top of page

Gus and the Little Animals

Fernando Oliva

Gustavo Rezende affectionately embraces his self-portrait-sculpture, and diagonally pivots this 1.67-meter tall man to show me how to walk him around the studio, still awed by the consummation of his piece after endless days spent trying to carve wood to a shape as similar as possible to his own body.

Although doubles were explicitly represented in his previous works (such
as O Artista e o Mundo Animal, from
1991), the image we now see here in Gus
e os Pequenos Animaizinhos is unique. Among the new possibilities offered by
the work, we note that the figure of the artist is steadily moving forward, as if
to point to a course free of hesitations, joining intentions and desires as it moves. However, his right hand is holding a carrot as attraction for a group of wooden rodents (beaver, squirrel, hare, agouti, and river- rat).
In the course of his artistic career, Rezende’s critiques have perused the history of art and have usually involved subtle irony (such as Cara de Cavalo e o Drama da Arte, 1992), which pointed to the problematic situation of Helio Oiticica’s oeuvre in the market). Gus confronts — by no means gratuitously — the “statue’s” unstable posture with his use of a heavy and noble material such as wood. Rezende refuses to laud any properties that wood may have, preferring to leave bare surfaces bearing the iconic marks of process (to use a term dear to modernist sculptors) — in this case clearly evinced by the ostensible absence of finishing.
Due to its somewhat enigmatic title
and ambiguous presence in the world
(we wonder whether it is an inanimate being about to come to life, or perhaps a sadly punished human whom the gods have doomed to permanent immobility) the work transports us to the world of mythology and fables. More directly, the situation brings to mind the well-known iconography of Saint Francis of Assisi,
the kindly patron saint of animals. Again Rezende seems to devise a strategy laden with humor and irony by taking Gus to the “lion’s den” of a commercial art gallery. Instead of the biblical parable’s harmless cats and pigeons, these wild rodents bear more resemblance to rats.

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

bottom of page