João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil – 1965
Lives and works in João Pessoa
He began his artistic path in the 1980s, as he was interested on the experimental productions of art movements such as Dada, Fluxus, Situationism, Concrete Poetry, Poema/Processo and the Gutai group, when he experimented with hybrid fields involving poetry, visual poetry and mail art until he got to painting, monotypes, sculptures and installations. Still on that decade, he started a long series of drawings, collages and paintings on envelopes and family letters (“Cartas de Areia”, 1984-2021), a long work-in-progress that was the base for a major part of his poetics, regarding the decline of sugar cane mills in Brazil.
In the 1990s, his work takes on new dimensions, basis, scopes and processes. He then begins to evoke transmutations of personal and family memories with increasingly social, political, philosophical, and scientific references to create installations such as Respiratio, Lacrymatio, Laceratio, Nausea, Sudoratio, Plasmatio, Faustus, Divortium Aquarum, Ulysses, Silentio, and others. Since the 2000s, his work has been established on pillars such as memory-oblivion, tradition-disruption, opulence-decadence, oppression-oppressed, science-art, human-non-human, almost invariably adopting a Latin taxonomy and using the human body as a memorial or a experimentation site, always within the realm of the matter-“spirit” tension. José Rufino’s production is marked by contamination, by the presence of the past, by the use of material imbued with stories, life experiences, social connections and natural phenomena. Even when he doesn’t use letters, old documents or second-hand furniture, his works still evoke the past, exuding hidden existences from behind the paintings or from inside the objects. Social sculpture, relational aesthetic and useful art practices have been integrated over the years, as occurred in the course of meetings and collections of material related to missing political activists for the installation Plasmatio or, more recently, the monotypes of hands of former sugar and alcohol plant workers from the series Opera hominum. Since he’s a graduated geologist and paleontologist, the connections between natural science and art science have always been in Rufino’s mind, statements and creative process, to which he now refers as a “conciliation” of two fields, indistinctly merging them into the poetic research practice, as if looking for a sympoiesis.
Rufino’s been foraying into filmmaking, videomaking, curating and literature, the latter being always present or applied, given the close relationship of his work to the written word. In 37 years, he has held and participated in over 300 exhibitions, including the biennials of São Paulo, Mercosul, Venezuela, Havana, Curitiba and Cerveira. He has held great solo shows in venues such as Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, Museu Oscar Niemeyer (Curitiba), Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), Casa França Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães (Recife), Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, USA) and Palácio das Artes (Porto).
Rufino has produced nearly 50 paintings since the beginning of the pandemic, the Phantasmagoria series, a series of monotypes in the manner of Roschach, and drawings. He’s been writing a kind of biography about his connection to plants, botanic and natural history, while he puts together a book about his experiences and thoughts on the connection between art and the rural environment. In 2020, the artist created Instituto José Rufino, whose goal is to empower actions stemming from his poetics and from his scientific and environmental passion.
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