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We have never been postmodern, or Maxwell is coming

Juliana Monachesi

Thompson, Mark, Allan, Gus and Maxwell are some of the enigmatic characters in Gustavo Rezende’s sculptures, all carved in the image and likeness of the artist himself. Like Antony Gormley, Rezende uses his own body as a measure of all the human figures populating his works. Like the British artist, he does not imprint any biographical connotation to his pieces

or line up with the discourses intimacy and subjectivity that reigned in 1990s
art — despite his having emerged onto the Brazilian art scene in precisely that period. Both artists portray themselves
in their works for the sake of humanism pure and simple. Unlike Gormley, however, Rezende adds a touch of fable and narrative to his pieces by christening certain works with proper (Anglo) names, making Thompson, Mark, Allan, Gus and Maxwell his own characters.

Adding to the enigma of the characters
is the hermeticism of Rezende’s titles :Os Paradoxos de Thompson Clark e os Pesadelos de Mark (1999), Allan e o Rouxinol (2000), Taj Mahal e a Possibilidade do Amor na Era do Cubo Epistemológico (2001), Plumb e a Vastidão do Império (2002) and so forth. These fathomless titles add meanings
to Rezende’s works but confusion to any initial meanings that might be ascribed
to the works in question. In addition,
they deal with the additive nature of the operation he often uses. The notion of “double”, tautology and a cyclical notion of time permeate his aesthetic investigation. A tireless researcher of the contemporary implications of tridimensionality, Rezende is holding his second solo — Maxwell Vindo — at Galeria Marilia Razuk through February. His first solo exhibition in
the new venue, in 2009, was Crepe Sexy Thing, the title of an installation made with masking-tape reliefs on the walls, containing suggestive narratives. Maxwell Vindo occupies the walls with a more bucolic and contemplative installation, this time used as setting for a life-size sculpture of Maxwell as cogwheel in a superstructure that is simultaneously post-industrial and archaic.
Dialogue with the archaic is not a recent interest in Rezende’s work. His objects from the early 1990s, usually identical doubles of wall-hung pieces shown side
by side under titles that were also twofold — such as O Imperador e seu Dorso (1991), O Artista e o Mundo Animal (1991) or
Cara de Cavalo e o Drama da Arte (1992) — explore immemorial forms such as
the recognizable organic or geometric figures that have always been present in the iconography of art. In recent years, a

different kind of archaism has emerged
in Rezende’s investigations and this is alluded to in works such as the video installation A Natureza do Amor e a Passagem do Tempo (2002) or self-portraits in the Estampa series (2001). This is a reflection on a world that is almost in extinction: one he sees on trips to the less- urbanized areas away from the state capital of Minas Gerais.

However urban (and identified with São Paulo) Rezende may be, he has never stopped re-examining and reconstructing his vision of the landscape of origin.

The image of the rustic or rural figure
in the video A Natureza do Amor e
a Passagem do Tempo, for example, resembles a representation of Almeida
Jr., indifferent to the silent performance
of the artist beside him, staging a dramatic clash between nature and culture. In a self-portrait made rubber stamps bureaucratically composing Rezende’s former address in São Paulo, the image thus formed shows him wearing a yeoman’s hat, with a serene countenance that is quite unlike the usual facial expression in his photographic self-portraits, such as Retrato do Artista Quando Jovem (1998) or even Os Paradoxos de Thompson Clark e os Pesadelos de Mark. Maxwell Vindo again uses rubber

stamps — this time to print embellished foliage — to compose a pattern. Rezende takes a rather untypical landscape from Minas Gerais, with no mountains, just horizon, and moves it into the domain
of art. His evocation of countryside, devoid of nostalgia, operates aesthetically to generate this horizon that frames perception of distance and the coming- and-going motion of the character

whose imminent arrival is referred to
in the exhibition’s title. In addition, this arduously formalized landscape points to a meaning that is latent in all the works at this exhibition (and quite possibly in his entire sculptural production), which is that of a work ethic, inscribing in a work the same process that engendered and constituted it.
Such an integration of the archaic with the virtualized space of the hyperconceptual discourse of contemporary art, taken together with a remark made by Rezende in an interview exactly ten years ago, on answering a question about his interest in splitting or dividing the project of modern sculpture — “I am not looking for a split, I join fragments of a shattered utopia, which was nurtured by modernism”, can only mean one thing: that we have never been postmodern. Looking at the works in Maxwell Vindo, it is obvious that Rezende is committed to an aesthetic regime that confronts a representative model with

the absolute power of facture, and that opposes and identifies knowing and not- knowing, acting and suffering, in the terms of Jacques Rancière.

In this context, one has to again (re) place his entire production in perspective and reflect on the meaning of this art — in fact, the meaning of the art of a whole generation that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, to which the characteristics of historicist pluralism and stylistic eclecticism were hastily attributed as pre-packaged imports. In relation to Rezende’s work, at least two masterful works — the photograph mounted as backlight Sem Título (1996) and Taj Mahal e a Possibilidade do Amor na Era

do Cubo Epistemológico (2001) — show
his commitment to joining the pieces
of modernism and making it work to generate new meanings and reverberations that make sense in our time. The exhibition at Galeria Marilia Razuk is a unique opportunity to reflect on this state of affairs and see more of this unusual artist’s investigation.

 

Gustavo Rezende — Maxwell Vindo — opening November 27, from November 28 to February 8, Monday to Friday, 10:30 to 7 pm, Saturdays, 11 to 3 pm. Galeria Marília Razuk, Rua Jerônimo da Veiga, 131, sp, tel. 0/xx/11/3079-0853 — www. galeriamariliarazuk.com.br

[Text published in Gustavo Rezende: Uma antologia por Tadeu Chiarelli. São Paulo: Editora WMF Martins Fontes, 2013.]

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