Contemporary Brazilian Art Exhibit Social Fabric Highlights Brazilian Politics and Cultural Awareness – The Daily Texan
The visual arts center is bustling with people sneaking into the halls and admiring the larger-than-life pieces housed in the gallery space. A superb installation entitled “Jupiter is Here. Celestial is Everything. » created by Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro immediately welcomes the public: a dirt road with large fossils leads to glasses filled with water enclosed in an imposing sculpture made of recycled materials.
Two hundred and fifty terracotta sculptures representing half-women, half-silkworms climb the high walls of a space a few rooms below, their cocoons placed at the viewer’s feet. The piece depicts gender roles for women in Brazil.
Curated by Adele Nelson, Assistant Professor of Art History, MacKenzie Stevens, Director of the Visual Arts Center and Curatorial Assistant Maria Emilia Fernandez, “Social Fabric: Art and Activism in Contemporary Brazil” features the works of 10 contemporary artists and conveys the changing political climate of Brazil. Fernandez said the exhibit demonstrates the connection between art and social activism.
“It’s an exhibition that thinks about activism and asks it (the) question: how can art be connected to it?” Fernandez said.
There are important ways to define activism, and creating something that can be seen symbolically is one of them, Fernandez said.
From its conception in 2018 to finding artists and finally assembling the gallery, Nelson said the project had evolved over the course of a few years to adapt to the disruptions posed by COVID-19. The curators originally planned to show the exhibit at the Brazilian Studies Association conference, but Nelson said the team had worked to develop a larger showcase through largely virtual collaboration.
“MacKenzie Stevens suggested something bigger…not conference related,” Nelson said. Due to the pandemic, Nelson said their research was primarily online and through exhibition catalogs and they were in constant virtual dialogue with the artists.
Nelson said UT graduate students have provided immeasurable support, including researching artists, applying for grants, and helping design a sociogram — a large, nonlinear graphical diagram that represents Brazil.
With the help of an advisory board of 15 people in the United States, Europe and Brazil, Nelson said the exhibit had successfully debuted. In addition to this committee, UT staff helped curators research contemporary Brazil, and Nelson said this exhibition shows the integrative role of art in showcasing social activism. .
“What we wanted to do – and what I hope we’ve done – is for people to start thinking of these artists as being in cross-disciplinary conversations…and recognize the merits and necessities of cross-disciplinary collaboration,” Nelson said. “The depth of expertise on this campus is breathtaking and (the VAC) is a place on campus that creates an interdisciplinary dialogue around the visual arts and all of Brazil’s different expertise.”
Fernandez said she hopes the public can identify common social issues between Brazil and the United States despite their geographic separation from each other.
“I want us to train our way of thinking about these issues… our brains, our muscles to think about other histories and times. … It is important to see that the past still shapes today. If we could see history projected around us, that would be radical,” Fernandez said.
Julian Munevar, a student raised in São Paulo, Brazil, said the exhibit encourages awareness of the complexity of Brazilian culture.
“Contemporary and Brazilian art has always been something that I really loved and identified with,” said Munevar, a sophomore in government and corporate communications. “Giving it the space it deserves gives me goosebumps… something that has depth and meaning from my society shown at my university… warms my heart, and it makes me feel so much better to talk about here.