By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Wednesday, August 7th marked the opening day of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s traveling exhibit entitled, Da Vincis do povo (Peasant da Vincis). Housed in both the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) and Centro Cultural Correios until September 23rd, the exhibit features fourteen major installations.

Cai Guo-Qiang Exhibit– Da Vincis do povo (Peasant da Vincis), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Part of the “Da Vincis do povo” exhibit, the “Complex” installation is an obelisk erected in CCBB Rio’s rotunda, photo by Burda Mendes/Getty Images.

The art work includes paintings made with gunpowder, commissioned robots, inventions created from the imagination of peasants and a giant aircraft carrier surrounding by suspended planes, UFOs and other flying machines.

This exhibit marks Cai Guo-Qiang’s first solo exhibit in the city and the final stop in Brazil. So far, it has attracted the attention of over 700,000 visitors in Brasília and São Paulo before arriving in Rio.

For each stop the exhibit has been configured differently to harmonize with the surrounding city. In Brasília, the exhibit reflected the futuristic architectural designs of Oscar Niemeyer. In São Paulo, part of the exhibit was placed outside suspended above the city’s streets, there flying over workers in the financial district as well as demonstrators protesting in the streets.

In Rio before the exhibit opened, a large obelisk was erected in the middle of the CCBB’s rotunda with aircrafts, submarines and flying saucers suspended around it. The installation entitled, “Complex” is a tribute to imagination and ingenuity of Chinese peasant inventors.

Preceding the Rio exhibit, Cai also held kite making workshops and invited children from areas including the Santa Marta favela community, Padres Miguel and Parque Madureira. During the workshops Cai encouraged the young participants to express their individual creativity through paint and LED lights.

“When hundreds of such kites fly in the night sky above rows upon rows of houses in the favela and the adjacent wealthy gated communities,” Cai said, “the ways of the world in the City of God will be in plain sight of Christ the Redeemer.”

Guo Qiang, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Robots of Cai Guo–Qiang’s Da Vincis do povo (Peasant da Vincis), photo by Burda Mendes/Getty Images.

Perhaps best known for paintings with gunpowder and staging “explosion events”, Cai’s work began to receive more international attention during the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. He served as Director of Visual and Special Effects there during the opening and closing ceremonies.

Gunpowder is no stranger to the current exhibit. Inspired by Carnival samba school practices during a trip to the city in 2012, Cai created a gunpowder drawing entitled, “Carnival Rehearsal”, which includes the flying machines and submarines as part of the Carnival parades.

“Foreigners often perceive Carnivals merely as a ceremony and festive ritual,” said Cai of the work. “Yet in the eyes of Brazilians, Carnival is art. In it, they compete for creativity and for the ability to showcase the energy of beauty, and many use that to make a living. This ‘art of the people’ is magical and fantastic without losing touch with reality.”

“There was a sense of movement everywhere including in the crazy inventions, and beautiful images made from gunpowder,” Rio resident and exhibit attendee Juliane Albuquerque told The Rio Times. “The videos explaining the creation process called my attention, and the different beautiful kites too. I could feel myself interacting with the exhibition, and I felt comfortable there.”

The exhibit was first held to launch Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum. During that time the city was also hosting the 2010 World Exposition with the slogan; “Better City, Better Life.” Cai played on that slogan for the theme of his exhibit, calling it “Peasants — Making a Better City, a Better Life.”

During the exhibit, Cai commissioned robot inventor Wu Yulu and his family to make and invent robots for the exhibit. They eventually made so many that they turned the third floor of the museum into their workshop, the area dubbed the “Wu Yulu’s Robot Factory.”

What: Cai Guo–Qiang – Da Vincis do povo (Peasant da Vincis)
When: August 7 to September 23, 2013
Where: CCBB, Rio Rotunda and 1st Floor Rua Primeiro de Março, 66 – Centro
Centro Cultural Correios, R. Visc. de Itaboraí, 20 – Centro
Entrance: FREE


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