21/02/2020 - 29/05/2020
In her remarkable Body Art and Performance. The Body as Language (1974), Lea Vergine begins by saying that one of the principles of body art is a need known as “primary love.” She writes that “one can discover the unsatisfied need for love that extends itself without limit in time – the need to be loved for what one is and for what one wants to be – the need for a kind of love that confers unlimited rights.” . From the perspective of decades of performative practices around the body, the main subject of this thesis is the bodies of the artist. After the Conceptual Art and Body Art of the sixties and seventies, its present reminds us that art is, by definition, what artists do. The body is also the central component of Carla Chaim’s exhibition, Ella, whose title is a statement in itself. At a first glance, we are looking at an essentially formal, austere, minimalist and monochrome work which embodies a reaffirmation of presence, materiality, the here and the now of the body, of her artist self. This relationship between the body and reductive art reminds us of Robert Morris’ other thoughts on his own work: “I think the fact that my work was about the body, that there was nothing there, took a while to sink in.” This historical influence, these connections, are not difficult to see in Chaim's work: she uses graphite and oil by applying them directly on the medium (Serra); the naked body as a unit and measure (Nauman, Rainer); geometry in the drawing process (LeWitt); the feminist affirmation of the choreography of one’s own body (Almeida), etc. Beyond these references, in Chaim, the body is the measurement and proportion of the surrounding space, the gallery space or the "white cube" that she defines and describes through the syncopated rhythms of the new dance and the choreography. The bodies, in sober black, measure the place and its presence within. Contemplating a space in black or white means observing it along with its direct opposite: positive and/or negative, full and/or empty, occupied and/or unoccupied. Between painting, drawing, sculpture and installation, this is her most plastic work to date. The body is presented as an organic entity, and this quality originates from movement. The counterpoint to this organicity is geometry, which often means to set an order that requires certain formal rules and parameters. The discipline of manual labor to end up blurring the boundaries between limit and disciplines. In foldings, when folding paper is treated as a three-dimensional, dynamic and versatile surface. The harshness of the process and the rules that are created beforehand are infected with a more material and tactile dimension based on simple folding, dyeing and staining techniques, transparencies and frottages. The line is a stain, matter. There is a sculptural quality to drawings made in white, black and red. Instead of resorting to heavier mediums, Chaim chooses the lightness of paper. Doing privileges experience, the act of using one’s hands when transforming matter; applying oil directly in a manner full of gesture or as in sanguine drawings. The experience of the work is first and foremost, a process. There are also changes in scale and material, from the controllable boundary of folded paper, with editorial dimensions, to the expansion and openess of the architecture of the exhibition space. From the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional and back again to the plane. While contemplating these works, it is impossible not to think about the Brazilian tradition of Neo-Concrete art (e.g. Lygia Pape), where its essentially graphic nature makes its way among various means of artistic expression, including performance. Rather than offering political content with her vindication of the body, Carla Chaim makes a political statement instead: aren’t bodies the first to suffer the effects of nefarious government policies such as the ones being enacted in Brazil today? Aren’t politics the radical difference that forces artists to cling to an uncompromising present moment? With the narrative title of El quería ser bandera (2017), this piece is a plea, a desire to speak and raise one’s hand, to ask for the floor to protest. Perhaps the work manifests an unsatisfied expression, a flag flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning, but also of struggle. There are more flags in this exhibition, flying, hanging or collapsing under their own weight. The Ella flag is a direct reference to that other flag, "Viva Maria" (1966) by Waldemar Cordeiro. Flags with meaning, always in white, black and red. Peio Aguirre