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Galeria Jaqueline Martins opens an exhibition of works by Adriano Amaral & Victor Gerhard
Installation view. Photo courtesy: Galeria Jaqueline Martins © Hugard & Vanoverschelde.

BRUSSELS.- Galeria Jaqueline Martins, in its second exhibition at their new Brussels space, presents a new project where two distinct Brazilian artists (Adriano Amaral and Victor Gerhard), although from different generations, can be related by their mutual alchemy of materials and experimental processes whose outcomes are neverknown beforehand.

The exhibition opened on February 13 and will be on view at Rue aux Laines, 14 (Brussels) until April 3rd, 2021.

The essay especially commissioned for the show was written by Brazilian (London based) curator and art-critic Kiki Mazzucchelli.

In an episode of the show Voices, aired in 1983 on Britain’s Channel 4, John Berger and Susan Sontag, sitting opposite each other at a small table, spend the best part of an hour discussing the nature of literary narrative. As the conversation unfolds, it becomes clearer and clearer that they are on opposite sides in more ways than one: despite the mutual respect shown throughout the conversation, the authors have completely different views on the role of storytelling. We will not go into detail here; suffice it to say that perhaps, for Berger, narrative is the result of language as something that comes ‘out of the people,’ whereas for Sontag the narrator is an inventor who creates the material ‘out of which people come.’ In other words, for the former, meaning originates from something extraneous to the act of literary creation, while the latter sees literature as a creator of meanings for life.

The reason I mention this instigating discussion is because I have a strong feeling that, were this a discussion about art, both Adriano Amaral and Victor Gerhard would concur with Sontag. Even though they are from different generations, having been born almost five decades apart, and although their careers are utterly distinct from one another, Amaral and Gerhard appear to share an approach to artmaking that revolves around some sort of alchemy of materials, and is based on experimental processes whose outcomes are never known beforehand. That is, theirs are not works built upon preconceived plans, neither are they necessarily configured upon an external reality. Their outputs evoke a deep sense of ambiguity, or even radical oddness, to the extent that they refuse to offer static, easily deciphered meanings. Both Amaral and Gerhard are artists who have managed to come up with highly unique vocabularies of their own; they have created private worlds that operate under an inner logic.

The feature that first jumps out in Adriano Amaral’s sculptures is an unusual materiality that combines organic and synthetic elements. There is something surprising and enigmatic about these objects that almost seem like totems from some unknown clan. These are extremely intricate constructs built with found objects that are often the subject of intense experimentation in the studio. It is in the studio space, in the daily struggle with a variety of materials from wide-ranging sources, where Adriano Amaral’s work takes shape. The studio is his lab; it’s where he manipulates pigments, cast metal, plant fragments, liquid silicone and much more, relentlessly testing out interaction possibilities between materials, and pushing the boundaries of transformation of matter. Throughout this intensive experimentation process, the artist intently observes the achieved results, and intuits connections between the parts as they gradually coalesce into a whole.

In one sculpture, an iridescent bluish-white vertical strip hangs from an oval volume attached to the wall by an aluminum arm. Built from prosthetic rubber, the strip functions as a sort of translucent skin through which we can see the hexagonal patterns created by the openings on a rugby helmet, and the surface of a piece of tree bark, all amalgamated into one object that incorporates different textures and materialities. The combination of a piece of sporting equipment worn as a head attachment and the use of a material that simulates the touch of skin evokes human presence, even though this body seems made from equally from organic and synthetic parts.

The works of Adriano Amaral spark a sense of doubt and invite us to examine them intently; it takes some time before we can somewhat distinguish the materials they are built from. That doesn’t mean that his purpose is to create a game where something in disguise gets revealed; what matters here is precisely the attention to the materials and the clues they can give us as to the world we live in. In an indirect way, Amaral’s sculptures lead us to inquire where these materials come from, what they are intended for, in what way they are present in our daily lives, how natural resources get transformed into industrialized products, and ultimately what are the ethical parameters that govern the use of these resources.

Victor Gerhard’s Super 8 work betrays a similar concern with the materiality of film and the nature of image, as well as with the experimental exploration of its constituent parts. Far from being attempts at producing a linear narrative, these pieces feature enigmatic sequences where the artist manipulates light, color, texture, movement and sound to create atmospheric, suggestive films. O ovo (The Egg, 1980) is a stop motion animation video whose titular egg is the symbolical main character in a kind of hypnotic thriller. Here, Gerhard concocts a kaleidoscopic, fragmented narrative, relying on various objects to create scenes that are often quasi-surrealist, in that they present familiar things in bizarre situations. The egg, a primordial structure, is explored in its symbolic as well as its formal aspects: ideas about reproduction and creation seem as relevant as the commonalities or contrasts found with other objects (boxes, billiard balls) or materials (stone eggs, red paint). Throughout the film, the egg is featured in absurd or comical situations, such as when it returns to the cloaca or gets lit up from different angles to emulate lunar phases. Just like Amaral, Gerhard seems to seek out possible meanings for his work through confrontation and experimentation with the materials he employs – in this case, Super 8 film as raw material – and by building a proprietary vocabulary that never allows itself to be fully deciphered.

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