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21/01 - 25/02 2023

Participating artists: Lucas Arruda, Eleonore Koch, Fabio Miguez & Paulo Pasta  

Mendes Wood DM is proud to inaugurate Cinza das horas, a group exhibition organized by Lucas Arruda (b. 1983) that presents his work alongside paintings by fellow Brazilian artists Eleonore Koch (1926 - 2018), Fabio Miguez (b. 1962), and Paulo Pasta (b. 1959). The exhibition takes its title from a book of poems by the Brazilian author Manuel Bandeira, published in 1917.

The show aims to engage with the work of these artists through a different lens than usual. Rather than using the artists’ shared nationality and socio-cultural perspectives as the connective tissue, as can often be the case with Modern and contemporary Brazilian art, this exhibition instead addresses the notion of painting as the end and not just the means. The resulting work is removed from contemporaneity, from the day to day and from politics; this is painting made “pure”.

Despite profoundly different aesthetic outcomes, they are united by their research into the modulation of light, form and color, their obsessive refining of technique, and a deep understanding of both the material and meditative act of putting color to canvas, whether it be Arruda and Pasta’s preference for oil, Koch’s use of tempera, or Miguez’s combination of oil and wax. What these artists have is common is their engagement with the medium itself, with the painting as an object that exists independently in the world.

A meditative quality, one of the fils rouges of the exhibition, comes across in different forms throughout the work of these four artists, but always seems to point towards a stillness, a kind of temporal suspension that makes these paintings exist somewhere outside of ordinary time.  

Arruda’s imagined seascapes are permeated by meticulous brushstrokes, by light and darkness and weather, achieving a deep sense of primordial time. Despite obvious formal and technical differences, Pasta, too, orchestrates the same zen-like pictorial silence in his dense geometries and compositions of pure color.  

Further compelling dialogues surface through the abstracted and simplified forms and architectures that appear in Koch and Miguez’ compositions. Objects and colors float in metaphysical plains that suggests contemplation and a kind of solitary reverence that is not religious, but nevertheless spiritual.

Their painting is self-reflexive, rooted in the formal and compositional questions it poses itself, but is also firmly positioned in relation to art history. In terms of the South American canon, the pieces on show resonate particularly with Neo Concretism and the work of seminal painter Alfredo Volpi, who not only taught Koch to use tempera, but whose experiments with chromatic forms and color fields deeply influenced the work of Arruda, Miguez, and Pasta.

However, the most significant art historical resonances to be found in this exhibition are more closely aligned with the European canon. Visible throughout is a multiplicity of references that anchors this diverse group of works to a long and well-trodden path of pictorial research and artistic continuity. Arruda’s use of light and atmosphere is reminiscent in places of William Turner and John Constable, for example; the still, carefully chromatic relation between color, object and form of Giorgio Morandi is echoed in different ways in the compositions of Koch, Miguez, and Pasta; meanwhile, the unexplainable mystery and melancholy of De Chirico’s empty town squares, that sense of physical, pictorial, and metaphysical space seems to permeate everything, from Arruda’s vast horizons to Miguez’s intimate architectures; and all the way back to the early and pre-Renaissance tempera paintings of Fra Angelico, Giotto, and Piero della Francesca, which Miguez openly references in many of his small-scale compositions.  

Rather than simply paying homage, these artists are following a long tradition and adopting time-tested material techniques and conceptual approaches to address painterly questions that were as relevant then as they are now, and as timeless as these compositions, seascapes, and architectures appear to the viewer.  

Lucas Arruda (b. 1983, São Paulo) lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.

Lucas Arruda's work obstinately concentrates on a well-defined theme within the canon of art history in order to examine complex contemporary mental states. His research develops fundamentally around landscape, thinking and experimenting with our capacity of living through the mediation of light and the gaze.
Through a powerful and cohesive series of oil paintings, as well as slide projections and light installations, his landscapes exist in the point of tension between abstraction and figuration, between apparition and emptiness. With each gaze, experiences are demarcated in a process of construction and reconstruction of memory, as if the formulation of fields of color touched on the immaterial body of temporal landscapes and experienced sensations.
As we move above and below horizon lines, the artist puts us before atmospheres that are charged with visual as well as metaphysical questions. Between sky and earth, the ethereal and solid, the imagination and the reality, a meditative contemplation finds its routine while following an endless, and not always clear, a cycle of sublimation and deposition of matter.    
His recent institutional solo exhibitions include Assum Preto, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Madrid (2023); Lugar sem lugar, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2022); Lugar sem lugar, Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre (2021); Lucas Arruda, Pond Society, Shangai (2020); Deserto-Modelo, Fridericianum, Kassel (2019); Lucas Arruda, Cahiers d’Art, Paris (2018); Deserto-Modelo, Indipendenza, Rome (2016); Deserto-Modelo, Lulu, México DF (2015); Deserto-Modelo, Pivô, São Paulo (2015).

Additionally, Arruda’s work has been included in institutional group shows such as Bonna, Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka (2023); Avant l’Orage, Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, Paris (2023); Passages – Landscape, Figure and Abstraction, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2022); Histórias Brasileiras, MASP, São Paulo(2022); Jusque-là, Pinault Collection | Le Fresnoy, Tourcoing (2022); Natureculture, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2021); Seismic Movements, Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka (2020); Aprendendo com Miguel Bakun: Subtropical, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2019); Luogo e Segni, Punta della Dogana, Venice (2019);  Volcano Extravaganza 2019 – DEATH, Fiorucci Art Trust, Stromboli (2019); City Prince/sses, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2019); Beyeler Collection / Nature + Abstraction, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2018); Debout!, Couvent des Jacobins and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes (2018); Anozero – Bienal de Arte Contemporânea de Coimbra, Coimbra (2017); Soft Power. Arte Brasil, Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort (2016); 1ª Bienal Internacional de Asunción - Grito de Libertad, Asunción (2015); Chambres à Part, Edition VIII, La Réserve Paris, Paris (2013); Here is Where We Jump, Museo del Barrio, New York (2013); Arte Brasileira Contemporânea, Pinacoteca de São Paulo (2012).

Eleonore Koch (b. 1926, Berlin – 2018, São Paulo)

Eleonore Koch is one of the most singular figures to have emerged in Brazilian art in the second half of the 20th century. She stands out as someone whose work doesn’t easily fit into any of the dominant artistic currents of her time and place, having stubbornly pursued her own pictorial language with remarkable discipline and coherence over more than four decades. Born in Berlin, Koch moved with her family to São Paulo as a child. In 1949 she traveled to Paris to study art, returning to Brazil in the early 1950s to study under Alfredo Volpi who introduced her to egg tempera, a medium she would continue to employ throughout her career. Koch also studied under many other artists, including Yolanda Mohalyi (1909-1978) and Elisabeth Nobiling (1902-1975).  

Moving to London in 1968, Koch found an affinity with the figurative work of British painters like Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney. Distance from her home country gave her the freedom to further develop her style: the reduction of figures to the bare minimum, the rigorously demarcated areas of color, and the vast empty spaces that acquire a special vibrancy and luminosity through the treatment of the pictorial surface. In all of Koch’s works, the human figure is completely absent and the compositions are invariably characterized by an economy of elements with clearly demarcated zones of color that evoke different moods. Several commentators have drawn comparisons between Koch’s work and Italian metaphysical painting, pointing to the eerie atmosphere of these worlds devoid of human life.

Besides landscape painting, Koch’s strict repertoire only included paintings of interiors featuring mundane objects that don’t appear to have any symbolic value: a blotter, a piece of crumbled paper, a chair, a vase, a peeled orange. At the same time, these objects have been singled out from a multiplicity of others and carefully reduced into synthetic forms that seem to have been sifted through a process of mental distillation which only allows the essential to remain. The result is far from ‘primitive’ or ‘simplistic’: images that are captured by the eye are submitted to an intense process of analytical deconstruction by the mind; only to be put together again by the hand, at which point they become infused with subjectivity.  

Koch’s selected solo exhibitions include Mendes Wood DM, New York (2020); Rutland Gallery, London (1982 and 1972); MASP, São Paulo (1981 and 1956); Campbell & Franks Fine Art, London (1978), amongst others. The artist exhibited at the 2021, 1965, 1963 and 1957 Biennial of São Paulo and was featured in the group show 18 Women Artists, Barbican Art Gallery, London (1983).

Fabio Miguez (1962, São Paulo) lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.

Fabio Miguez began his artistic career as a painter in the 1980s when, alongside Carlito Carvalhosa, Nuno Ramos, Paulo Monteiro, and Rodrigo Andrade, he founded the artist’s space Casa 7. During the 1990s, Miguez started to produce, in parallel to his paintings, a series of photographs entitled Derivas, later published as Paisagem Zero in 2013. These photographs are closely related to the paintings, exploring light and dark shades, and depicting the tension between the indeterminacy of the process and the apparent construction of the final product.
In the 2000s, Miguez started to develop three-dimensional works, which expands his line of research and his medium of choice: painting. The artist’s degree in architecture brings to his work a constructivist influence that dialogues with concerns regarding scale, material, and figuration. The artist often deals with modular forms in relation to combinatory logic, employing repetitions and operations of inversion and mirroring. In Miguez’s work, every painting is a fragment of the real in the way that each one reaffirms its material condition.  

His recent solo exhibitions include Fragmentos do real (atalhos) – Fabio Miguez, Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz, Ribeirão Preto (2018); Horizonte, deserto, tecido, cimento, Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo (2015); Paisagem zero, Centro Universitário Maria Antonia, São Paulo (2012); Temas e variações, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2008).

Additionally, his work has been included in institutional group exhibitions such as Coleções no MuBE: Dulce e João Carlos de Figueiredo Ferraz – Construções e geometrias, Museu de Ecologia e Escultura (MuBE), São Paulo (2019); Oito décadas de abstração informal, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP), São Paulo (2018); Auroras – Pequenas pinturas, Espaço Auroras, São Paulo, (2016); Casa 7, Pivô, São Paulo (2015); Iberê Camargo: século XXI, Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre (2014).

Miguez has participated in several biennials, such as the 1985 and 1989 Biennial of São Paulo; 2nd Havana Biennial (1986); and 5th Mercosul Biennial (2005).  His works are featured in important institutional collections, such as Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio); Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP); Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, amongst others.

Paulo Pasta (b. 1959, Ariranha) lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.

A painter, draftsman and engraver, Paulo Pasta seeks to build a temporality in painting. The colors and forms in his works seem to flatten the perception of the passing of time; when facing the canvases, the present is almost absolute. The forms and geometries represented in the dense atmospheres created by the artist are slowly recognizable by a viewer’s watchful eye – placed between horizons and obstacles, that prevent the representational space from being seen clearly. The density and time created by Pasta are contrary to any concession to the practical world and its demands for promptness and readiness; his poetics lies in the rumor and openness to the present time.
Pasta held solo shows at several locations, such as Museu de Arte Sacra de São Paulo, São Paulo (2021); Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2018); Palazzo Pamphili, Rome (2016); Galeria Millan and Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo (2015); Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre (2013); Centro Cultural Maria Antonia, São Paulo, Brazil (2011); Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil (2006), amongst others.  

He also participated in various group shows, including Vício impune: o artista colecionador, Galeria Millan and Galeria Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo (2021); 1981/2021: Arte Contemporânea Brasileira na Coleção Andrea e José Olympio Pereira, CCBB, Rio de Janeiro (2021); Pinacoteca: acervo, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo (2020); Clube de Gravura – 30 Anos, MASP, São Paulo (2016); Os Muitos e o Um, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2016); 30 x Bienal, São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo (2013); Europalia, International Art Festival, Brussels (2011); Matisse Hoje, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo (2009); Arte por Toda Parte, 3rd Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre (2001).

His works are featured in various collections such as Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM Rio); Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP); Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC/USP); Museu Nacional de Belas Artes; Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros; Kunsthalle Berlin. 

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