Saturday, February 25
DOCUMENT is pleased to present Geraldo de Barros’ first solo exhibition at the gallery. De Barros (São Paulo, Brazil, 1923-1998) concentrated on photography within two periods of time, each resulting in the production of the two bodies of work represented in this exhibition: the Fotoformas (1949-51) and the Sobras (1996-1998). By using a medium that so persuasively locates itself within day-to-day reality, de Barros was able interrogate the relationship between photography and other forms of capturing experience. In both series, he overlaid photographic document with the making-visible of imaginative or formal associations, and collapsed different moments of time into a single image.
Fotoformas and Sobras bridge the beginning and end of de Barros’ working life as an artist. Between the two, his activity had included participating in the formation of the Concrete Art group Ruptura (1952-1959); co-founding both the collectivist furniture factory Unilabor (1954-1961) and the graphic design consultancy forminform (1958); creating, with Nelson Leirner and Wesley Duke Lee, an anarchic space named Rex Gallery & Sons (1966-1967), and founding the furniture company Hobjeto (1964-1989). The artistic output of this varied trajectory encompassed abstract painting, industrial and graphic design, assemblages produced by painting over found billboard fragments, and abstract reliefs made of Formica. This multifaceted career suggests a wilful and dextrous heterogeneity that is also contained within De Barros’ attitude towards photography.
Through their use of cutting, cropping and collage, the Sobras also recall the processes first used in the production of the Fotoformas. Whereas the relationship between the two series is consistently apparent at the level of technique, the set of photo-collages on paper that also forms part of Sobras creates a more explicit connection to the Fotoformas. Their source materials were reproductions of his earliest images, as produced for a book published for his 1994 retrospective in São Paulo. Being fortunate enough to be witness to the beginnings of his own historicisation, the Sobras thus allowed de Barros to submit his photographic practice to a degree of chronological disobedience. As a deliberate return to photography, his final series again marked out the distinct parameters of his approach to this medium. This is a series of work that de Barros began at the end of his life, but it is also one provoked by a need to recall his first motivations for engaging with photography. The Sobras, formed by a process of looking back that acted against both nostalgia and narrative, continue to invite the intrusion of the present.
— Isobel Whitelegg