Texts / Frederico Coelho
Familiar Strangers(Frederico Coelho - text for the exhibition “Collision Collusion Collision,” at Lurixs gallery in August of 2018)
A few years ago, Gustavo began an aesthetic experiment through his Instagram account. As a resident of New York for seven years, the daily commute to his studio in Harlem has become the grounds for a visual and conceptual examination. The series, entitled "Turrell of Harlem" (a work in hashtag), set the tone for a poetic synthesis of work presented at Lurixs. All of the works engage a series of concerns that unfold on various fronts, the first being a journey through a robust set of ideas produced by the history of art (i.e., the archive, tradition) and contemporary expectations. Here, nothing is gratuitous or excessive. In the works, Gustavo is observing the industrial materiality of our time through a network of meetings and disagreements, or, in the words used in the exhibition, of collusions and collisions.
If art history and the streets are these vectors of the invention of the new from possible collisions in the production of "familiar strangers," it is because Gustavo believes that it is not about producing new forms or claiming a personal style. Everything is loose on the air platform. It is about colliding things in intervals: small displacements whose gaps (between eye and reflex, concrete and glass, consumption and nature) allow the emergence of new meanings for the gaze—his and ours.
In "Harlem Turrell," for example, Gustavo references the North American artist James Turrell, who is celebrated for his experiments with light, color, and space, by documenting the brick landscape of a historical building. As shown in more than three hundred photos recorded over the course of the four years between 2013 to 2017, the repetition of the emptiness between the buildings displaces the material reference—space—in favor of the playful fluctuation of light—time. The gap between the buildings gains density when we retain Turrell's reference in our eyes. Exemplifying the artist's commitment to questioning institutional exhibition spaces, Gustavo's research allows us to acknowledge the art simulated by everyday landscapes. This process of approaching by edges, of rubbing surfaces, can also be seen in his metallic sculptures from the series “Measure of Dispersion.” In the title, Gustavo again privileges the contact between concepts whose overlaps activate a certain friction. The measure of dispersion—that is, the calculation of loss—can be extended to situations in which multiple mirrors—the measure—cause the dismantling of the gaze—the dispersal. Whatever perspective we approach, we automatically lose it. In the mirroring of the world, what we look at somehow looks beyond us. Its impeccably polished materials of each piece seem to refer to the place that minimalism holds in our aesthetic archive. But here the collision and the interval settle: each piece's materials are automotive, ordinary industrial products, displaced to a degree that its finished presentation eludes and overwhelms the senses.
And what happens when the history of art, rather than serving just as a reference, becomes the materials for this method of collusion and collision? While examining José Ribera's painting "Martyrdom of San Felipe" (1629), Gustavo found that something in this solemn religious scene does not fulfill his expectations: the saint's eyes wandering in a gaze of abandonment and loneliness. In Gustavo's rendition, he implements a modern grid—as baroque as the motif of painting—made of thousands of pieces of Legos and diminishes San Felipe's naturalistic condition as a man of the people. The overlap—another collision—between sacred iconography and the playful surface transforms martyrdom into an act without redemption and, for Gustavo, interrupts the possibility of a conviction. His desire to impose friction on these materials only reinforces this quest for semantic lapses that expand our interpretations.
If there is something "minimal" in the work of Gustavo Prado, it is his strategies. Minimalistic by nature, their effectiveness often reaches maximal strength. Whether in video, photography, sculpture or on canvas, we see in this exhibition Gustavo's mindset as a collector of material "traumas" and semantic breaches. His work, viewed together, draws attention to something central to our present moment: failure. His eyes look for veins that lead to symbolic familiarizes and approximations rather than resemblance. Without needing to smooth the edges, without claiming formal purity, Gustavo experiences the things he finds in the world guided by his ideas about art, design, city, and life. As in his beaten cars, every minimal difference serves to increase the illusion of sameness. An overarching trajectory present in his works is that, like reflections, they do not guarantee the integrity of the image and, instead, fracture the world into similarities and differences. In perceiving failure, Gustavo focuses our gaze onto what we can see, even when we do not see it.
Frederico Coelho is a researcher, essayist and professor of Brazilian Literature and Performing Arts at PUC-Rio. He was assistant curator at MAM-RJ between 2009 and 2011. He participates as an associate researcher at the Center for Studies in Literature and Music (NELIM) at PUC-Rio. He wrote articles for magazines and periodicals such as Sibila, Historical Studies, Margins, Erratic, Lump, National Library History Magazine, Collection, Contemporary Brazilian Culture, Ramona and Vogue. In addition, he published articles in collections on music, football and behavior and organized, alongside Santuza Naves and Tatiana Bacal, the book MPB - Entrevistas (Editora UFMG, 2005). He worked as a researcher and published an article in the catalog of the exhibition Tropicalia - A Revolution in Brazilian Culture (Cosac Naify, 2006). In 2006, he participated in the research and content elaboration of the website www.tropicalia.com.br He organized three books in the Encontros series, by Azougue Editorial: Tropicália with Sérgio Cohn (2008), Tom Jobim with Daniel Caetano (2011) and Silviano Santiago (2011). He launched the books Museum of Modern Art - Architecture and Construction (organizer, Cobogó, 2010), Book or book me - the Babylonian writings of Hélio Oiticica (EdUERJ, 2010), I, Brazilian, confess my guilt and my sin - marginal culture in Brazil 1960/1970 (Civilização Brasileira, 2010) and Contemporary Brazilian Painting (organizer with Isabel Diegues, Cobogó, 2011.
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