Two Exhibits Show Different Sides of Brazilian Art

Paulo Burscky - From the series For Our Missing Ones 1977

As Brazil is getting ready to host two major international sports events in the next three years — the World Cup and the Olympics — the country is also drawing the attention of the art world. 

A new show at the gallery Hauser & Wirth on the Upper East Side features art from the '50s to the '80s. The '50s were an era of economic and cultural boom in Brazil, when the capital Brasilia was constructed, as were major museums in Rio and Sao Paulo. The pieces in the show express that transformation with abstract paintings that use geometrical figures and unusual shapes.

This sort of art is called "constructivist" and Olivier Renaud-Clement, a private dealer who organized the show, explained that it is "is still something that is very much used today, in contemporary art in Brazil. This is something that is really part of their language and vocabulary." Prices range from $15,000 to $1.4 million.

But at the Bronx Museum, one can get a much more political, provocative take on Brazil by contemporary artist Paulo Bruscky, who is from the northeast town of Recife. He staged his own funeral and wrote billboards with the phrase "art is our last hope." His art prompted the attention of the military dictatorship and he was arrested and tortured several times in the '70s.

Antonio Sergio Bessa, director of curatorial and education programs at the museum, is a native of Brazil and organized Bruscky's show. He said that in one piece, where Bruscky walked around town carrying a sign saying "what is art, what is it for," was an example of the artist's sense of humor. "And he is wearing normal clothes," said Bessa. "Like the artist is like any other common citizen."

There is more Brazilian art coming. In the spring, the Museum of Modern Art will presents a major retrospective of late Brazilian artist Lygia Clark.

Anna Maria Maiolino - S.O.S. no Trópico de Capricórnio, from Mapas Mentais series, 1974 / 2008
Anna Maria Maiolino - S.O.S. no Trópico de Capricórnio, from Mapas Mentais series, 1974 / 2008 ( Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth )
Paulo Roberto Leal - Armagem, 1970
Paulo Roberto Leal - Armagem, 1970 ( Courtesy of Private Collection Photo: Genevieve Hanson )
Mira Schendel - Untitled, 1955
Mira Schendel - Untitled, 1955 ( Courtesy of Mira Schendel Estate Photo: Max Schendel )
Paulo Bruscky - Untitled
Paulo Bruscky - Untitled ( Courtesy of the Bronx Museum )
Paulo Bruscky - Mourning, 1976
Paulo Bruscky - Mourning, 1976 ( Courtesy of the Bronx Museum )
Paulo Bruscky - The Eye is Responsible
Paulo Bruscky - The Eye is Responsible ( Courtesy of the Bronx Museum )
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