The exhibition at the Superfície gallery marks the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of Franco Terranova (Naples, 1923), the art dealer and founder of the Petite Galerie. Having been active from the mid-1950s to the end of the 1980s, Terranova and Petite became an essential personality and context in supporting the new artistic movements that emerged on the Brazilian scene.
The show is divided into three sections, which cover the main periods in which the gallery operated: geometric abstraction in the 1960s; the New Brazilian Figuration—a movement that carried out the investigation of new aspects of painting and the art object and whose political engagement fostered the production of works with a strong political and contesting character in the face of the dictatorial and censorial context of the 1970s in Brazil; and the last section addressing conceptual art and new media, which includes works on paper and an unprecedented selection of Super8 films by Anna Maria Maiolino, Marcello Nitsche and Mira Schendel. The exhibition also features works by artists such as Carlos Zílio, Regina Vater, Wanda Pimentel, Wilma Martins, Cildo Meireles, Antônio Manuel, among many others.
The show presents some historic and iconic pieces by artists who are not often contemplated in a programmatic or even permanent way in the collections of Brazilian museums, or if they are, it is done in a very shy way. And perhaps this is one of the most striking features of the exhibition: that of creating—albeit momentarily and on a small scale—a short narrative and historical journey through certain developments in Brazilian art. And if we consider that most institutions in the country lack the resources (manual and often material) to maintain, promote and create the cultural narratives that will form the production of history, the educational and patrimonial value of the exhibition as a historical document certainly outweighs the market value. We can also notice in most of the works a connection with ideas and characteristics that are commonly connected to pop art, but this characteristic is an element that is not assumed clearly in the show albeit it pervades most of the works. We could even think about the term “Popcritico” (in reference to “Popcretos” works by the artist Waldemar Cordeiro) as the most appropriate nomenclature to address the works connected to this characteristic.
Bearing in mind that the exhibition was prepared in close contact with Terranova’s archive, it would also have been of great value to bring to light, together with the exhibited works, documents that would broaden the understanding of the scope and complexity of Petite Galerie’s activities and its history (1). And perhaps this is a good hook and opportunity for other museological institutions to start to look at the past and to Brazilian art history in a more active way, writing and rewriting the history of national art including its failures, risks taken, unresolved issues and everlasting dilemmas, a history that is still so full of gaps, forgetfulness and concentrations.
“Petite Galerie, Franco Terranova and the Brazilian avant-gardes”
Rua Oscar Freire 240, Sao Paulo
On view through May 27, 2023