The show, which occupies two venues in via Stradella, encompasses photographic, sculptural, and video works from several decades of the Italian-born Brazilian artist’s multifaceted practice. The exhibition acts as a survey through the structures of poetic signifiers that weave threads across Maiolino’s unmistakable visual language.
Aqui e Agora, “here and now”, determines a point in time, a present, in which the artist’s decades-long practice composes a vocabulary that is agile, dense, and distinctive. Through the interpretation of feminine daily imagery and in reaction to the oppressive dictatorship and censorship in Brazil during the 1970s and 1980s, Maiolino’s work combines poetic and understated gestures with urgent and politically charged actions: the freedom of expression she has conquered across multiple media has allowed her to develop simultaneous and potent visual languages.
In the venue at via Stradella 7, Maiolino presents recent and historical works in a stark dualism of black and white, political and aesthetic. A pair of ceramic sculptures installed on black metal tables lies in the center of the space, playing on their chromatic distance and the proximity of their organic shapes. On opposing walls, photographs from Maiolino’s renowned Fotopoemação (Photo-poem-action) series are placed in dialogue with one another. On one side, the four photographs Aos Poucos (Little by Little), 1976, act as a testament to Maiolino’s political actions opposing the Brazilian military regime’s oppression, in which she often employed her own physicality.
The gallery’s back wall instead shows the more recent series Corpo/Paisagem (Body/Landscape), 2018, which marks a shift from a fiercely political use of the body to an intimate, quiet one: the artist’s facial features become a landscape, and every detail a geographic element to explore. A rarely seen video work, Um Tempo (uma vez), [One Time, (once)], 2009/2012, narrated in Portuguese by Maiolino, accompanies the images of bodies and places the artist’s relationship to the landscape in further focus.
In via Stradella 1, two tables display an encyclopedic index of Maiolino’s film and photographic work, acting as a personal exploration of the artist’s own imagery: photographs and stills from videos are arranged in two digital collages that offer a unique chance to travel through years and dialogues. Language and, more specifically, the written word, are evoked by two sculptures installed on the gallery walls. Respectively made of metal and raku ceramic, key materials employed by the artist throughout her career, the simple shapes of the sculpture’s elements read as if they were punctuation written on a blank sheet of paper.
As the viewer scans through the visual language of the artist’s sculptures, photographs, and video stills, Maiolino’s voice resonates across the space. In the video work Sotto Voce, 2016, the artist reads a poem in Portuguese while the words of its English translation ascend from the bottom of the screen. Questions of belonging and migration are woven together with references to Maiolino’s own upbringing and the female condition, central themes of the artist’s practice.
Maiolino, across 50 years of intense work, has created a universe of signs and meanings that are left to the viewer to combine and interpret, while expressing, at the same time, an incredibly intimate and distinctive vocabulary.
Anna Maria Maiolino presented a major retrospective at PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan in the summer 2019; the exhibition has travelled to Whitechapel Gallery, London, where it is on view through January 12, 2020.