Rubens Gerchman - Latin America New York Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Evandro Teixeira, Rio de Janeiro
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the early 1960s, Rubens Gerchman became acquainted with artists Antonio Dias, Carlos Vergara, Roberto Magalhães, Anna Maria Maiolino and Wesley Duke Lee, who developed a sometimes bright, figurative visual language that, although relating to Pop Art, still retained a strong association to the culture and politics of Brazil. The group became associated with the return to figuration, the so called New Figuration, that consciously broke away from the then predominant geometric and informal abstract trends in Latin America.

    Over the course of the 1960s, Gerchman participated in important exhibitions such as Opinião 65 and New Brazilian Objectivity, held at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro in 1967, which have become paradigmatic of the artistic production in Brazil from the mid to late 60s. The notoriety of these events was further emphasized by their association with the rise of the Tropicália musicians for whom Gerchman designed the cover of the inaugural LP Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis.

    Gerchman’s painting, like other Tropicália associated themes, drew on the Brazilian popular mass-produced culture such as that which was disseminated by sensationalist newspapers. Football players and fans, beauty contest line-ups, and mug-shots are thus part of the artist’s repertoire during that period. The way in which his painterly aesthetics drew on popular imagery from mass media also impacted on the poetic output of the musicians. Gerchman’s portrait of Lindonéia (The Gioconda of the Suburbs), for example, inspired the song A Bela Lindonéia, composed by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and performed in the record by Nara Leão.

    This obsession with the portrayal of the “common people” could be considered as a project of de-mythication of the Brazilian identity. It both acknowledges and stands in contrast with the early modernists whose imagery also invoked the “typical” Brazilian. Subjects such as Di Cavalcanti’s Mulatas, Portinari’s Mestiços, and Segall’s boys in plantations are thus urbanized and simplified through Gerchman’s strong graphic emphasis. In fact, Tarsila do Amaral is celebrated in Gerchman’s Tarsi-Lou, while her painting A Negra is directly quoted in IBA-Lou of 1975 (commissioned by the Instituto de Belas Artes). In the latter, the face of the black wet-nurse is equated with the infamous murderer of ex-boyfriends that appeared on sensationalist news headlines at the time.

    In Gerchman’s SOS, 1967, the theme of urban violence is again present. The painting is composed by two frames that relate to each other by respective intensities of the color yellow. A toy gun is placed immediately below the inner frame which contains the words “SOS”, painted in a lighter hue of yellow framed within the frame and depicted through a typeface that recalls both the stencils used in political graffiti and the links of a chain. The painting can be considered in hindsight as somewhat premonitory of the wave of repressive measures that would be imposed on the nation following the regime’s declaration of the AI5, in December 1968— the constitutional amendment that annulled all civil rights and that led to the persecution of large sections of the artistic and intellectual class. Gerchman himself would leave the country with his wife, Anna Maria Maiolino, and children to live in New York for several years, where he maintained close contact with other self-exiled artists such as Hélio Oiticica. During this period Gerchamn produced sculptural works such as LUTE (Fight) which could be considered, as SOS itself, as a poetic call to arms.




oil and plastic collage on wood panel
28 5/8 x 23 5/8 in. (72.7 x 60 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated "R. GERCHMAN 1968 SOS R. GERCHMAN 68" on the reverse.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Head of Latin America Sale
+ 1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York 21 November 2013 4pm