How many exhibition works:
The bridge descends as [though] from the cosmos under the revelry-sound of trains that run from the hillsides to the ocean of the Central Station; I know not why the shadows below are shadows of what I feel
Hélio Oiticica, 1969
Rio de Janeiro, a city machine running on sweat.
People melting in pleasure.
People melting in pain.
If I Were You features the work of nine artists whose trajectories have been touched by Rio and who have experienced the swelter of the city as material. This group exhibition, curated by artist Rafael D’Aló, explores how the influence of a place can be both yearned for and inescapable.
Rio stands firmly in the world’s pantheon of emblematic cities. The heat, the sweat, the sand, the sea, the thong, have all come to symbolize its wide appeal. The works presented here are meditations on self-image, freedom and ambivalence. They are exercises in recontextualizing the collective imagination, as well as interruptions in the ongoing flow of prescribed images associated with the city.
The affinities between the exhibited artworks are tentative rather than fixed. Some are investigations on the cumulative nature and power of identity – such as in Enorê’s 3D printed ceramics, where the artist lends their own face to multiplication; in Asafe Ghalib’s statuesque portraits of his LGBTQIA+ community; in Cibelle Cavalli Bastos’ half curvaceous/half blurred bestialy familiar creature trying to seduce us; or in Zé Tepedino’s indistinguishable family portraits. Others play with reconfiguration – such as Rafael D’Aló’s record of an incidental sculpture and Elvis Almeida’s colourful forays into the abstract canon. Elsewhere in the room, Rafael Perez Evans’ orchid de/re-territorialises a pile of potatoes, whilst Mariana Maurício delves into the mundane and the desirous that coexist within ourselves, and Pauline Batista’s transpiring slime balls raise questions about the commodification of the reproductive body.
If I Were You is simultaneously a celebration and a critical examination of the poetic power of a place. Both the allure of a place and the stain of a place. Ghalib’s Vidigal (2017) gives us the only image of Rio in the show. A rare panoramic vista of the Cagarras Islands from Morro do Vidigal. As our eyes move from the hillside to the ocean, the iconic carioca beaches, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, are nowhere in sight.
Unit 5, The Textile Building,
31a Chatham Place,
E9 6FJ, London