Max Bill’s Visit
13 Jan – 8 Feb, 2020
11 Jan, 11h–15h
Kogan Amaro Gallery
Alameda Franca, 1054
Jardim Paulista, São Paulo, SP
Max Bill’s Visit
Swiss painter, sculptor, graphic designer and architect Max Bill (1908-1994) first set foot on Brazilian soil on May 23, 1953. But his artwork had been in the country before – three years earlier to be exact –, in 1950, when a retrospective of his work was held at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. The following year, in 1951, Tripartite Unit was part of the Swiss General Section at the 1st Bienal de Artes de São Paulo, winning the International Sculpture Award. So when the artist finally arrived in the country for a series of lectures in Rio de Janeiro on invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his artwork was no longer just visiting, it had found a home in Brazil. His widespread ideas had already influenced the founders of the Concrete and Neo-Concrete Art movements, also known as second-wave Brazilian Modernism.
São Paulo-born artist Fernanda Figueiredo’s visit to Max Bill’s oeuvre began through the work of those very concretists she so admired, who themselves drank from Bill’s fountain of creativity. Immersed in books about the groups Frente and Ruptura, she’d often come across Bill’s name and legacy. A Bauhaus student at Dessau and founder of the so-called “post-war Bauhaus” Ulm School of Design, he was known for his sour disposition and for bringing clear-cut, simple, logical projects to life.
The fascination among Brazilian concretists – especially the group headed by Waldemar Cordeiro in São Paulo – led them to create reinterpretations of Bill’s works. Viewing these actions with irony, Figueiredo mimics them, incorporating (at times) clear and (at others) deconstructed references to the Swiss artist’s creations, as well as to the work of Brazilian artists like Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Ivan Serpa and Geraldo de Barros, creating her own repertoire from there on. Thus was born the series Max Bill’s Visit, the subject of the artist’s exhibition at Kogan Amaro, which is currently running at the gallery’s headquarters in São Paulo.
By addressing the iconification of the works of different artists from that period, Figueiredo also makes her canvases an immersion into the history of Brazilian art – one must seek such references in order to identify them in the production. These allusions are displayed in a deconstructed, multiplied, recomposed manner and are often surrounded by the lush nature she recreates and which takes us back to Brazil, incidentally referencing the iconic landscape design of Burle Marx.
Based in Berlin, the city where Bill lived and died, since 2015, Figueiredo draws on a tropical language, hot and drenched in emotion, in opposition to the work of the Swiss artist. The vivacity of the colorful acrylic paint brushstrokes she employs in the paintings that comprise the exhibition is one of the cornerstones of her work, and one that makes her visit to Max Bill’s artwork even more exciting.
Ana Carolina Ralston