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EXHIBITIONS

Cildo Meireles and Various Artists “Q&A” at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

Galleria Continua is pleased to present–for the first time in its San Gimignano gallery space–a double bill of solo shows, entitled Q&A, by Cildo Meireles and Various Artists.

Cildo Meireles has contributed since the 1960s to shaping developments in the language of contemporary art. A pioneer in the field of installation, the artist occupies a key position on the Brazilian and international art scene. In the nucleus around which his work takes form, a poetic and symbolic reading of the real coexists with a pointed reflection on the strategies that regulate the processes of production, circulation and promotion of art. Various Artists is a collective comprising 24 fictitious artists and is conceived as an autonomous work, where all the participants concentrate on their own specific fields of inquiry and their own artistic practice, which are then brought together in installations or collective projects.

The two exhibition projects dialogue with each other, developing according to a dynamic that Meireles and Various Artists describe as “Q&A”, that is “Question/Answer”. Four themes are explored in the course of this engagement: water, excrement, value and mathematics. The discussion shifts from the theoretical to the visual plane, leaving it up to the works to find suitable answers.

Meireles and VA share the view that water is destined to become the oil of the future. Water supplies are now widely privatized and concentrated in the hands of a few companies that manage it at a global level. There is a lack of legislation, and no one is taking responsibility for it. Water is an urgent and topical problem that will sorely test the global economic system and security. Finding possible solutions is the key to tackling other challenges relating to water, such as global warming, the scarcity of energy and food resources, demographic pressure, pollution, environmental deterioration, global epidemics and natural disasters. Meireles is showing Chove Chuva (It Rains Rain), a 1995-1997 installation presented here in a more interactive and technological version conceived specifically for this exhibition. Four screens delineate a room at the centre of the stalls area. The viewer is invited to enter the space and spend time there. Drops of water fall from the ceiling, the walls show images of a storm, and on the floor there are large transparent cushions full of water. Inspired by Jorge Ben Jor’s Chove Chuva, an iconic piece of Mu?sica Popular Brasileira, this installation recreates the showers of Sa?o Paulo. By an ironic twist of fate, the artist explains, the drops of water fall in the “wrong” urban places, resulting in a period in which the city does not receive a sufficient supply of potable water. Various Artists responds with ITALIC A?gua Com Ga?s, a work comprising a series of bonsai of different species and ages, submerged in aquariums. During a journey through southern Europe, Various Artists encountered landscapes completely modified by the construction of hydroelectric dams–projects funded by the EU to guarantee water supplies for industrial agriculture at the expense of the original flora, fauna and cultivation patterns of an ancient landscape. The drowning of the bonsai, VA affirms, recreates the image of drowned olive groves, prompting us to reflect upon the extreme impact that certain forms of cultivation can have on nature.

The theme of excrement leads both artists to engage with the cultural notion of aesthetics. Meireles presents KU KKA KA KKA (1990-1999)–two apparently identical greenhouses, one containing real flowers and fake excrement, the other plastic flowers and real faeces – while Various Artists shows nn.pearls, a collection of jewels accompanied by a short publication that reveals the ordinary process each individual pearl was subjected to before being set in the precious jewel.

Value is another of the themes that Meireles and VA address in the two shows. It is an issue that can be tackled from various points of view – monetary value, economic value, how to exhibit value, how to differentiate between exchange and use value and interpret the symbolic value. In this case, both artists focus on the representation of the value of art. Meireles and VA interact with the art object as if it were a luxury item, goods for exchange, a category like any other that can be traded and exchanged, on which one can speculate and with which one can interact. The Brazilian artist explores the alchemy of gold in Aquaurum (2015), Various Artists the googolplex (10 to the power of 10 to the power of a 100), the expression of an infinite number whose transcription requires all the space of the universe and which the artist formalizes as a poem in multiple volumes.

The final theme of discussion between the two artists is mathematics. Various Artists and Cildo Meireles share a love for mathematics, though they use it differently in their work. Art and mathematics have a long historical link, they explain: the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks were familiar with the Golden Section. Artists of every age have been inspired by mathematics, and mathematics has been studied as a means for adding to and completing their works; Renaissance painters like Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci drew on mathematics, including the Golden Section and the Fibonacci numbers.

In 1968 Meireles conceived the idea of working with as little material as possible, designing spatial situations with the simple use of a thread. This gave rise to his Virtual Volumes. These represent a critical vision of Euclidean geometry (three surfaces defining a space), which was accepted as a standard representation of space. With the Virtual Volumes Meireles created a mental concept of space instead of a fixed material idea. Over the years Virtual Artists has developed its own technique for realizing abstract works, called “human mathematics”. This is an alternative/ artistic design methodology which serves to produce mathematical/abstract art. Formal, factual or personal data are used for abstract information or for graphic elements. Subjective rules and arbitrariness perform an important role, and are influenced by time, space and by the socio-economic context. Various Artists devised a workshop to share this technique with other artists and students, and the exhibition features the pieces created during those workshops.

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at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano
until 9 January 2016

Cildo Meireles, Project for Virtual Volumes, 1968-1969

Cildo Meireles, Aquarum, 2014-2015

Cildo Meireles, Aquarum, 2014-2015 (detail)

Cildo Meireles, Chove Chuva, 1995-1997

Cildo Meireles, Chove Chuva, 1995-1997

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Cildo Meireles and Various Artists “Q&A” installation views at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2015

Courtesy: the artists and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano. Photo: Ela Bialkowska

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