Do you have a happy place? Mine is a museum. Any museum really, but if it’s a good one too, that’s certainly a bonus.
And Oscar Niemeyer is a very good museum. It's actually one of my favourite places in the city - inside and out - and here's why.
The building itself is done in the architect’s signature style, retro-futurism, and it contains an impressive amount of exhibition space, including the inside of the ‘Eye’ structure.
Content-wise, the museum always puts up great shows, thoughtfully curated and usually accompanied by excellent printed materials (although they seem to have changed the design of their brochures recently, and it’s not for the better).
This time wasn't an exception - from circus-themed colourful extravaganza by Rafael Silveira, to whimsical design creations of the Campana brothers, there's certainly a lot to see. Some shows are more exciting that others, of course, but I'll get to that.
I love discovering new artists whose work I absolutely love, especially when you get to see the originals rather than just reproductions. Especially if the purpose of the work is, in part, to create a certain atmosphere - it just doesn't translate well into a flat image. Speaking of which, here are some images:
You walk into the exhibition through a dark corridor with bright spinning circles, which not only sets the tone for the whole show, but also separates the space from the rest of the museum. It plays the part of a rabbit hole that you 'fall through' to emerge into a weird parallel world, full of bright warm colours and bizarre dream-like imagery. Inspired by the circus, most of the work seen here balances, just barely, on the right side of kitschy surrealism.
Rafael Silveira is a Brazilian multimedia artist - his work, as you can see here, is strange and whimsical, managing to capture the tone of the circus inspiration very well. It's fun and engaging, without being too immature or self-indulgent. The combination of rich colours and various textures and mediums creates a never-ending stream of visual stimulation for the viewer.
Rooms 2 & 3: seized PAINTINGS and historical prints
The problem with getting such a strong and loud start is that simple frames-on-the-wall exhibitions that come next may feel rather dull by comparison. Even if those frames contain artworks seized by police during a raid.
Obras sob a Guarda do MON is a small exhibition consisting of works of art provided by the Federal Police - it's mostly abstract paintings as well as a few figurative drawings and prints.
Next room is a comprehensive print exhibition titled Imagens Impressas/Printed Images: a Historic Journey Through the Prints of Itaú Cultural Collection.
This is more of a classic exhibition, giving the viewer an opportunity to learn about various printmaking techniques - from 15th century woodcuts to 19th century gravures, and more.
The collection includes prints from such artists as Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.
A Vestidão dos Mapas
The Vastness of the Maps - Contemporary Art in Dialogue with Maps of the Santander Brasil Collection. The is the title of a peculiar show that combines historic maps with map-themed works of contemporary art.
This type of show is exactly why I like this museum so much - I find this curatorial approach very interesting and unusual. A lot of fine work here in various mediums, including some photography.
One body of work that really stood out to me was a collection of three prints by Manoel Veiga from the Hubble series - the abstract prints are created by altering images appropriated from the Hubble telescope. These images, derived from reality but altered beyond recognition, create a meta-universe of their own, similar but separate to the real one they refer to.
In the words of the artist: "... some of the images are put together and are worked on with both cutting them and distorting them in order to create a new and fictitious space, a poetic space with new and invented relations between different sections of the cosmos". (source).
Personally, I found these pieces much more interesting than the ones presented in the artist's solo show, Dark Matter.
MATéria Escura/Dark Matter
Dark Matter by Manoel Veiga is a conceptual photographic project, in which the artist removes the colour from Caravaggio paintings, leaving just the fabrics, in order to create a specific kind of image referencing the idea of invisible matter and its interactions.
I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of this body work. To me, this project encompasses all that I see as 'wrong' with conceptual art - one-dimensional idea, tedious repetition, pseudo-intellectual explanation that doesn't seem to be reflected in the images at all.
From the museum brochure: "Swaying between art and science, Veiga contemplates one of museums's objectives: demonstrating the amplitude of contemporary art, the transversal way she operates on, entwining disciplines, breaking its theoretical and practical frontiers".
Don't know about you, but to me that reads like a lot of smart-sounding words with no real meaning. Maybe I just don't get it.
The works themselves are rather aesthetically pleasing, actually, with the rich blacks, strong contrast and interesting shapes. I just believe that this kind of an idea may be a good basis for some experimentation, but it doesn't provide enough substance for an entire show.
There are two more shows that are quite interesting - one is a small display of works from various historical periods centered around the idea of prayer. The other is a biographical exhibition about Frederico Kirchgässner, one of the first modernist architects working in Curitiba.
Irmãos Campana/Campana Brothers
By the time you're ready to head through the tunnel to see the last show, you better hope you've got enough energy left, as the peculiar space within the Eye usually houses rather large exhibits.
Right now it's the Campana brothers, Brazilian designers who combine functionality and fine art in their creations.
Armchairs made of rope and bubble wrap, hanging pods that look alien and cozy at the same time, intricate patterns cut into wooden panels - these objects, exhibited in a dark room against neon string backdrops, are a pleasant assault on the senses. It's a visual feast of textures, colours, unusual shapes and materials - it's like a surrealist playground.
The work fits perfectly into the irregularly shaped and dimly lit space within the Eye. Some of the objects presented do away with function completely, reminiscent of Dali's lobster phone and similar objects, liberated from the constraints of utility, letting the fantasy of the creators run wild. Others, like chairs made out of soft toys, use the unusual materials to enhance the object's functionality, integrating the strangeness of the design into an otherwise mundane object.
I only wish the show was more interactive - with the pieces' incredible textures and surfaces, it is so hard to resist touching them!