ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

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Galerie Ron Mandos is proud to present Já estava assim quando eu cheguei, a group exhibition curated by Frederik Schampers and co-curated by Sebastiaan Bremer. The exhibition includes a selection of established and emerging artists from Brazil. For many of them, it is the first time they will have their work on display in The Netherlands.

“Ja estava assim quando eu cheguei is an exploration of Brazil from an outsider’s perspective. It functions as a personal travel log that highlights first encounters with Brazil’s nature through contemporary art. Given the immenseness of the history, culture and land itself, it merely is a personal reflection of memories, discoveries and ideas of the country and its art.” – Frederik Schampers

Já estava assim quando eu cheguei, literally translates into It was like this when I got here – Nature was here before any of us arrived, with its mystifying grandeur and intimidating yet welcoming density, growing for thousands of years before any of us set foot on earth. Many places have by now tamed nature, our technology has learned to flatten surfaces, regulate water streams, and produce sustainable energies. Though this domestication has occurred in innumerable places, including in Brazil, the country’s wildlife still fiercely pushes through man’s ultimately frail footsteps. Brazil remains a land of impenetrable forests and landscapes, in a way that is unfathomable to many. It is a natural strength that is foreign to many of us, especially to The Netherlands, where most landscapes are man-made, which coins well the relevance of the exhibition. The exhibition is about bringing in, not only a reality alien to us, but also about encountering a whole world that existed before us, and perhaps most importantly that is immeasurably stronger than us.

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The exhibition is centered around Carlito Carvalhosa’s work, Já estava assim quando eu cheguei, which also inspired the title of the exhibition. The sculpture is molded after Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf mountain, placed upside down, and cut in half. According to Paulo Herkenhoff, “the work harks back to a […] primordial time […] when it asserts that the rock–a monumental geological accident–”was there when I got here” and had no name, only form. The artist does not establish any dichotomy between the disparate times of “arrival” and “being there before”. Rather the work addresses the constitutive moment of the sentient subject. This difference between the ego and the world (that was “already” there) is consciousness itself.” The work is not anchored in one moment, nor in the experience of one person, but rather captures the idea of consciously encountering the monumental world that we live in – epitomizing the feeling of anyone who steps into Brazil and discovers its land. The ruling presence of wildlife has also dictated a uniquely intricate relationship between the country’s people and its elements. Maria Nepomuceno’s works, for example, embody the connection between body and nature with a weaving process that entwines the memories of her own origins, of her experiences – through the process and the forms that she creates – and that of her land – through the inherent history that lives in organic materials. Fagus’ Poema para abrir espaço, is another mention of the elemental strength of Brazil; the cups hold gold leaves soaked and floating in cachaça. While the latter is the most typical and extensively consumed distilled drink in Brazilian culture – also used in rituals and worships -, the gold is a token of the country’s natural wealth, and of its history. Each cup is therefore a metaphorically rich ode to Brazil, and its often suffering but resilient, organic opulence.

Perhaps as an additional layer to, or rather as a more overt engagement with the underlying connotations of the heavily charged history of exploitation that inevitably imbues the native realities alluded to in the aforementioned works, Aline Motta’s (Outros) Fundamentos presents nature as an emblem for an endless struggle with the often overlooked history of diaspora that landed Brazil. In speaking of her work, Aline Motta says, ‘I’ve used water and its transmutational qualities as a vehicle for connection, for the unearthing of long-buried memories, and a search for belonging,’ entwining the notion of nature with that of regeneration, of healing and once more, of national history.

A subtle interjection comes into the exhibition through Mauro Restiffe’s Pampulha #2. The work is a photograph of Pampulha in Belo Horizonte, a residential area organized around a man-made lagoon. The piece acts as a token of human intervention – it is a testament to how nature has been altered by society throughout the world, linking us back to the Dutch xexperience. Pampulha #2 is an innuendo, a clin-d’oeil, that intertwines rather than differentiates the questions of the man-made versus nature, in both Brazil and The Netherlands.

Ultimately Já estava assim quando eu cheguei comes as an ode to nature, as a reflection of how we, as the human kind, have come to interact with it, inhabit it, and respond to it. Brazil’s nature is potent, dense, resilient, it is unique in the way it penetrates the country’s every day and
infiltrates its culture – and thus, this exhibition comes as a small tribute to its grandiosity, as a small window for you to peek through, and as a shove for us to look after it.

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