André Ricardo: between what to paint and how to paint
Since the 1980’s, I've been interested in artists who use ready-made images to produce their work. In 1987 when I was responsible for my first curatorship (Second generation images at mac usp), I dealt with this problem then already part of the artistic environment in São Paulo. At the time, the use of ready-made images was known as “appropriationism” or “quotationism”.
Although some authors quickly decreed that “appropriationism” was just a fad, just another “ism”, it was seen as the neoliberal wave that relativizes everything. The fact is that the use of ready-made images was already part of the creative process of several professionals, a phenomenon that became widespread a few years later after the advent and popularization of digital media (e.g., pcs, cell phones capable of taking and sending photos, etc.). The use of appropriated images from these large digital image banks became the basis of the works of several artists, which for many of them does not remove the intention of producing paintings that question the relativism present in our lives. However, it is necessary to take into account that for many, the appropriation of images was not the only option for the creation of their initial works.
The recent trajectory of the São Paulo born artist André Ricardo is a good example. Despite being raised in a world reorganized by the internet (he was born in 1985), his initial works were based on drawings made during his daily travels between Grajaú (a neighborhood in São Paulo on the southern edges of the city) and usp (west of the city). Recognized as a continuation of exercises produced in classes at the Department of Visual Arts at eca usp, the drawings made on buses (sometimes stopped in traffic jams, sometimes at high speed), were gradually replaced by other drawings, reminiscent of those experiences in which André was impressed by the number of trucks with dump buckets and excavators scattered through the streets and avenues – and also the result of even older experiences.3
As time went by, these reminiscences began to be translated onto canvas, immediately demonstrating how much the young painter seemed to walk in the tradition of painting, echoing a specific formal universe: that of a constructive tradition.4
These first paintings by André did not mention specific works by the great names of those traditions. They looked like “enlarged”5 quotes from those movements, more or less what the Austrian/British Ernst Gombrich – speaking about other periods of art – called the schemata:
These tribes [...], rejected classical beauty in favor of abstract ornament. Perhaps in fact they were contrary to any and all naturalistic forms, but if that is true, we need some other proof. The fact that, by being copied and recopied, the image is assimilated in the schemata of its own artisans demonstrates the same tendency that made the German engraver transform the Castel Sant'Angelo into a wooden Burg. The “will to form” is a “will to conform”, that is, the assimilation of any new form by the schemata and by the models that an artist has learned to manipulate.6
A young artist who practiced representing the reality that surrounded him, when he translates the memories of his wanderings through São Paulo into the territory of painting, he translates them into schemes he understands as fundamentally current: the constructive schemata.
Involved with the formal issues that structured his work, André became increasingly concerned with that tradition to which he had joined almost by default. He let it invade his priorities, putting into the background another interest always present in his conscience: the need for a dialogue between his work and Brazilian reality. Thus, it was from the events that took place in the country between 2015-2016 that the artist established what would be the first "route correction" of his career: impregnated by the issues surrounding Brazil at that time, it begins to become clear to the painter that the structural concern he maintained with the constituent elements of painting – the plane, the line and the color – was no longer enough to appease his desire to establish himself more deeply in the social and political reality of his surroundings.
After all, his paintings had long since ceased to be characterized as abstractions of his experiences through São Paulo: limited to manifestations within the constructive tradition. It was from this awareness that André Ricardo brought into his poetics other aspects of his wanderings in São Paulo: he began to be interested in aspects of the vernacular architecture of the city – especially that which he found in his walks through Campo Limpo, another neighborhood in the city he had moved to – allowing himself to be impregnated by these forms. Little by little, André began to populate his paintings with forms taken from the façades of the neighborhood's residences, highlighting the constructive structures that still remained in his work.
The artist's progression was interesting. Through his interest in the reality he saw around him during his time as a student, it led him to abstractions in dialogue with the constructive tradition. At a given moment, this path no longer satisfied him when he was removed from the impregnation of that reality that had initially motivated them. As an antidote, André looks around again to extract fresh juice for the development of his poetics.
The set of works that make up André Ricardo's exhibition at Galeria Estação brings together those that reflect the reference from ornamental elements of suburban houses – decorative and naive forms, modest swallows of art deco,7 to images he sought in the visual universe of the most diverse artists.
In these works, André adds to the structures from the beginning of his career: signs coming from various origins. It is as if he, after his real experiences through São Paulo, now developed a virtual, continuous transit through the history of images. If in some way, he preserves the schemata inherited from the constructive tradition, it is undeniable how he punctuates these allusions with quotes that immediately refer to those universes of erudite artists who scrutinized/scrutinize popular visuality, as well as to those that sprang from it.
But if André's painting were limited to just these characteristics, it would be little different from the production of several artists of his generation: a well-informed and “creative” painting, with various signs drawn here and there on the internet.
It so happens that André's works differ from that of many of his colleagues in that, with each brushstroke, he reveals a precious knowledge about how to act in the pictorial field. For example, André only refers to Alfredo Volpi and Eleonore Koch through forms and/or spatializations; he also mentions them developing in their canvases a sophisticated and highly erudite pictorial knowledge learned in the close observation of the works of those and other artists of the most respected canon of Western painting.
The concern with the vernacular is visible in the direct or indirect (conscious or unconscious) allusions that André makes to the works of Emmanuel Nassar, Gilvan Samico, Antonio Maia, Véio, Alcides and many others – although André demonstrates to be more interested in what overflows of these so peculiar visual universes, than just in the signs used by all these artists. But let us not be fooled: such references to this broad visual culture of popular extraction are anchored in a pictorial tradition in which “how to paint” is as or more important than “what to paint”.
1 “Considerações sobre o uso de imagens de segunda geração na arte contemporânea”. chiarelli, Tadeu (cur.). Imagens de segunda geração. São Paulo: mac usp, 1987. Republished as “Imagens de Segunda Geração" in chiarelli, Tadeu. Arte internacional brasileira. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Lemos Editorial, 2002, pp. 100 et seq.
2 I start the discussion on the subject in the text: “About Bruno Dunley's mirrors or in search of the lantern of the drowned”. Thadeu Chiarelli. Text for the solo show by artist Bruno Dunley – No meio – held at Galeria Nara Roesler, between June 23 and August 11, 2018. <https://nararoesler.art/exhibitions/137/>.
3 André Ricardo never forgot the few months in which, at the age of 11, he worked in a construction material store. Since that time, these vehicles have interested him as shapes that move, creating unusual angles and planes.
4 It is important to clarify that, here, I understand as belonging to the “constructive tradition” all those artists who, since the beginning of the last century, have been discussing the constituent elements of painting (the plane, the color, the line). In this universe I encompass, from neoplasticists to hard edge artists; from Russian constructivists to Brazilian concrete and neo-concrete. This large universe would also include two important artists in André Ricardo's education: Marco Giannotti and Paulo Pasta, exponents of “Paulista painting”, who, each in their own way, taught the artist in training to know and value the painting of Alfredo Volpi (another “constructive”).
5 The Italian critic Roberto Pasini was the one who coined the two types of quotations: the “punctual” and the “extended”: pasini, R. “Il falso viaggiatore”, in Anni Ottanta, Milão: Mazzotta, 1985.
6 gombrich, Ernst. Arte e ilusão: um estudo da psicologia da representação pictórica. 7. ed. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1995, p. 79.
7 Still very common in the interior of the Brazilian Northeast, this type of ornamentation can be seen in other regions of the country, as well as in the interior of the state of São Paulo and even on the fringes of the São Paulo metropolis.