Efrain Almeida's sculpture-trophy for the 19th Festival

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posted on 08/13/2015
In the piece proposed for the Festival, the Brazilian artist updates recurring symbols from his production, transposing defining elements of the Brazilian popular culture into the context of contemporary art

Ceará’s artist Efrain Almeida presents the sculpture-trophy destined for the 19th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil | Southern Panoramas' awarded artists. Almeida joins the group of artists who have created the piece in past editions, such as Tunga, Rosângela Rennó, Luiz Zerbini and Erika Verzutti, among others, specially invited by the Festival’s chief curator Solange Farkas. For this edition, Efrain pays tribute to the arts and visual artists, updating recurring symbols from his production: a pair of eyes. The eyes also evoke the Festival's name and history: the word video comes from the Latin video, meaning "I see".

Personal narratives, memory and identity building are some of the concepts that propel the curatorial tone of this Festival, as they are a constant in Efrain’s visual and theoretical constructions. “His work transposes some defining features of the Brazilian popular culture — particularly from the hinterland — into the context of visual arts,” says Farkas. The handicraft and popular and religious imagery from northeastern Brazil underpin the autobiographical expressions in Efrain’s work, a carpenter’s son born in inland Ceará, where he still upholds his studio. 

The body is one of the subjects embraced by Efrain Almeida’s work, who uses his own as a measure time and again. While suggested in fragments, said work addresses the ex-votos, carved figures that represent parts of the body in need of cure, or which have been cured, offered by the devoted to their saints. The piece conceived by Almeida for the 19th Festival also acknowledges the story of Saint Lucy, a celebrated protector of sight. Lucy had her eyes gouged out on the orders of a Roman emperor, as punishment for not rejecting her Christian faith, and, according to the Catholic doctrine, she was later miraculously provided with two brand new eyes. 

A wooden bas-relief serves as a baseline for Olhos negros (2015), pieces made of polychrome bronze, which will be awarded to the prize-winning artists. The gesture of repetition is a constant in the artist’s trajectory, even though the serialized nature of bronze casting has become part of his recent repertoire, as in the case of his solo exhibitions Lavadeirinha (Water tyrant, 2015) and Uma coisa linda (A beautiful thing, 2014). The handmade painting process of the 19th Festival’s prizes makes each piece unique: “it is a repetition marked by singularity,” states the artist.

For Efrain, the invitation to create these pieces represents a dialogue, a possibility of commutation between his artwork and that of the prize-winning artists, who, thanks to the geopolitical criteria of the Festival, come from the most diverse regions of the world. According to Solange Farkas, Videobrasil’s strategy, introduced more than thirty years ago, “has also allowed for exchange between two universes that were initially estranged — video and visual arts —, and has encouraged arists to experiment with video as a tool of expression”, collaborating with its assimilation by the contemporary art. It was also an early indicator of the premise that would turn into the Festiaval’s vocation throughout the years: to position itself as a platform open to the experimentation of all artistic experience, bringing together Brazilian creators and artists from other parts of the global South. Efrain’s sculpture-trophy will be exhibited beside the pieces made by the artists selected for this edition, at Sesc Pompeia. All artworks conveyed as trophies to the winning artists in past editions will be on display at Galpão_VB, the new headquarters of Videobrasil, which will feature the projects commissioned by the 19th Festival, starting in October. 

About the artist

Efrain Almeida (Boa Viagem, Brazil, 1964) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, where he is also a professor, at Parque Lage's School of Visual Arts. Efrain is a self-taught artist, whose first solo exhibition was held in 1993. He took part in the much-praised exhibition Histórias Mestiças (Mestizo Stories, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Brazil, 2014), the 29th São Paulo Biennial (Brazil, 2010), the 10th Havana Biennial (Cuba, 2009), and the 15th Cerveira Biennial (Portugal, 2009). His artworks have been featured in institutions such as Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporáneo (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil), Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães (Recife, Brazil), Museum of Modern Art – MoMA (New York, USA), and Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Ceará (Fortaleza, Brazil), among other collections.