By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On March 16th, Casa França-Brasil opened its 2013 season with two free art exhibits that explore the importance of perspective during a time in the city’s and country’s history when changes were rapid. Now through May 5th the museum will house ‘Contos sem Reis’ (‘Tales without Kings’) by Laercio Redondo and ‘Cipó, Taioba, Yví’ by Daniel Steegmann Mangrané.
The architecture of Casa França-Brasil is an exhibit in and of itself. Located in Centro (Downtown), the building was designed by French architect Grandjean de Montigny in 1819 and became Rio’s first example of neoclassical architecture. The building had seen many uses of its space throughout its history before Casa França-Brasil opened there on March 29, 1990.
Laercio Redondo’s Contos sem Reis exhibit explores the museum’s role as an emblematic structure for Rio while also examining the ongoing urban transformations and the lives of its inhabitants.
“We rarely see the visual arts address the history of cities,” says curator Frederico Coelho. “The exhibition ‘Contos sem Reis’ presents a reflection on one of those many layers hidden beneath its buildings and streets.”
The artist Laercio Redondo, who lives and works in both Rio and Stockholm, Sweden, is known for his exploration of themes such as change, loss, and society’s collective memory through his use of photo, video, and physical installations.
In one installation, a lid in the floor opens to reveal an old underground gallery, drawing attention to the original plan of the building. It also reminds viewers of the building’s proximity to the port and the role the building once served as a customs station.
The work ‘Blind Spot’ is located in the central hall of the museum. It is twelve feet wide by four feet high and consists of small pieces of wood that resemble the frame of a building under construction.
On one piece of wood the word “Revolver” is written. The word, which when translated into English, means “to investigate; examine,” appears and disappears depending on the viewer’s perspective.
The second side room of the museum houses the work ‘Carmen Miranda – uma Ópera da Imagem’, a sound sculpture that examines the life and constructed public image of Portuguese-Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda.
For Projeto Cofre (Safe Project) Redondo selected Daniel Steegmann Mangrané – a Spanish artist who has lived in Brazil since 2004 – to exhibit his art in the 2-by-2 meter space of the museum known as “the safe”.
There, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané presents the work Cipo, Taioba, Yvi, a gold leaf panel featuring abstract representations of plants endemic to the forests of Brazil. It is an exploration of Brazilian national identity in relation to the history of its native inhabitants.
“It is first a study about the cosmology of the indigenous people of Brazil, on the other hand it is research on design ideas and geometry,” Mangrané told The Rio Times. “It is also about the semiotics of the photographic apparatus, projection, research on various materials, narratives and the status they carry.”
When asked about the future of art in the country, Mangrané said, “To make a new museum is easy, it is hard work to have a good museum for twenty, thirty, sixty years.” He added, “This moment is especially sweet for Casa França-Brasil, with good and free exhibitions, thanks to the direction of Evangelina Seiler (Van Van). I hope it stays that way for many years, even when the directions change.”
What: Art exhibits, ‘Contos sem Reis’ and ‘Cipó, Taioba, Yví’’
78 Rua Visconde de Itaboraí – Centro, Rio de Janeiro
Telephone: (21) 2332-5120
When: March 17 to May 5, 2013, Tuesdays through Sundays, 10AM to 8PM