Born in 1964 in Rio de Janeiro, Adriana Varejão is one of the leading contemporary artists in Brazil. Her works span the mediums of painting, sculpture, photography and installation work. One of her more notable themes, and the reason we’re posting this on CFile, is the way she evokes older styles in order to comment on the past and our relationship to it.
In this way, according to Lehmann Maupin gallery, she is able to “explore themes of colonialism, miscegenation and anthropology.” Entrance Figure I and II play with our expectations. The chaos in the first painting slips past your notice under cover of how familiar the scene seems at first. We’ve seen images similar to this explorer before. It’s not until we study the painting that we notice that people are cannibalizing each other in the background. By the time we reach the second painting, the horror has come to the fore. That same figure from the first painting is carrying a severed head. Our ability to ignore the brutality of the first painting was a luxury and that luxury is forcefully taken from us by the time we reach II.
We also enjoy her cracked walls. For as much praise clay gets for being a warm, earthy, almost organic material, tilework seems to be the exception. Varejão subverts that by making her walls and ruins crack and bleed. She shows us the meat underneath the most austere of materials.
Varejão is represented by Lehman and Victoria Miro.
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