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Pinacoteca of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
July 27, 2019 – October 28, 2019
The Pinacoteca of São Paulo, managed by the State of São Paulo Culture and Creative Economy Department, presents the show Marepe: estranhamente comum (Marepe: strangely ordinary). Curated by Pedro Nery, the museum’s curator, it is the artist’s first large-scale solo exhibition in São Paulo and aims to present a comprehensive view of his path, which began in the 1990s. A set of 30 artworks evoke poetic personal memories deeply intertwined with the town where he was born. The exhibition is sponsored by Credit Suisse and Engeform and is supported by the Federal Government’s Cultural Incentives Law and São Paulo City’s Cultural Projects Support Program.
Marepe (Marcos Reis Peixoto) was born in 1970 in Santo Antônio de Jesus, situated in the Recôncavo Baiano district of the state of Bahia. The Recôncavo lies to the east of All-Saints Bay and connects the inland sertão and the sea. As such, it has become an important trade route for all kinds of goods, from building materials to foodstuffs. It is from this coming and going of people and objects and from his own family’s history that the artist extracts and crafts his works.
In this process, Marepe draws upon procedures that recur in contemporary art, such as gathering objects and removing them from their daily purposes. His works, however, open up to speculative dimensions in that they shift the scale, form and meaning of locally-found materials to create dreamlike items. To organize his retrospective exhibition, the curator has highlighted three verbs or symbolic actions which the artist has constantly resorted to in his own path: Moving, Transforming and Condensing. Nery explains: ‘These verbs are not conceived as a closed set, but as guiding elements that allow us to deepen the symbolic outlook suggested by the works themselves.’
The heading Moving subsumes works that show, for instance, the key action that underlies Marepe’s practice, i.e. removing the object from its usual circuit—commercial, urban or productive—and inserting it in the artistic realm. What he moves, though, are not mere objects, but things that relate to his past and life as it goes on around him. From this has been derived the idea of mobility as a structural axis of the artworks presented in this context, such as Change (2005) and Built-In Recôncavo (2003). Made from wooden furniture and presented together, they rethink the movement of the forms themselves and of the lives of people in their precarious comings and goings.
Parakeets (2005), on the other hand, refers the spectator to a domestic environment and brings in a movement of scale and disproportion, presenting a gargantuan television set which destabilizes the conventions that surround this familiar object. ‘It is interesting to think about this mismatch (in Built-In Recôncavo) in which there a house inside which the television set doesn’t fit. In Marepe, the act of moving means to take everything out of its place, to disintegrate relationships that would seem ordinary. It is to displace that which we deem orderly so as to look into the very reality that underlies what is around us,’ defines the curator. This is the first time this artwork is presented in Brazil, having been drawn up for the artist’s solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Transforming shows works whose composing objects suggest a new narrative arrangement. In this respect, Bubu’ Portrait (2005)—which has been donated to Pinacoteca—presents the image of the artist’s grandfather, which was hung beside the portrait of George Pompidou at the artist’s first solo show in that Parisian museum. Presenting both portraits under the same language, Marepe puts his grandfather and the French ex-president on an equal footing. Transformation is actualized as the artist relativizes the social, personal and geographic orders.
Finally, Condensing brings together works that hang on the brink of free association, revealing the artist’s desire to compose disparate ideas with simple resources and to offer up materiality at the service of imagination. As example is Sweet Skies of Santo Antônio (2001), in which the artist himself is seen from a bottom-up point of view taking a piece of cotton candy from the blue sky and putting it into his mouth—taking in a piece of cloud from that sweet imagined sky and literally bringing the dream to reality.
That is also the case with Small Tears (2009), made with hanging reels of blue sewing thread that come down to the ground in different nuances of color. ‘Small Tears is a direct expression of the idea-word and of its plastic articulation—threads that flow down to the ground as if they were tears,’ Nery explains. And he concludes: ‘Marepe’s works seem to abide by some well-regulated actions all along his trajectory. What changes is the way he interprets the world around him, and then a new artwork comes into being, forcing us to reinterpret everything around us.’