Miguel Rio Branco. Crossed, Dreamed, Torn, Stolen, Used, Bled Words
Curation by Miguel Rio Branco and Thyago Nogueira
Assistant curator: Daniele Queiroz
In this exhibition, artist Miguel Rio Branco (1946) reveals the personal way he approaches photography. The image is not only a document of a lived reality, but the starting point for a new experience.
A celebrated name in Brazilian photography, Rio Branco began in painting and design in Switzerland during the 1960s. After a brief period in New York he returned to the city at the beginning of the 1970s, where he photographed everyday life among friends and artists such as Hélio Oiticica, Julio Bressane and Rubens Gerchman. Little known, these black and white noir photographs exude the vibrant and decaying atmosphere of Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood.
In Brazil, Rio Branco embraced photography and cinema as his principal activities. Between the 1970s and 80s, he developed a visual synthesis of Brazilian identity made of color and movement, violence and sensuality, tied to an acute observation of the other in his search for a greater sense of collectivity. Interested in “life that teeters on a tightrope”, Rio Branco defined life in abrupt cuts, sharp diagonals, brutal contrasts and visceral themes. Through visual fragments, he brought new meaning to the world – there was more to it than met the eye.
From the 1990s onwards, Rio Branco exchanged the agility of the 35mm camera for medium format films, producing stable and clean images and reconnecting with the visual arts. This pictorial refinement expanded his interest in the contemplation of reality.
For the installation Out of Nowhere, conceived for the 1994 Havana Biennial, Rio Branco added sound and movement to the photographic work. Influenced by music, he gradually developed a new syntax, composing photographic diptychs, triptychs and polyptychs, like someone building chords around a melody. Fear, pleasure, pain and sexuality reached a dramatic volume.
Rio Branco photographed the singularities of São Paulo, Mexico City, New York and Havana, and then stitched them together into a unique and universal entanglement. Throughout his career, he has composed an elegy to urban and collective experience, played out by the characters who crossed his path.
This exhibition is a synthesis of these varied forms of visual writing, rooted in Rio Branco’s archives – a living pulsating source. It also mirrors the dilemmas and paradoxes that have tormented the artist. The pandemic we are going through has heightened isolation and social exclusion, tearing apart any notion of utopia. In their confounding clarity, these images reveal the power we stow away and squander, yet also the contradictions that define us, offering us the chance to understand how we got here.
Multiple and mutant, these crossed works echo a new and perturbing symphony.