Antonio Dias, Untitled, 2013. Acrylic, iron oxide, gold and copper leaves on canvas, 165 x 360 x 10 cm.
April 1–May 6, 2014
Opening: 1 April, 7–10pm
Galeria Nara Roesler
Av. Europa 655
São Paulo, SP
The Paraíba state-born Antonio Dias has turned 70 in 2014 as one of the most original Brazilian artists in activity. A forerunner in using video, performance, installation, objects, and even LP (pioneering the medium in the 1960s and ’70s), he continued to produce paintings, from the 1980s onwards, which remain challenging in their investigation pertaining to their limits—and its ceaseless quest to overcome them. His recent production will be on display at Galeria Nara Roesler from April 1 through May 6.
Regarding the artist’s seminal importance, the critic Paulo Sérgio Duarte comments: “What does it mean to be recent? It means having been made a short time ago. [...] But is time, in the work of art, reduced to time as in a clock, hourglass, or even the Greek term cronos? No; in his work of art, the present time brings a story and its ghosts, and while this work is an adventure spanning over five decades, it is also a story of conflicts. What we are witnessing is not an accumulation of work, nor is it the accumulation of wealth like in a stock investment portfolio; what we have is the latest outcome of a symbolic struggle between matter and thought, one that has undergone many quarrels before reaching this point; this is the artist’s work” (text from Potência da Pintura (Painting Power), Fundação Iberê Camargo).
In the works shown at Galeria Nara Roesler, what one sees are assemblages of juxtaposed, superimposed canvases, deconstructing the two-dimensional notion of painting with its volumes and irregular outlines. “These paintings [...] create a struggle between these historical poles—plane and surface—both in the metaphorical space, and in that the flat painting attempts to bring said space to fruition empirically. As for space, once the paintings assume the definite body of the pictures, the space is literal; it does not forego metaphor, the depth is real, the different depths of the chassis endow the painting with a body; they acquire volume, they are effectively embodied, taking up space, projecting themselves far beyond the wall,” Duarte explains.
But not only does this alternating between framing and surface subvert the traditional pictorial character: in the apparent monotony of the patterns imprinted onto each of the modules by the irregular pigmentation, almost left to its own resource thanks to the addition of volatile materials—pigments, mineral elements, agglutinants—Dias creates chromatic units that integrate the set like pieces in a mosaic, forming tricky visual nuances, which mislead the eye by abruptly disrupting color temperatures and organic patterning.
Through this plurality of convergent actions, the artist makes complex the very pictorial procedure, creating the possibility for chance even in conscious fashion. Dias frustrates the expectation of sight, in a movement that awakens viewers accustomed to the harmony and perfection typical of the technological and industrial world. Or, as Duarte puts it, “the plastic bluntness, the power of the strictly pictorial element that resides in this expansion and multiplication of the ‘picture,’ is no longer a ‘picture,’ in the sense of what tradition would label as a painting par excellence. They are many in one. And they aspire to a totality.”
Thus, these works keep alive the research and the trailblazing character that have marked the Paraíba-born artist’s work since he first became involved in the art world, when he moved to Rio in the late 1950s to attend the engraving lessons by Oswaldo Goeldi (1895–1961). In the year of 1968 he produced works with a conceptual language, such as his “The Illustration of Art” series. Later on, he created pieces that presented themselves as self-portraits, including The Art of Transference (1972) and the film installation A Fly in My Movie (1974). Audience participation in his work is at times demanded intensely, as is the case with the installation Do It Yourself: Freedom Territory, from 1968 (featured in the 29th Biennial of São Paulo, 2010). Having straddled wildly diverse techniques, Antonio Dias is described by critic and curator Paulo Herkenhoff as the “main link between the neoconcretists and the artists of the 1970s: between Hélio Oiticica and Cildo Meireles, Lygia Clark and Tunga, the non-objects and Waltercio Caldas, not to forget Ivens Machado and Iole de Freitas, or even those who worked alongside Meireles in the 1960s, such as Barrio, Raimundo Colares and Antonio Manuel. Dias tempers the presence of the word between conceptual art and the tradition of concrete poetry.”
Parallel to the show at the gallery, Antonio Dias is featured at Fundação Iberê Camargo (Rio Grande do Sul) from March 13 to 18 with the show Potência da Pintura (Painting Power), curated by Paulo Sérgio Duarte.
Antonio Dias was born in Campina Grande, Paraíba, in 1944, and lives and works between Rio de Janeiro and Milan. He featured in the 1981, 1994, 1998 and 2010 editions of the Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil. Recent group shows include Pop, realismi e politica (Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bergamo, Italy, 2013); and Order, chaos, and the space between (Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, USA). Recent solo shows include Anywhere is my land (Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, 2010); and Antonio Dias – Anywhere is My Land (Daros Latinamerica, Zurich, Switzerland, 2009). His work is part of international public collections, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany; Daros Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka, Croatia; and Städtische Galerie Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany. His work is also part of Brazilian collections such as Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro and Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC-USP), São Paulo.