This is the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the work of Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973), a pioneering figure in early 20th century Latin American art and who is currently being reassessed in the context of global modernisms. After studying with Fernand Léger (1881–1955) and André Lhote (1885–1962) in Paris, Tarsila, as she is widely known in Brazil, cannibalized modern European references to create a unique style of her own, true to her origins both in form and content, through the use of caipira [Brazilian countryside] colours, found in architecture and decorative arts: “pure blue, violaceous rose, bright yellow, singing green,” in her own words; as well as representations of typical and local characters, scenes, and narratives. Much of her work was made in dialogue with two leading modernist intellectuals of her time: Mário de Andrade (1893–1945) and Oswald de Andrade (1890–1954). Tarsila’s work parallels the development of Oswald de Andrade’s antropofagia, a key concept in 20th-century Latin American thought. Antropofagia could be understood as a poetic program through which intellectuals in the tropics would ‘cannibalize’ European cultural references in order to produce something singular and hybrid of their own, bringing indigenous, Afro-Atlantic, and local elements into their work. The controversial painting A Negra [The Black Woman] has received special attention from the authors and is a central work in the exhibition. The exhibition aims at widening the perspectives from which we may access not only the artist’s work but also the larger narratives on global modernism, taking into account questions of race, class and colonialism.
Tarsila do Amaral: Cannibalizing Modernism is curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Fernando Oliva and is contextualized in a full year dedicated to women artists at MASP in 2019 under the heading Women’s Histories, Feminist Histories. The accompanying publication is the most comprehensive exhibition catalogue on Tarsila to date. With separate editions in Portuguese and in English, 360 pages each, it reproduces 113 of her works, as well as documents and photographs. The book features newly commissioned essays by Adriano Pedrosa, Amanda Carneiro, Fernando Oliva, Irene V. Small, Mari Rodríguez Binnie, Maria Bernardete Ramos Flores, Maria Castro, Michele Greet, Michele Bete Petry and Renata Bittencourt, historical texts by Paulo Herkenhoff and Sergio Miceli, and commentaries on Tarsila’s works by Artur Santoro, Carlos Eduardo Riccioppo, Guilherme Giufrida, and Matheus de Andrade.
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