In the Details: A Journey into the Contemporary Art of Brazil

The Past/Future/Present exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum consists of 70 pieces of work created by 59 artists examining histories of Brazil during the 1990s and 2010s. (Sara Edwards/DD)
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The Past/Future/Present exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum presents the viewpoint of cultural norms and traditions explored by the artists through Brazilian contemporary art.

The exhibit consists of 70 pieces of work created by 59 artists with mediums ranging from photography, sculptures, installments, performance and cinematography, each examining histories of Brazil during the 1990s and 2010s.

Upon walking into the gallery, I was immersed in an exhibit as diverse as Brazil’s history and culture. The exhibit comes from the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil and is the first large-scale exhibit to come to the United States from the art house.

The exhibit is divided into five different yet intertwining themes: The Body/The Social Body; Shifting Identities; The Reinvention of the Monochrome; Landscape, Reimagined; and Impossible Objects. What really stood out to me about these themes was how loosely connected they were with each of the artworks, each piece reflecting multiple themes while also illustrating the artist’s perspective of Brazilian customs.

As I walked around I was opened up to different cultural views of the artists, from a video of two women stopping traffic with a traditional fire-dance performance to a tin lunch box with what appeared to be a faint face mold with the Portuguese word “lute”, which means “fight” in English.

Just upon first impressions, visitors are given the opportunity to creatively interpret each piece of work allowing them to navigate their way around the exhibit with an open mind. Through the unique and diverse pieces, I saw each of the themes come to life. Through frames of broken glass and panels of steel with bullet hole tracings, I saw violence. Through monochromatic pictures, I saw abandonment. And through a peephole to what seemed like random pictures hanging from the ceiling, I saw change and possibility.

The variety of messages and mediums introduced me to how unclassifiable Brazilian contemporary art really is. Its concepts and artistic elements are so distinct they can’t be categorized into one class of art. It gives insight into past traditions and customs celebrated throughout time and opens up a broader mindset to what new customs may arrive with future generations.

Past/Future/Present: Contemporary Brazilian Art from the Modern Art House in São Paulo is currently on display at the Phoenix Art Museum. It will be on display until Dec. 31, 2017.

Contact the reporter at smedwar7@asu.edu.

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