PARIS, FRANCE.- The Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain presents Adriana Varejão - Echo Chamber, on view through June 5, 2005. Filled with references to Baroque art, the colonial history of Brazil, libertine literature and traditional Brazilian music, Adriana Varejãos artwork offers a powerful visual experience. Her lacerated paintings, ripped open to expose raw flesh, her works inspired by traditional Portuguese azulejos create a tension between painting, sculpture and architecture. For the first time in Europe, the Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain will present, from March 18 to June 5, 2005, a major personal exhibition by this artist who stands out as one of the most original figures in contemporary Brazilian art today. The text of the exhibition catalogue Adriana Varejão, Echo Chamber will be written by Philippe Sollers.
Illusion, theatricality, monumentality, excessiveness, artifice, allegory, disguise
The works of Adriana Varejão invent a modern Baroque. In trompe lil, they deceive the eye and the senses. Painted canvas or ceramic? Sculpture or painting? Adriana Varejão ushers the viewer into web of references and substitutions, cites her sources in order to better subvert them. Specially created for this exhibition, Celacanto provoca maremoto [Coelacant Provokes Submarine Earthquake]1 suggests a tiled azulejo wall: a colossal, breaking wave, in the Hokusai style, moves across the ground floor of the Fondation Cartier. A profusion of churning blue-hued arabesques, an organized chaos of foam, this ensemble of 52 paintings whose crackled surface evokes the texture of Chinese celadon creates a syncopated rhythm, the visual equivalent of Brazilian choro music. Serial and modular, this kind of arrangement lends itself to experimenting with permutation and substitution. Symbolic substitution, as in Figura da Convite [Entrance Figure], 1997, a subtle marriage between the traditional genre of painted ceramic used to decorate the entrances of Portuguese and Brazilian palaces in the 18th century and engravings by Théodore de Bry (from his anthology America, 15901635) depicting scenes of cannibalism encountered in the New World. Substitution is again at play in Proposta para uma Catequese [Proposal for a Catechesis], 1993, which crosses the miracle of transubstantiation with an anthropophagic ritual to express the essential hybridism of Brazilian culture.
Evocative of the organic quality of Baroque buildings, the jagged outlines of the two ruins in the works Linda da Lapa and Linda do Rosário, 2004, reveal, through the broken wall fragments, strips of flesh. Inspired by a real incidentthe collapse of a hotel de rendez-vous in the middle of Rio de Janeiro in 2002these monumental works produced for the exhibition are related to earlier pieces such as Parede com Incisões a la Fontana [Wall with Incisions a la Fontana], 2002, and Azulejaria Branca em carne viva [White Tilework in Live Flesh], 2002, in which the artist interrogates the substance of painting itself. In 1992, Adriana Varejão broke away from expressionist practices, opening up her canvasses, lacerating them, gouging them, letting a nether world beyond painting emerge. Flesh, both symbolic and realistic, appeared beneath the surface. A wound, sewn back up in Mapa de Lopo Homen [Map of Lopo Homen], 1992, embodiment of the sensual which makes painting an object of desire and indicates the literary background of this artist who has read Bataille and Sade.
The bodyfragmented, maimed, tattooedis often present in Adriana Varejãos works. In the saunas series, imposing oils on canvas that explore questions intrinsic to painting, it is alluded to metaphorically. Blue, grey, white, yellow: the saunas are basically monochromatic, but nuanced by light and shadows that bring out volumes and create a space that is labyrinthine, interiorized, virtual. Suggesting places of pleasure and sensuality that are traditionally lined with a skin of tilebaths, hammans, poolsas well as Carioca botequims2, these paintings are for the artist moments of pure painting, a cosa mentale. In 2003, Adriana Varejão participated in the exhibition Yanomami, Spirit of the Forest at the Fondation Cartier. The forthcoming exhibition Echo Chamber3 embraces the many diverse facets of her work. Exploring, through her themes, the cultural identity of Brazil, she has developed a modus operandi that makes her one of the most astonishing pictorial artists on the international contemporary art scene today. Adriana Varejão was born in 1964. She lives in Rio de Janeiro.