THE PUBLIC SQUARE’S VALENTIM

Art, afro-brazilianess and the collective space



TEXT BY ALEXANDRE ARAÚJO BISPO
TRANSLATION BY RAFAEL M. CORREA
MAY/ 2011



Multiracial and multicultural Sao Paulo aspires and inspires diversity in its alleys, streets and avenues. Brazilian metropolis with the highest absolute number of blacks (3.1 million) - the city is, through its intrinsic cultural vocation, host to countless artistic expressions of African origin.


The asphalt is the stage. Walls and overpasses turn into canvasses to display this production in monuments, festivals, parades, fairs and wherever else the dense architecture of the city allows freedom of African expression.


The bust of Luiz Gama, in Arouche’s Square; the black mother statue, in Paissando Square; Teodoro Sampaio street; the afro-music company Ilú Obá de Min; Binho’s Sarau and the performances of The Frizzy-Hair Theater company are just some of the many examples to be named.


It is in this universe of Afro-urban expressions that the magazine ‘The Menelick 2nd Act’ remembers and refreshes the historical importance and experimental daring of one of the masters of Brazilian constructivism.


ENCHANTED CONSTRUCTIVISM


Rubem Valentim is one of the leading names of contemporary African-Brazilian art. His work includes the aesthetic desires of miscegenation of a significant part of the population.


From a poor family and with mulatto blood running through his veins, his relationship with art, in the words of the artist himself, began with the discovery of dyed piece of glass, when he was about five years old.


Valentim studied and would eventually graduate from Journalism and Dentistry school, before finding his true calling as a self-taught painter in the 40’s. At 9 years old, he already experimented with cardboard and paint, creating the nativity scene. Reflecting upon his childhood, he once recounted: "This world, poetic and popular, colorful and rich with imagination, deeply influenced me and my art". In 1954, Valentim held his first solo exhibition, later participating in several exhibitions nationwide. Talented, he wins many awards throughout his life, especially after 1955. In 1957, the artist moved to Rio de Janeiro, later, in 1962, during the National Modern Art, wins the prize, which is a trip abroad. The following year, in Rome, Italy, he takes part of the XXXI Venice Biennale. Still in Europe, he studies black art and goes to Africa. In 1966, he participates in the Festival of Black Arts in Dakar.


The geometric figuration that marks his work emerges between 1955 and 1956, when the artist is inspired by African-Brazilian popular culture, especially Candomblé (dance in honour of the gods), turning into "visual language the enchanted, magical world" that flowed within him. His geometry is awesome, elevated and spiritual. Through the geometric ordering, he seeks mysticism, the very Brazilian soul, which constitutes us as a peoples.


EMBLEM OF SAO PAULO


In 1985, Rubem Valentim has a sculpture put in Cathedral Square in São Paulo. With 8.5 m in height and made ??of exposed concrete, the monochromatic sculpture pointing to the heavens shares space with the works of other artists along with the Sé Cathedral and the Palace of Justice.


In candomblé’s mysticism, Xangô is the deity of justice that has a double-edged axe. This axe and other symbols of deities are recurrent in his works. The sculpture is like a totem, a landmark for all the passersby. By appreciating the African origin in Candomblé and translating it into a public sculptural composition, Valentim invites us to ask about our origins as a peoples. His art was a form of response and fight "to be more humane and tolerant in this time of unrelenting violence".


Valentim's work is vast, and there are few of his outdoor sculptures, which makes this a treasure that must be preserved by the afro-descendant population as part of the cultural heritage of Sao Paulo’s artistic diversity. To think of Valentim is to evoke ethical, poetic and expressive politics. His unique interpretation of African and Brazilian-indigenous roots and origins, allowed him to make rich art of symbolism, and that, has transformed geometry into something magical. His idea of a nation was not as a territorial, economic and political controller, but as an integrated unit of respect in which being different is human, highlighting the special contribution of blacks and Indians to building the country we have today. It is in the Cathedral Square sculpture that this ideal is achieved. Ideal which is the synthesis of the city itself: multiracial, cosmopolitan and multicultural.




CURIOSITY
Rubem Valentim was born the same year as the controversial Week of Modern Art in 1922.


COLLECTIONS WITH ARTIST’s WORK
Gilberto Chateaubriand Collection (MAM/RJ)
Museum of Modern Art of University of São Paulo (MAC/USP)
Museum of Modern Art (MAM/BA)
National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA/RJ)
State Pinacotheca of São Paulo


TO WATCH
Rubem Valentim: Sacred Geometry
Genre: Documentary
Direction: Cacá Vicalvi
Production: Rede Sesc/Senac de Televisão
São Paulo, 2001


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RUBEM VALENTIM
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EMBLEMAGICO, 1982
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 35 X 50 cm
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S/T, 1982
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 35 X 50 cm
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EMBLEMA, 1981
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 50 X 70 cm
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EMBLEMA, 1978
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 73 X 100 cm
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RELEVO - EMBLEMA V, 1977
ACRILICA SOBRE MADEIRA, 102 X 150 cm
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EMBLEMA, 1987
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 100 X 73 cm
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TOTEM, 1978
ESCULTURA EM MADEIRA, 94 X 32 cm
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LOGOTIPO POETICO, 1974
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 70 X 50 cm
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EMBLEMA 83-E, 1983
ACRILICA SOBRE TELA, 100 X 73 cm
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ESCULTURA DE CONCRETO APARENTE, 1979
PRACA DA SE, CENTRO, SAO PAULO.