In her new exhibition at the Millan gallery, Lais Myrrha continues the investigations she has been carrying out throughout her career, addressing conflicts between historical episodes, symbols and constructive modes linked to both modernist architectural currents (in their ideals and utopias) and traditional modes of construction. The exhibition has a strong and precise use of materials, with attention to their ability to reframe forms and procedures, acting as symbolic catalysts that condense different narratives regarding both the power of idealized and grandiose constructions with their programmatic projections as ruins.
The starting point for “Fundamentos da Pedra” (Foundations of the Stone) lies in an observation about the cornerstone of Brasilia, a small obelisk erected in “Planaltina” (DF) in 1922. The landmark, built with an initial version of reinforced concrete and masonry, was created long before the current capital was imagined. “I understood that the cornerstone of Brasilia was a representation, a model of a generic monument (the obelisk), whose whiteness perhaps served only to hide the marks left in the concrete by the fingertips of the workers and the precarious formwork used in its construction,” writes the artist.
Deconstructing yet another national myth (like so many others that participate in the great fiction that is the construction of a national identity), Lais produces six three-dimensional pieces that reference the construction of obelisks. Produced with synthetic and industrial materials in conjunction with others from real-world architecture, the materiality of the pieces reinforces this fictional, precarious and allegorical character of the monument as described by Lais, reaffirming the great space that exists between modernism as an ideal and the precariousness of the national industrial-technological reality. The attempt to unite divergent aspects or materials creates sculptural frictions that, in their unfinished condition, reveal the great allegory on which national heroic narratives are based… The temporary here in Brazil always leans toward the permanent.
Valuable notions continue to be present in the artist’s practice, namely: the impermanence of official history when questioned from a subaltern point of view, the pressing condition of allegory of built spaces and the narratives that mediate them, as well as the precariousness of concepts of equivalence that guide the construction of a formalist dialectic (characteristic of our beloved modernism) that masks the permanence of colonial mentalities. “I realized that sad monument smuggled, in an unusual and silent way, economic and social operations coming from colonial Brazil. It was more than a mockup. It was almost a rehearsal of what came next, the construction of Brasilia,” emphasizes the artist in the text about the exhibition.
Lais also presents other new works, in which the perpendicular iron frames commonly used in civil construction, tiles and other materials from the world of construction create bases for discussing the rationality of modern urban projects in the face of the unstable socio-political flow of everyday life. The drawings “What do you do with what you have” and the photo series “double exposures” highlight a new level of abstraction in the artist’s practice. Stacks of lines drawn with what is available, superimposition of conflictual images (and so, realities) point to a strong metaphor about the ways in which life is commonly constructed far from modern ideals—a crucial point for us to understand the failures and criticisms of the modern project in Brazil, one which never actually reached a scale of industrial-social distribution, only sticking up here and there as beautiful and expensive monuments—as exceptions.
Lais Myrrha “Fundamentos da Pedra”
Millan Gallery, Rua Fradique Coutinho 1360 | 1430, Sao Paulo
Through June 24