Pardo é papel (Brown is Paper)
Pardo é Papel is a new exhibition by artist Maxwell Alexandre at the Museu De Arte Do Rio. The show displays a collection of paintings on oversized sheets of paper suspended from the ceiling of the gallery. The sheets are big and dominating. They almost act as extra walls in the space but a brisk pace or small breeze reveals their true materiality. The paintings show us scenes of people taking part in various everyday activities. They are workers, artists, musicians, footballers, hipsters, police, religious people. The paintings are collective portraits of Afro-Brazilian communities in Rio De Janeiro and depict a contemporary vision of Brazil. Maxwell has talked about his paintings and said; “my paintings are like prayers” and that they are “also an exercise of vision almost like a prophetic practise”. Maxwell portrays these scenes from his native neighbourhood of Rocinha in Rio. Rocinha is Brazil’s largest favela or informal community. Images of Afro-Brazilians and people from favelas are underrepresented in the history of art but Maxwell’s paintings are on a scale which allows us to engage in the scenes directly.
In the painting; ‘A cigarette and life through the window (diss)’ the figure of a young man sits, flexing on top of a police car. Sitting figures, people playing football, skateboarding and posing complete the composition. The painting plays with contexts. There is an interplay between the work, the viewer and the institution. The museum has become the favela or is it the favela that has become the museum? The size of the painting allows us to engage with the characters on a human scale. The scene is immersive but a section of the paper has been removed to reveal the wall of the actual museum behind. This interplay reveals the contrasts and similarities between different environments and people. The scene is tied together by a wave like pattern of white brush strokes.
Maxwell also references art history in his work. In the painting; ‘We didn’t get here by apologizing’, he remixes ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo Da Vinci into a contemporary vision of the history of Brazil. The recognizable figures of Jesus and the twelve apostles sit facing us at the foreground of the picture. In this contemporary version, Jesus holds a machete and the figures of the apostles wear African inspired clothes with gold chains. They have a feast of cartoon like dinosaurs laid out for them. The cartoon figures have been chopped, boiled and tortured as the scene becomes a Bosch inspired vision of hell. In the end, they are sucked up in the red and white stripped straws which connect the figures in the foreground to the atrocities taking place in the rest of the picture. The phrase; ‘Um Mundo à sua Medida! (A World to your Measure!)’ is written in the top left hand corner of the picture.
‘If I were you I’d look at me again’ is a portrait of a young Afro-Brazilian man in dungarees reclining on top of a yellow crest. Waves of golden rays surround him. Many of Maxwell’s characters are found actively confronting the police or posing but this figure is relaxed and confident. He is a celebration of contemporary culture.
For more info please visit the Museu De Arte Do Rio here.
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