Iberê Camargo (1914-1994)
Iberê Camargo (1914-1994)
Iberê Camargo (1914-1994)
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IBERÊ CAMARGO (1914-1994)

Fantasmagoria V

IBERÊ CAMARGO (1914-1994)
Fantasmagoria V
signed and dated 'Iberê Camargo, 87' (lower left), signed and dated again 'IBERÊ CAMARGO, 6-2-87' and titled 'FANTASMAGORIA-V' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
83 3⁄8 x 70 3⁄4 in. (211.8 x 178.4 cm.)
Painted in 1987.
Private collection, New York (acquired through Luciana Brito, June 1997).
P. Venancio Filho, Iberê Camargo: desassossego do mundo, Rio de Janeiro, Silvia Roesler, Instituto Cultural The Axis, 2001, p. 145 (illustrated in color).
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Further details
1 Iberê Camargo, quoted in María José Herrera, Iberê Camargo: um ensaio visual (Porto Alegre: Fundação Iberê Camargo, 2009), 97, 99.
2 Mônica Zielinsky, quoted in Herrera, Iberê Camargo, 98.
3 Blanca Brites, “Tempo em constante desafio,” in Iberê Camargo: persistência do corpo (Porto Alegre: Fundação Iberê Camargo, 2008), 59.
4 Zielinsky, “The Disquiet of Art,” in Iberê Camargo: moderno no limite, 1914-1994 (Porto Alegre: Fundação Iberê Camargo, 2008), 120.
5 Camargo, quoted in Herrera, Iberê Camargo, 98-100.

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Lot Essay

“I don’t paint models, I paint emotions,” Camargo liked to say. “I paint because life causes pain.”[1] An intense and philosophical painter, Camargo made signal contributions to postwar Brazilian art, exhibiting regularly at the Bienal de São Paulo—he received the Best National Painter award in 1961—and representing his country at the Venice Biennale in 1962. A student of Alberto da Veiga Guignard, he belonged to the generational cohort (the Grupo Guignard) that congregated around the Café Vermelhinho in Rio de Janeiro during the 1940s. In 1947, he received a Travel Award from the Salão Nacional de Belas Artes and spent the next two years abroad, studying in Paris and Rome with André Lhote and Giorgio de Chirico. The emotional, existential undercurrents in his painting took root following his return to Brazil, and over the following decades his work moved between abstraction and figuration, taking a dark, neo-expressionist turn in the last decade of his career. “The density of the material he uses in his work, the obstinate repetition of themes and artistic solutions, the churned-over material” may be seen, art historian Mônica Zielinsky suggests, as “a way of articulating his experience of being in the world.”[2]
Camargo was attacked in the streets of Rio de Janeiro in December 1980, and he killed his assailant in what was judged the following month as self-defense. Although he was acquitted, the human drama of that period may have precipitated Camargo’s continuing shift toward more explicit figuration and his move to Porto Alegre in 1982. His Fastasmagoria series dates from this time, and like the preceding Personagens and the concurrent Manequins and Ciclistas of the late 1980s, these works meditate on the hollowness and isolation of human relationships. “In the Fantasmagorias series of large-scale paintings,” writes curator Blanca Brites, “the artist creates a visual structure in which the figures take on a dominant, accentuated verticality, particularly with their chromatic linearity, in which the paint modelling those sordid figures is applied almost in its pure state, direct from the tube to the canvas. In the 1980s the figure reassumes its place in Iberê’s work, as a return to order, in which the agitated gesture retains its force in the construction of his figures, his characters.”[3]
The blue-eyed skeletal figures in Fantasmagoria V recall the trio that appear in Fantasmagoria IV (1987), all of them eerily disembodied, their forms spectral and ashen. Here one “phantasm” sits and the other stands; the incorporeality of their bodies contrasts with the heavy impasto and gestural violence of the paint itself. “They are depersonalized humans occupying a nowhere in the huge space of these canvases,” Zielinsky observes. “These deterritorialised figures refer to the universal, ignoring local references and accentuating the artist’s lack of commitment to what he called matters of ‘latitude.’”[4] To be sure, these haunted wraiths exist in the international company of expressionist figures painted by Willem de Kooning and Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon and Georg Baselitz. “Art is also history, as it expresses our humanity,” Camargo allowed. “The artist can use any theme as a motif if he is capable of transforming it into art. The content of the artwork is the existential experience of the artist as objectified in the work.” Fantasmagoria V portrays a bleak vision of life and humanity, and yet the matière of the paint cuts to the very quick of the artist himself. “I am paint,” Camargo declared. “There is no one ideal of beauty, but rather an ideal of a piercing and painful truth, which is my life, and yours, it is our life as we make our way through the world.”[5]
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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