By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Smael Vagner, the Carioca painter responsible for some of the city’s most intriguing street art, brings the circus experience to the walls of Inox Gallery starting tomorrow, October 25th in Shopping Cassino. The collection, comprised of eight new paintings, is exhilarating, prompting the same surge of youthful curiosity that the sight of a multicolored big top still commands, no matter how “grown-up” the viewer has become.

Vagner, Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Smael and The Magician, photo by Nathan M. Walters.

The exhibition opens just days after Rio’s most celebrated circus, Lapa arts venue Circo Voador (Flying Circus), which actually started as big top in Arpoador, celebrated its 30th year anniversary.

Yet, Vagner’s motivation for the piece was not based on his experiences, including his recent involvement in an innovative art-architecture collaboration, at the venue, but, rather, on his own memories of the circuses that would visit the small towns in north Brazil.

“The title ‘O Circo do Interior’ has two meanings,” explains Smael. “First, this idea of the circus inside us, the roles society forces us to play. Second, I wanted to create the sensation of visiting the circuses that would travel through the small cities in the interior of Brazil. I went to a few of these when I was a boy and the images, the feelings of that experience stayed with me. I want to convey that feeling to viewers.”

Vagner’s signature style conveys the excitement of the circus experience; a vision culled from the mind of an artist whose childlike giddiness is infectious. His abstract forms and bold colors communicate directly with lingering childhood fantasies, of pulling the rabbit from the hat to feeling the wind sweep by as the trapeze swings, that each of us harbor deep under the persona adult society demands.

“O Circo do Interior” is Vagner’s third exhibition at Inox; the most recent work is another milestone in the evolution of a unique style that is difficult to miss or confuse for another, whether you happen to encounter it on the streets of Rocinha or in a gallery in Paris.

Vagner, Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Under the big top at Gallery Inox, photo by Smael Vagner.

The artist’s international success, including solo shows in France and increased interest by U.S. collectors, has not detracted from his commitment to street art, and has not blurred the line of how he views his work as an artist.

“When I first started painting on the street, I just wanted a voice, wanted to express myself,” says Vagner. “The painting I do on the street is still parallel to the gallery work I do.”

In addition to the street work and gallery work, Vagner and his wife, Luluta Alencar, are committed to supporting the development of the artist community in Rio. Vagner has street cred in spades, polishing his style on the streets of Rio since 1998, and is a central figure in the emerging community of contemporary artists in Rio.

The couple’s Gallery Paçoca is gaining a reputation as an alternative gathering spot for some of the city’s new art talent. Yet, starting this week, viewers can experience the joy the circus life brings, comfortably at Gallery Inox in Cassino Shopping.

Where: Galeria Inox – Shopping Cassino, Av. Atlântica 4240 / Stall 101, Copacabana
When: October 25th (7PM) thru November 10th, 2012
Price: Free and open to the public


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