Abdias Nascimento and Alfredo Volpi dialogue at Masp

Exhibitions explore lesser-known facets of artists; video room presents works by Letícia Parente

Abdias Nascimento: a Panamanian artist, which opens tomorrow, 25.2, at Masp, is an exhibition entirely thought up based on Nascimento's work, from the names of the nuclei, which refer, for example, to the titles of his texts, to the expography, designed in the shape of a crossroads — in umbanda, where offerings to Exu are made. 

Nascimento participated in the formation of the Frente Negra Brasileira, a movement and later political party created in the 1930s, and in the founding of the Teatro Experimental do Negro. During the military dictatorship, he went into exile in the United States, where his artistic work is more celebrated than here. He was also a federal deputy and senator. In 2010, the year before his death, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Okê Oxóssi, 1970, Abdias Nascimento, acervo MASP, doação Elisa Larkin Nascimento | Ipeafro, no contexto da exposição Histórias afro-atlânticas, 2018
Okê Oxossi, 1970, Abdias Nascimento, MASP collection, donation Elisa Larkin Nascimento | Ipeafro, in the context of the exhibition Afro-Atlantic Stories, 2018

The exhibition at Masp is the largest dedicated to Nascimento's work to date and reveals to visitors his facet as an artist, less explored in his career as an intellectual, political activist, playwright, actor, writer and director. The curators are Amanda Carneiro and Tomás Toledo. 

A Panamanian artist presents how Nascimento transposed and materialized concepts that guided his fight against racism and by valuing black culture in shapes, colors and symbols. 

With an emphasis on the red, green and yellow of the Pan-Africanist movement — which proposes the union of the peoples of Africa to enhance the continent's voice — its geometric abstractions are full of meaning.

They are paintings that refer, for example, to orixás, mainly Xangô, Exu, Oxóssi and Ogun; the star and crescent of Islam (due to Arab influence in the emancipation of some African countries); to historical figures such as Malcom X, and to adinkra, an African writing system whose set of symbols represent ideas expressed in proverbs. 

The exhibition itself articulates notions such as amefricanity, a term coined by Lélia Gonzalez, a friend of the artist, to refer to the black experience in Latin America, and that of quilombism, formulated by Nascimento to highlight the project of social transformation on bases that resume the experience of the quilombos. 

All of the exhibited works were loaned by Ipeafro, an institute created by Nascimento. In life, he was also the creator of the Museum of Black Art, that took shape for the first time in Inhotim last December.

The Italian living in Brazil, Alfredo Volpi, was one of the artists at the Museu de Arte Negra which, as Amanda Carneiro explained, did not include only black artists, but whose work had some connection with African origins. The idea of putting the two artists in dialogue, however, did not come from there. It appeared a few years ago, when works by Nascimento, Volpi and Rubem Valentim were placed side by side in the Collection in Transformation, the museum's long-running exhibition.

According to Carneiro, the approximation generated possibilities for the dialogue between these two artists to address themes such as the insertion of black artists in geometric abstraction and to think about modernism in a more plural way. “It's interesting to see how the constructive language can be reappropriated and resignified, whether to represent facades and flags or Afro-Brazilian symbols”, he says. 

One floor above, the show popular volpi it also brings a new look at this already renowned artist, in addition to the famous “little flags” — they, by the way, can be found in the last room of the exhibition. The exhibition, opening simultaneously with Nascimento, is dedicated to exploring Volpi's figurative work and the observer can see how his works became more geometrized throughout his career; it is possible to compare, for example, the same landscape with different formal approaches. There are images of saints and saints, scenes in cities in the interior, such as Itanhaém and Mogi das Cruzes, and portraits. 

Sem título (Madona com menino), Alfredo Volpi, 1947, Têmpera sobre tela, 73 x 60 cm, Coleção Orandi Momesso, São Paulo
Untitled (Madonna with Child), 1947, Alfredo Volpi, Orandi Momesso collection, São Paulo

Curated by Tomás Toledo, it is the third exhibition in a series of solo exhibitions that the museum has been organizing around canonical Brazilian modernist artists of the 20th century whose work uses popular references, after popular portinari and popular tarsila.

Like other working-class artists, Volpi developed authorial work alongside his commissions. Born in Italy, he emigrated to São Paulo as a child. It was in the midst of the political movements of the 1920s and despite being far from the circuit that organized the week of 22, his work reflects modernist precepts to the extent that it is full of references to Brazilian popular culture. 

also open tomorrow Video room: Letícia Parente. Curated by María Inés Rodríguez, the exhibition brings together five fundamental works for understanding the practice of the artist, researcher and pioneer of video art in Brazil. not known Trademark, which will be displayed, the artist records in superclose herself sewing the phrase: made in Brazil on the sole of her foot.

Marca Registrada, 1975, Letícia Parente, vídeo, 10’33”, Espólio Letícia Parente e Galeria Jaqueline Martins
Trademark, 1975, Letícia Parente, video, 10'33”, Letícia Parente Estate and Jaqueline Martins Gallery

Abdias Nascimento: a Panamanian artist and popular volpi 

Date: February 25th to June 5th 

Video room: Letícia Parente

Date: February 25th to April 24th 

Place: MASP

Address: Avenida Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista

Opening hours: Tuesday from 10am to 8pm (entrance until 7pm); Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm (admission until 5 pm); closed on mondays

Ticket: R$ 50 (full) and R$ 25 (half) 

Free entry on Tuesdays 

Appointment required by link 

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