A Gentil Carioca is pleased to announce the exhibition Chão de estrelas, by the artist José Bento. The title of the exhibition is a poetic motto inspired, of course, by the homonymous song by Orestes Barbosa and Silvio Caldas, from 1935. The installation after which the exhibition is called is made up of thousands of pieces of wood (Vinhático or popularly known as “egg yolk”), interspersed with steel cables (or as the artist’s assistants names them “golden threads”) tensioned to the limit of breaking from one side of the exhibition room to the other. So we are faced with a monochrome plan, which floats at the height of the artists navel, which refers to a horizon that creates tension in the relationship between the monochrome which is in itself a golden landscape where the day and night meet.
Minha vida era um palco iluminado
Eu vivia vestido de dourado
Palhaço das perdidas ilusões
Cheio dos guizos falsos da alegria
Andei cantando a minha fantasia
Entre as palmas febris dos corações
Meu barracão no morro do Salgueiro
Tinha o cantar alegre de um viveiro
Foste a sonoridade que acabou
E hoje, quando do sol, a claridade
Forra o meu barracão, sinto saudade
Da mulher pomba-rola que voou
Nossas roupas comuns dependuradas
Na corda, qual bandeiras agitadas
Pareciam um estranho festival
Festa dos nossos trapos coloridos
A mostrar que nos morros mal vestidos
É sempre feriado nacional
A porta do barraco era sem trinco
Mas a lua, furando o nosso zinco
Salpicava de estrelas nosso chão
Tu pisavas nos astros, distraída
Sem saber que a ventura desta vida
É a cabrocha, o luar e o violão
The set of works exhibited in Chão de estrelas brings together various strategies used throughout José Bentos career. Notably, in the work Xadrez para Max e Marcel (“Chess for Max and Marcel”) with recreates everyday objects in wood in an approximation to the hyper-realistic discourse, as done by the artist in previous years in works such as Cobogó, Telefone (“Cobogó , Telephone”) and spectacularly in Banheiro Bento (Bento Bathroom) where he recreated soap, drain plugs etc, but here he refers to what has been called “mitigated surrealism” in his work. In Xadrez para Max e Marcel (“Chess for Max and Marcel”), José Bento references the famous photo in which Marcel Duchamp appears toasting Max Ernst in the middle of a chess game originally designed for a third artist for the exhibition The imagery of Chess, at the Julien Levy Gallery, in 1944. In a game of mirrors and self-references, José Bento establishes his credentials as an artist who enjoys the neo-dada and contemporary surrealist antics.
In another room, in direct contrast to the Duchamp-Ernestian message, there is a set of monochromes which range between yellow and red accompanied by a wooden rug facing Mecca, like a compass, which reminds us of the Atlantic traditions that connect us to Africa and Europe through a reticence of the landscape, from the figurative to the illustrative and, in this case a “mitigated mysticism.” Surrealism, though best known for its emphasis on the unconscious, also always emphasized a mystical aspect of communication with the beyond.
Between the two ends of Western modernism, or in other words, between the formal abstract of constructive art and the typical discursive representation of surrealism, the exhibition Chão de estrelas stretches its contemporary vision by rescuing the simple poetry of the games of simple things through exposure to the substantive poetry of Orestes Barbosa – shack, latch, zinc, ground, stars etc. As the artist once said: this Orestes Barbosa is a genius because he brought the stars from up there and put them down on the ground for the humble to step on.
It is with humility that the exhibition will spread through SAARA – the large open market next to the gallery. Spread out through the famous shops / stalls and their tight and noisy streets, about eight works will be camouflaged in the commercial landscape. Both a comment on the commercial aspect of the exhibition, but mainly to the varying status as to what exactly a ready-made is nowadays, and also challenging the viewer to consider the landscape of SAARA as an exhibition space, a place of exchange and recurrent social and aesthetic experiences.
The entire exhibition will be “tied together” by a newspaper in tabloid format that will be a repository of the puzzles of the possible sources of the expansive sculptural work of José Bento. The newspaper is a way in which the unconscious, the mystical, and the pedestrian artist are tied. There references come to the surface and submerge in the midst of chatter of other curators, artists and landscapes.