolis or a small village. The very support of the paintings brings the force of displacements: tarpaulins and metal sheets that have already had other uses receive layers of paint and decals. Pjota's works then become a meeting place for many cultural references that expand into space, as in “Cemitério de Joias”(“Jewel Cemetery”), from 2018, with the mysterious ceramic objects at the bottom of the canvas, in which the masks react with fright, pleasure or indifference to the simple fact that we are all of these things at the same time.
By denial or clear adherence, African culture is the basis of European artistic production. In the mixture proposed here of African pieces and contemporary Brazilian works, the miscegenated core of Western culture and the indisputable presence of Africa in art, spirituality, and contemporary efforts to establish a healthier relationship between peoples and with the Earth are evident.
Paula Braga and Renato Araújo
The realization of the exhibition “África, Expressões Artísticas de um Continente” (“Africa, Artistic Expressions of a Continent”), inaugurated in 2021, was the consolidation of a long and judicious process that culminated in the arrival of one of the most important and significant collections of African art to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (MON).
Now the exhibition is renewed with the proposal to establish a thought-provoking dialogue with contemporary works. Proving the strength of the interlocution with African art, Fernando Velázquez, Paulo Nenflídio, Rosana Paulino, Arjan Martins, Julio Vilani, and Paulo Nimer Pjota present their work here alongside the set of works that belong to the MON collection.
The Museum, as a living instrument for the appreciation and democratization of culture, shows its visitors this important dialogue between traditional African art and its transversality, which is gaining more and more space in contemporary art.
If throughout history artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Braque have been aesthetically inspired by that continent to recreate Western artistic concepts, such influence is maintained and renewed.
Today we are talking about artists who investigate artificial intelligence, for example, and here are works produced by an algorithm, based on the analysis of multiple images of African art. Or the electronic technology that allows us to participate in the forest sounds emitted by the interesting communication between the digital circuits of sculptures.
The result is an amazing set. The intersection of the age-old inspiration of artistic making that comes from the African continent with the most sophisticated and current technology that reaches the universe of the arts is presented in this new exhibition look.
We understand that a museum exists based on its collection, but it is through the interaction between the public and its works that culture and knowledge are disseminated, goods that make us more human. We are sure that the grandiose collection of African art will always be a source of exciting and enriching experiences.
Juliana Vellozo Almeida Vosnika
Chief Executive Officer
Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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