Some May Work as Symbols: Art Made in Brazil, 1950s–70s

★★★★☆

On until 5 May 2024

The premise of this ambitious but unavoidably manipulative review of Brazilian aesthetics is that art history can catch modernity in splitting from the past and thus from itself. Raven Row’s programme has long mined Britain’s 1970s for this phenomenon. Now Brazil – a timeline familiar to art historians but distant enough to do the curator’s bidding – offers its turning points as a destination. 

The show’s trick is to contrast communal and ritual works with the greatest hits of Brazil’s geometric abstraction. Elisa Martins da Silveira’s carnival street scenes hang next to Lydia Pepe’s monochrome grids as though there was nothing between them. This tactic makes the chasm between the thesis ideas wide enough to swallow all nuance. The meme which rhetorically compels the lost “modern man” to “reject modernity” and “embrace tradition” might thus have been an apposite poster for this exhibition. 

The project recovers, however, precisely in repetition and excess. Each turn has a standout and both the past and the future finally have their aesthetic triumphs. Looking on from the crossroads, it’s hard not to marvel at Willys de Castro’s spirit-level paintings and then not to sing with the wild birds of Madalena Santos Reinbolt’s affectedly naive tapestries. The same, crucially, is true in reverse.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Oh, the Storm at Rodeo ★☆☆☆☆

Oh, the Storm

★☆☆☆☆

This exhibitions is trying to explain the concept of ‘crazy paving’ to a blind man. It’s impossible to tell where a work ends and the wall begins.

Mohammad Ghazali, Trilogy: Then… at Ab-Anbar ★★★★☆

Mohammad Ghazali

Trilogy: Then…

★★★★☆

Repetition and framing are photography’s greatest tricks.

Anna Glantz, Lichens at Approach ★★★☆☆

Anna Glantz

Lichens

★★★☆☆

The clues that Glantz leaves on her surfaces are also traps. There are either too many or not quite enough to follow or fall into. 

Julia Maiuri, Yesterday & The End at Workplace ★☆☆☆☆

Julia Maiuri

Yesterday & The End

★☆☆☆☆

One can only imagine that some unconscious loathing of postmen motivated this project.

Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low at ICA ★☆☆☆☆

Gray Wielebinski

The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low

★☆☆☆☆

I knew that it was possible to understand art and life less after seeing an exhibition. I didn’t, however, imagine that experiencing Wielebinski’s work twice would only compound such damage.

Trevor Yeung, Hong Kong in Venice ★★★☆☆

Trevor Yeung

Courtyard of Attachments

★★★☆☆

This fishbowl universe is easy sea comfort but ultimately no sushi.

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