The sad­dest nation
In the most rot­ten time
Is made up of possible
Groups of lynchers

Cae­ta­no Velo­so, O cu do mundo

The pro­gram of dis­man­tling the Bra­zi­li­an Sta­te by the cur­rent govern­ment has brought with it a suc­ces­si­on of acts and dis­cour­ses of vio­len­ce and stu­pi­dity, whi­ch are prac­ti­ced as if they were the very exer­ci­se of poli­tics. From the­re on, signs abound of a coun­try on the road to bar­ba­rism. For exam­ple: when, for a peri­od of two years, from 2020 to 2021, the num­ber of daily deaths resul­ting from this ongoing pan­de­mic rea­ched shoc­king levels in Bra­zil; now, when attacks and mur­ders with hor­rifying and revol­ting moti­ves (due to racism, misogyny, homopho­bia, transpho­bia, ide­o­lo­gi­cal dif­fe­ren­ces, dis­pu­te over land and indi­ge­nous ter­ri­to­ri­es) mul­ti­ply; and when autho­ri­ti­es show a mix­tu­re of sadism and incom­pe­ten­ce when dea­ling with the­se disap­pe­a­ran­ces. It is Bra­zil being the ass of the world.

In this paral­lel coun­try, the­re is a suc­ces­si­on of offi­ci­al lies and blun­ders, coor­di­na­ted acti­ons to des­troy the envi­ron­ment, the under­mi­ning of ins­ti­tu­ti­ons and admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pro­ce­du­res, repe­a­ted thre­ats against the demo­cra­tic rule of law, and the encou­ra­ge­ment of citi­zens to arm them­sel­ves, in an array of cri­mes that har­dly see­med pos­si­ble. But in showing that they are, the hori­zon of expec­ta­ti­ons is being gre­a­tly redu­ced and the pre­sent is pres­su­red into a sta­te of emer­gency. One really won­ders if it will be tomor­row or another day. Becau­se just as resoun­ding as the deba­cle are silen­ce and inaction.

How can a public demons­tra­ti­on be made today, from the field of art, that is (not only, but also) a posi­ti­on that takes a stand befo­re this grim sce­na­rio? With the fury that the con­text gene­ra­tes and whi­ch is deman­ded to con­front it, and without the choi­ces for the rea­li­za­ti­on of the work being only reac­ti­ve. With cons­truc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­ons that are robust and, at the same time, open to unfo­re­se­en mea­nings. So that the pro­po­sals address and are addres­sed to unex­pec­ted pla­ces, beyond the imme­di­a­te, the judg­men­tal, and the pres­crip­ti­ve, beyond the illus­tra­ti­ve, the pamph­let, and the slo­gan. Without emptying the poli­ti­cal sen­se of com­bat or betraying the inter­nal moti­va­ti­ons of the work.

Sel­va, by Fabrí­cio Lopez, is an exhi­bi­ti­on mobi­li­zed by ques­ti­ons of this kind: about the con­di­ti­ons of pos­si­bi­lity of making an acu­te and rele­vant pre­sen­ce (des­pi­te the low popu­lar rea­ch of visu­al arts), whi­ch is sen­si­ti­ve and ima­gi­na­ti­ve (beyond the dimen­si­on of purely sub­jec­ti­ve expres­si­on), in a sce­na­rio of urgen­ci­es. A dis­qui­et that pre­sents itself right from the start in the sca­le of the works, deno­ting this pro­duc­ti­on’s public voca­ti­on and deter­mi­na­ti­on to be com­prehen­si­ve. And it is not that the­se works are neces­sa­rily lar­ge in size, nor are they among the lar­gest made by the artist. But they are lar­ge works, due to the pro­por­ti­ons in whi­ch the rela­ti­onships betwe­en ima­ge, medium, and archi­tec­tu­re take place.

The fact that the ope­ra­ti­ons of pro­duc­ti­on fill and “ble­ed”, in gene­ral, the sur­fa­ces on whi­ch they inter­ve­ne, does not go unno­ti­ced here. Nor does the inten­sity of the ele­ments, the lines, the figu­res, the sug­ges­ti­ons of figu­res, some­ti­mes intri­ca­te but always vibrant, go unno­ti­ced. And it is not without rea­son that the dis­tri­bu­ti­on of this group of works in the gal­lery was plan­ned to take up the walls. In fact, the exhi­bi­ti­on is arran­ged in the spa­ce with vigor, with weight – and even with a cer­tain satu­ra­ti­on or bru­ta­lity. In the over­vi­ew, the works con­nect easily with each other. And des­pi­te the par­ti­cu­la­ri­ti­es of each, they all dis­play a graphic dyna­mism who­se tra­ces rico­chet in sinu­ous move­ments in all direc­ti­ons. In the envi­ron­ment, the thre­ads spre­ad, mir­ror, rebound, and com­ple­te each other, cros­sing the spa­ce, from the­re to here, from here to the­re. Almost as if an elec­tric dis­char­ge ran through them and sti­mu­la­ted them into cur­rent, into vir­tu­al con­nec­ti­ons deta­ched from the walls.

The res­tles­s­ness and the bre­adth of inte­rests are nota­ble, also, in Fabrí­ci­o’s dea­ling with diver­se lan­gua­ges, mate­ri­als, and pro­ce­du­res, favo­ring impu­re, hybrid solu­ti­ons, for­med by mix­tu­res and inter­sec­ti­ons. (At this point, it is inte­res­ting to obser­ve the strong link betwe­en Fabrí­ci­o’s repu­ta­ti­on and the prac­ti­ce of wood­cut prin­ting – in all, over 20 years of dedi­ca­ti­on to the tech­ni­que –, when, in fact, this asso­ci­a­ti­on is not due to any kind of tra­di­ti­o­na­list atta­ch­ment, or con­cern with deli­mi­ting and pre­ser­ving a spe­ci­fic, spe­ci­a­li­zed tech­ni­cal domain, pro­per to spe­ci­a­lists – on the contrary).

Among the main fea­tu­res of Fabrí­cio Lopez’s work is the dis­ten­ding of the limits of print­ma­king. The­re are ope­ra­ti­ons that incor­po­ra­te resour­ces from other expres­si­ons to the pro­duc­ti­on of the print; as well as, over time, the appe­a­ran­ce within the pro­duc­ti­on of pro­ces­ses that do not even occur in print­ma­king. In any case, Fabrí­ci­o’s work is usu­ally known for its mural sca­le enlar­ge­ment of wood­cut prints; for rewor­king and pre­sen­ting lar­ge for­mat matri­ces as the final medium for print­ma­king, the work of Fabrí­cio Lopez is a dis­ten­si­on of the limits of print­ma­king. In any case, Fabrí­ci­o’s work is usu­ally refe­ren­ced by the enlar­ge­ment to the mural sca­le of wood­cut prints; for rewor­king and pre­sen­ting lar­ge for­mat matri­ces as the final medium of the work; for explo­ring to the last con­se­quen­ces and in a hete­ro­dox man­ner, the mate­ri­als, the tools and the dif­fe­rent sta­ges of the wood­cut pro­cess; or even by incor­po­ra­ting, in the­se expe­ri­en­ces, also the mate­ri­als, the tools, the pro­ces­ses and the reper­toi­res of other lan­gua­ges of the visu­al arts – drawing, pain­ting, col­la­ge, reli­ef, pho­to­graphy, ins­tal­la­ti­on – and of other mani­fes­ta­ti­ons – cine­ma, comics, literature.
Through this prac­ti­ce, the artist arri­ved at the seri­es of reli­efs that gives the show its title, Sel­va. In the­se works, Fabrí­cio pre­sents for the first time a work with pain­ting and car­ving on woo­den pla­tes (in sizes stan­dar­di­zed by the tra­de) that havent been used befo­re as a matrix – and that were, the­re­fo­re, attac­ked from the start to be as they are pre­sen­ted now. The “jun­gle” here is a vast expan­se of dif­fe­rent pla­nes, with ope­ra­ti­ons that begin with mar­kings made with char­co­al, fol­lowed by watery India ink appli­ed with a rol­ling pin and brushes, and then again by cuts in the medium made with a gou­ge. In the result, con­trasts emer­ge: betwe­en blacks with dif­fe­rent den­si­ti­es, from the char­co­al and the more and less lique­fi­ed inks; betwe­en all the blacks and the raw­ness of the wood; betwe­en what comes from drawing, what comes from pain­ting, and what comes from car­ving, at the same time inter­min­gled and in cons­tant negotiation.

The “jun­gle” thic­kens, thus, in the cros­sing and super­po­si­ti­on of the­se stains, lines, and reces­ses, whi­ch con­ver­ge to form what is perhaps a som­ber lands­ca­pe, a bit like the Ger­man expres­si­o­nist film sets of the early 20th cen­tury, with the pro­jec­ti­on of twis­ted or angu­lar sha­dows; simi­lar to the moun­tains and vapo­rous vege­ta­ti­on of sumi‑e; and simi­lar to Japa­ne­se hor­ror comics, in the lines that wind across the sur­fa­ce in wide, expres­si­ve, or repe­ti­ti­ve ges­tu­res. The result is really qui­te allu­si­ve, sug­ges­ti­ve of things at first non­sen­si­cal. The sequen­ce of four panels, for exam­ple, perhaps even sug­gests the lin­king of ima­ges, of “takes”, the pas­sa­ges from one phe­no­me­non to another, from pla­te to pla­te, but without esta­blishing a dis­cur­si­ve nar­ra­ti­ve, without fixing the repre­sen­ta­ti­on of a sce­ne. In the end, the insi­nu­a­ti­ons, whi­ch are not few, prevail.

The strength of the line of drawing and the hybrid pro­ces­ses of rea­li­za­ti­on also defi­ne Ano­ta­ções. The exhi­bi­ti­on pre­sents nine works from the seri­es, pre­sen­tly com­po­sed of a further 11. The works ari­se from drawings made with ball­point pen by the artist in a daily note­bo­ok. The selec­ted ima­ges are then scan­ned, enlar­ged, and prin­ted, by means of seri­graphy, onto fabrics. In the­se leaps – from one size to another, from one mate­ri­a­lity to another – the drawings acqui­re ambi­guous exten­si­on and inten­sity, as they acqui­re asser­ti­ve­ness, in pro­jec­ti­on with visu­al impact, whi­le pre­ser­ving the spe­cu­la­ti­ve natu­re of the rapid tra­cing, of pro­bing and testing.

On each scre­en, the­re is the print of a cou­ple of pages of the note­bo­ok. Each ima­ge con­sists of one or two drawings (either one that occu­pi­es two pages, or two that stand in fric­ti­on or inte­gra­ti­on). The­se are the most figu­ra­ti­ve works in the exhi­bi­ti­on, and this is only inte­res­ting becau­se of the vari­ety of motifs cho­sen for repre­sen­ta­ti­on, whi­ch ends up rein­for­cing the diver­sity also of the graphic solu­ti­ons invol­ved in their pro­duc­ti­on. On the can­va­ses, human figu­res, ani­mals, objects, domes­tic inte­ri­or sce­nes, and lands­ca­pes are iden­ti­fi­a­ble. The expres­si­o­nist incli­na­ti­ons of Fabrí­cio Lopez’s pro­duc­ti­on seem to allu­de to Ibe­rê Camar­go, Mar­ce­lo Gras­s­mann, and Vânia Mig­no­ne. The plu­ra­lism con­ti­nu­es with an alter­na­ti­on betwe­en heavy, den­se drawings and other, eco­no­mi­cal ones; betwe­en foli­a­ge and rus­tic, dry lands­ca­pes; betwe­en, on the one hand, phan­tas­ma­go­ric and mons­trous cre­a­tu­res and atmosphe­res and, on the other, the objec­ti­ve, func­ti­o­nal mate­ri­a­lity of uti­li­ta­ri­an objects.

By way of rever­sal, it must be said, towards the end of the text, that the exhi­bi­ti­on begins with a non-con­for­mist work right from its title. The Ass of the World is a work on paper that bears the print of spar­se ima­ges from vari­ous sour­ces and moments of Fabri­ci­o’s pro­duc­ti­on, spre­ad over a satu­ra­ted field of sha­pes and colors, and prin­ted from lost matri­ces. One can dis­tin­guish here the head and neck of a big hor­se, a small goat, a glo­ve or a flat­te­ned hand, a sea­ted human figu­re, the struc­tu­re of a hou­se, a small car in the lower right cor­ner, may­be some tree bran­ches in the upper part, may­be the silhou­et­te of a red­dish cre­a­tu­re also on the right, but from then on it is guesswork…

Beings, pie­ces of beings, things, pro­jects of things, appe­ar dif­fu­se and simul­ta­ne­ous on a sur­fa­ce with a vast­ness and a capa­city for con­ca­te­na­ti­on that are pro­per to dre­ams and memory – ins­tan­ces in whi­ch sen­sa­ti­ons, per­cep­ti­ons, and repre­sen­ta­ti­ons are built, added, mixed, and era­sed. Even the aspect of out-of-regis­ter prin­ting in are­as of work con­tri­bu­tes to the idea that the­se are figu­res gathe­red together in a men­tal ima­ge: impre­ci­se and blur­red. Fabri­cio Lopez’s qua­lity as a colo­rist also has a high point the­re. The ways in whi­ch pink, yel­low, red, oran­ge, gre­en, blue, and black mark are­as, outli­ne and dye figu­res, the ways in whi­ch the­se colors jux­ta­po­se and over­lap (not only by prin­ting, but also in the use of the brush), or even by a vei­ling that seems to cross and lick part of the figu­re of the hor­se, on the left of the paper – all this main­tains an acti­ve and unin­ter­rup­ted game of suc­ces­si­ve bin­dings and unbin­dings, knot­ted and dis­join­ted, in first, second, third, and fourth planes.

Besi­des this, two other works in the exhi­bi­ti­on were made from lost matri­ces, Cha­ma Maré [Call the Tide] and Dia Par­ti­do [Split Day]. The ima­ges refer to plants, lea­ves, flowers, to a disor­der of vege­ta­ti­on – in the gre­en, with fresh­ness, in the red, with incan­des­cen­ce. But the deve­lop­ment of what is pre­sen­ted is, by con­tra­dic­ti­on, a shat­te­ring of forms and figu­res; or, by the way it is shown, in the sug­ges­ti­on of impe­tu­ous move­ments, a vio­lent rele­a­se of energy. Becau­se of the spa­ti­al con­fi­gu­ra­ti­on of the show, the­se frag­ments con­nect to tho­se airy, ner­vous lines, half han­ging, but in embar­ras­s­ment, that are deta­ched from the pla­tes of Sel­va, the seri­es. Sel­va, the show, clo­ses, thus, as a cir­cuit, a thick struc­tu­ring, com­pact and, even against the wear and tear that the word goes through, resis­tant. Inci­den­tally, the title of this exhi­bi­ti­on bears a word that is the order of the day. Both becau­se it desig­na­tes one of the bio­mes, today under thre­at, and becau­se of the refe­ren­ce, in the figu­ra­ti­ve sen­se, to this pla­ce whe­re, through dif­fi­cul­ti­es, peo­ple fight for sur­vi­val. In both mea­nings, “sel­va” has a lot to do with Bra­zil now, the ass of the world, this pla­ce of ours.

José Augusto Ribeiro is a curator of Visual Arts. Master in Theory, History and Art Criticism from the School of Communications and Arts of the University of São Paulo (ECA-USP).