Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary
25 September 2019 – 12 January 2020
Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary is the first UK retrospective of one of the most pioneering artists working in Brazil today.
With simple materials like clay, paper and ink Anna Maria Maiolino (b. 1942, Italy) constructs a fascinating world rooted in human conditions such as longing and motherhood, fragility, language and resistance. Frequently taking inspiration from her experience as an immigrant coming of age under Brazil’s military dictatorship, the artist chronicles sixty years of political, personal and cultural shifts.
Whitechapel Gallery brings together an extraordinary body of 150 works, many on display in the UK for the first time. The title Making Love Revolutionary reflects Maiolino’s exposure to the Argentinian Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo movement when living in Buenos Aires. Originating in the 1970s, it saw women march in defiance of the government to campaign for their children disappeared under dictatorship. Becoming a visible, unexpected and dynamic political force over decades, the mother’s love becomes revolutionary.
Beginning with the artist’s most recent works created between 1990 and today, the first gallery places Maiolinio’s sculptures in dialogue with works on paper. A major new installation of unfired clay is created in situ. Using her hands as a mould the artist repetitively rolls and stacks hundreds of simple forms. The raw shapes evoke traditional women’s labour such as kneading bread or housework as well as excrement, and will dehydrate, change colour and crack. The central ground-floor installation marks the return of the artists’ work in clay to Whitechapel Gallery; an earlier example was included in the exhibition Inside the Visible (1996) which placed Maiolino alongside key women artists of the twentieth century such as Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) and Eva Hesse (1936 – 1970).
Politically-charged video and performance works from the 1970s and 80s are also on display. Created under the radar of Brazil’s military regime, they explore repression and hunger. In the film In-Out Antropofagia (In-Out Anthropophagy) (1973), a man’s and woman’s mouths are alternatively taped shut, smiling, attempting to speak or fed with string. É o que sobra (What is left over) (1974) shows the artist threatening to cut out her eyes or tongue with scissors, in a confrontational act of violence reflecting that of the dictatorship. The exhibition will culminate with Maiolino’s seminal performance work Entrevidas (1981), in which bare feet tread carefully among scattered eggs. A literal manifestation of walking on eggshells, a carpet of fragile eggs becomes like a minefield. The egg, which Maiolino likens to a primal form or beginning, recurs in the final gallery – perhaps becoming a symbol of love and regeneration.
Maiolino often works in series, evidenced in recent freestanding sculptures from the series Errância Poética (From the Earth – Poetic Wanderings) (2018) and intimate works in paper and ink including Aguadas (Watery) (1984-2016).
The exhibition reveals the beginning of Maiolino’s career. Born in Italy during World War II, at 12 Maiolino emigrated with her family to Latin America to settle in politically unstable Brazil at 18. Studying in Rio de Janeiro, Maiolino began making woodcuts, adopting the typical wood-block printing technique and the popular figuration of Brazil’s northeast. Early prints on display include Glu Glu Glu (1967), in which an open-mouthed figure sits at a table spread with food. ANNA (1967) shows two rudimentary figures with wide open mouths sharing a single speech bubble “ANNA”. Their attempt to communicate brings to mind Maiolino’s own linguistic transition from Italian to Portuguese.
Moving from figuration to a dynamic abstraction inspired by Neoconcretism in the 1970s, Maiolino treats paper as a sculptural medium through tearing, folding and layering in works on paper including Gravura Objeto (Engraving Object) (1972) and Desenho Objeto (Drawing Object) (1974 – 76). In the late 1960s Maiolino had moved to New York with her husband the artist Rubens Gerchman (1942 – 2008). Unable to speak the language and fulfilling the role of mother and wife, her artistic work became limited although she was exposed to Latin American artists who visited. Following an invitation from Luis Camnitzer (b. 1937) to attend the experimental New York Graphic Workshop in 1971, Maiolino left her husband and returned to Brazil to create her most radical works.
Maiolino’s work connects her to key moments of Brazilian art history: the New Figuration Movement, Neo-Concretism, and New Brazilian Objectivity. Arguably eclipsed by contemporaries including Helio Oiticica (1937 – 1980), Lygia Clark (1920 – 1988) and Lygia Pape (1927 – 2004), perhaps due to the unrelentingly experimental and personal nature of her work, Maiolino’s oeuvre gives form to her experience of exile, deprivation and survival under authoritarian and patriarchal regimes.
Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary is conceived and organised in collaboration with PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan, where it was presented with the title O Amor Se Faz revolucionário, 29 March – 1 September 2019 and curated by Diego Sileo. The Whitechapel Gallery presentation is curated by Lydia Yee and Trinidad Fombella with Inês Costa.
Notes to Editors
The exhibition is co-organised with Padiglione D’Arte Contemporanea, Milan
Hauser & Wirth
Philippe and Antonie Bertherat
Tiqui Atencio Demirdjian
Lisa and Tom Blumenthal
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm; Thursdays, 11am – 9pm
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