From a series addressing Watergate, the fourteen-part installation takes its title from the “big character posters” which covered public spaces in China with slogans, denunciations, and satire during the concurrent Cultural Revolution. In Ta Tze Bao, the artist appropriates the form as a lens to examine media and politics in the West. The work was shown in September 2018 at Galeria Nara Roesler | São Paulo for the first time in 33 years, as part of what became a memorial exhibition just weeks after Dias’ untimely death in August. This will be the artist’s fifth solo presentation with the Gallery, and first at its New York location.
Antonio Dias was one of the leading figures in 20th century Brazilian art, achieving international recognition during the mid-1960s. His early works were politically-infused drawings, paintings and assemblages permeated by elements from Brazilian New Figuration and Pop Art. His practice, however, engaged with the legacy of the concrete and neo-concrete movements, as well as the revolutionary drive of Tropicália. In 1965 he was awarded the Biennale de Paris prize for painting, which enabled him to travel across Europe, and following a short stay in Paris, he settled in Milan. There, he embraced a conceptual approach, creating paintings, films, videos, documentation and artist’s books, and tapping into each of those mediums to question the meaning of art. In approaching eroticism, sex and political oppression in a playful, subversive way, he created an unparalleled, conceptual body of work brimming with formal elegance, interspersed with political issues and scathing critiques of the art system.
“The Illustration of Art” was a landmark series which Dias first conceived in 1971 during a pivotal residency in New York granted by a Guggenheim Fellowship. Spanning 7 years, the series conflates intellectual interests as distinct as astronomy, minimalism, and the pursuit of a 'pure art of ideas' in the context of a rising institutionalized art economy. It also engaged politics and the media, in particular through works addressing the Watergate scandal, such as Uncovering the Cover-Up and Nixon Cercado. Ta Tze Bao is the most monumental of these, comprising mirroring sequences of the seven front pages of The New York Times and Corriere della Sera from the week of Nixon’s reelection, screen-printed onto Chinese paper. Red paint-soaked canvas cut to the shape of that day’s lead story hang like flags below each panel. As Paulo Sergio Duarte writes. “Dazibao was the newspaper par excellence of the press for the radical left; few people cared if it was free or not, the important thing was to put down the “revisionists,” those who diverged from the thinking of the Maoist circle. For Antonio Dias, in 1972, the true Ta Tze Bao was Watergate. Long before Nixon’s resignation.”
Antonio Dias’ (1944 -2018) work has been featured in over a hundred solo and group exhibitions worldwide. Past solo exhibitions include: Anywhere Is My Land, São Paulo State Art Gallery (Pinacoteca), São Paulo (2010), and Daros Latinamerica, Zurich, Switzerland (2009-2010); and Antonio Dias – O país inventado, which traveled to several Brazilian venues from 2000 to 2003, including the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art (MAM-RJ) and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM-SP). Group exhibitions include: Memories of Underdevelopment: Art and the Decolonial Turn in Latin America, 1960- 1985, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in San Diego, USA, as part of II Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (2017); International Pop, Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, USA (2015- 2016); The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, London, UK (2015-2016); Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960-1980, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA (2015), and Made in Brasil, Casa Daros, Rio de Janeiro (2015). His work has also been included in biennials, including the São Paulo Art Biennial (1981, 1994, 1998 and 2010), the Mercosur Biennial (1997, 2005) and La Biennale de Paris (1965, 1973). Dias’ work is.represented in the permanent collections of: MoMA, New York, USA; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany; Daros Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Brazillian institutions including: Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro; Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Paraná, Curitiba; Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, São Paulo; Itaú Cultural, São Paulo; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo; Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo; Museu de Arte Moderna Aloisio Magalhães, Recife; and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói / Coleção Sattamini, Niterói.