Remember
Lauro Cavalcanti - Text for the exhibition Frestas Lurixs, Rio de Janeiro - 2019

For Ferreira Gullar, in his childhood in the state of Maranhão, each object had its name below it. One could read, on the earth under a rock, its signifier, “stone.” The word “tree” would be written under a tree trunk, and, on a stream bed, “river.” As an adult and living in Rio de Janeiro, the poet seized on this boyish idiosyncrasy, composing a poem-object in which a small blue cube, when raised from its white base, revealed the word “lembra” [remember]. In his poema enterrado [buried poem] — a site-specific work avant la lettre — at the end of a flight of stairs a large cube held smaller cubes nested within it, which, once removed, revealed the word “Rejuvenesça” [Rejuvenate]. An impossibility…

 

This show by Beth Jobim evokes the poetic gestures of remembering and rejuvenating. And, on another level, it stirs up dormant questions between architecture and art.

 

One should remember that stones were the first subjects of her drawings and paintings. And, along the way, the painted edges on the canvases underscored their materiality as objects. Further along, the sparser use of color — ultramarine blue or earthy blood-red, applied with a roller on white — did not limit the figures so much as it gave way to the empty space. In another unfolding, drippings and transparencies added drama to her compositions.

 

Over the last two years, her trajectory has included experiments mixing pigment into cement (Museu do Açude, Casa Roberto Marinho, Paço Imperial, Raquel Arnaud). And the pigment, previously constrained in the skin of the edges, is now applied in various tones, and has penetrated the essence of the works. The path is circular, since cement is obtained from stones which, pulverized and calcinated, become plastic and moldable with the addition of water and, once dry, return to solid state. Beth makes her homage to Cubo Cor by Aluisio Carvão explicit, adding new scales, weights and questions.

 

By adopting material that is essentially architectual, the natural development of the works by the Rio de Janeiro artist was to engage with space and constructive materiality. Mário Pedrosa once remarked that, in modernist Mexico, mural painting stormed into architecture, while, in Brazil, the revolution took place in structure itself. On an exterior wall of Casa Roberto Marinho, employing the same concrete mixer used for the building during its construction, special molds were used to shape the works by Beth Jobim which, fastened to the façade, became inseparableble from the collection storage room designed by Glauco Campello. For a long time, such an explicit integration had been absent from the agenda of Brazilian artists.

 

In Beth Jobim’s concrete pieces, there is an impulse for constructive fusion, coupled with a desire for spatial ordering. Ambiguity is part of the game: are they ruins, architectural vestiges, tombstones, archaeological sites or bases for a future project?

 

When planning an exhibition, the artist makes a model of the space to experiment with the arrangement of the pieces. In this scale model, she lays out the entire set of works, the scale of each one and the dialogue between them; she thus determines leading roles, connections and contrasts.

 

The exhibition at Lurixs features various materials and techniques. The brush reappears in the canvases, along with traces of the gestures of painting and, in one of them, perhaps with a dash of humor, a gray mineral surface is hinted.

 

In the show, the spectator’s tactile sense is visually activated to verify whether the color is skin or essence, whether it feels rough or smooth, warm or cold. It is not an invitation to manipulative participation, but rather for a lingering gaze. The visitor is not expected to “prod” the artwork, but, rather, to spend more time looking at it. Eyesight considers the touch and then returns to the visual.

 

Gaps give rise to an intriguing connection between questions of displacement, dear to the neoconcrete artists, in a monochromatic painting, where the predominant caput mortuum spares the lines of the prepared white surface. Another gap is a “post-Fontana” one. In it, the rebellion of the cut gives way to a voyeuristic opening in an underlying canvas in the color red. An autopsy of painting, an access to the landscape of Eros?

 

A new element in Beth Jobim’s language is the line that sews together the canvas and reestablishes a reasonable ordering, more precisely, a realistically controlled one. In this set, where elements of different materials and thicknesses are mixed, the gray and black pieces make the plaques of earth-tone colors even more vibrant. And they point to a trajectory that celebrates the possibility of happy rejuvenation in the path of a consistent oeuvre.

 

Lauro Cavalcanti

Rio de Janeiro, September 2019