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>> Profession: Woman Artist
>> El Regreso de los Gigantes:
>> And the Giants Crossed the Atlantic
>> The Other View
>> Giants in the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Monterrey

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The Other View – Brazilian Artists in the Collection of the German Bank

“Art progresses. But the artworks always point back, not only as historical documents, but because they present occasion for reflection – reflection on our own image, in a constant state of change.” With these words, Friedhelm Hütte, curator of the German Bank collection, challenged the visitors to El Regreso de los Gigantes/ The Return of the Giants to experience the exhibition, now being shown in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Monterrey, as a chance for self-reflection.

The presentation of this exhibition in Latin American however, gives rise to a critical question: what kind of image has our “Western culture” created in relation to the art of these countries?
Popular media such as film and music have long since discovered for themselves the potential of the region. The international success of films such as “Amores Perros” and “Central do Brasil,” or of the singer Chakira, show, not without irony, that these cultures now confront us on the same cultural level. Since the 1990s, the reputation of the art of the “South” has grown continually. Fine artists from Argentina, Brasil, Chile, and Mexico are now a fixed part of gallery and museum collections, and are regularly represented at major exhibitions throughout the world.

The collection of the German Bank has also long turned its attention to the art of South America. The artistic development of Brasil, for example, could be studied systematically based on works found in the collection. Included are three artists who have had a decisive influenced on contemporary developments: Daniel Senise, Beatriz Milhazes and Ernesto Neto are today internationally shown. In the case of Senise and Milhazes, their relation to German Neo-Expressionism helped provide an impetus for the definition of their own positions.

Daniel Senise: "Bia chorando sobre leite", 1990
© Arco, arte contemporanea, galeria bruno musatti, São Paulo

Daniel Senise: "Febre", 1990
© Arco, arte contemporanea, galeria bruno musatti, São Paulo

Daniel Senise (b. 1955), along with over a hundred other artists, came to the attention of the international art world in 1984 on the occasion of the exhibition Como Vai Você Geração 80?/ How Goes It, Generation 80? in the Parque Lage of Rio de Janeiro’s Brasilian School of Fine Arts. After many years of hostility towards art under a rigid military regime, young artists began to make themselves seen and heard with unrestrained, even supercilious, vehemence. Their opposition was especially directed towards the theoretical over-determination of minimalism and the conceptual art of the 1970s.

The parallels to Heftige Malerei in Germany are clearly apparent, even though figurative painting was less prominent, and abstraction continued. Several exhibitions in the major museums of the country, and the Biennale of São Paulo in 1983, had introduced a larger interested public to the works of A.R. Penck, Markus Lüpertz, and Anselm Kiefer. Kiefer was one of the strongest points of reference for the painter Senise, whose canvases became a form of micrological analysis of his fragmentarily percieved world. In the works Bia chorando sobre leite/Bia crying over milk and Febre/Fever the vital and expressive brush strokes remain dominant.
“Our modern spirit turns us into victims of modernity,” stresses Senise, with his strong aversion to electronic media and video art.

Painting however, he experiences as a challenge. In the face of what he sees as an all encompassing automatism, he looks to painting for an immediate relation to the world.

An entirely different view is opened up in the works of Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960), who also presented her work as part of the exhibition Geração 80. In contrast to Daniel Senise’s calm and penetrating images, Milhazes’ paintings are characterized by a light and colorful excentricity. Color, ornament, and exotic forms reveal themselves on closer examination to be objects from daily life: plants, roses, balloons, lace, amulets, which find each other in elegant collages. Her painting joins the culture of everyday life in Brasil with modernity, mediated both by local and international developments, by the contemporary as well as to the historical: Brazilian baroque alongside peace signs from the Sixties.

Beatriz Milhazes: "O Sabado", 2000
© Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery and Galeria Camargo Vilaco, São Paulo

>Milhazes’ work reflects ironically on the contrast through which the artist also understands the oppositions in the highly diversified culture and society in which she lives. Her works are urban. The colorful playfullness of her images can all too quickly transform into a nightmare world of violence and chaos.

As different as the works of Senise and Milhazes certainly are, they are united by social critique as motivation. Ernesto Neto (b. 1964), the youngest of the artists presented here, can only indirectly be so characterized. His space-dominating sculptures of transparent nylon are the results of his struggle to define his relation to the body-centered Neo-Concrete art of Brazil. With his installations, Neto speaks consciously to the senses: his nylon sculptures, often filled with exotic spices, but also with cement, want to seduce the viewer. They demand to be touched, overstepping the normal boundries of the art world. The interaction between viewer and work transforms itself into an intimate dialoge of desires, unmasking the self-imposed constraints to which we daily subject ourselves.

Ernesto Neto: "O Ser, O Tempo", 2000
© Galeria Camargo Vilaco, São Paulo

Ernesto Neto: "In Between Bo Ali", 2000
© Galeria Camargo Vilaco, São Paulo

The works on paper by Ernesto Neto in the collection of the German Bank, such as O Ser, O Tempo/Being, Time from the year 2000, illustrate the artist’s continuous search for the right relationship between body and space, form and composition. Defining oneself in relation to experienced reality is not only a question of artistic positioning. Most generally, it demands a critical evaluation of one’s own view of an already long completed, global cultural shift.

Maria Morais

Translation: Clifford Jones