Adriana Varejão (Brazilian b. 1964)
Adriana Varejão (Brazilian b. 1964)

Paisagem II

Adriana Varejão (Brazilian b. 1964)
Paisagem II
signed, titled and inscribed 'A. Varejão- BRASIL, PAISAGEM II, 1997' (on the reverse)
oil and polyurethane on wood
43 3/8 x 55 x 4 in. (110 x 140 x 10 cm.)
Executed in 1997.
Galerie Hussenot, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner (1998).
'Tous Cannibales' in Art Press 2, No. 20, February/March/April 2011, p. 29 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, L'intime, le collectionneur derrire la porte, June- September 2004.

Lot Essay

Adriana Varejão is most well-known for her images of Portuguese-style ceramic tiles that open unexpectedly into bloody images of body parts or innards. Blunt visual metaphors, these works explore the pain of a colonial history that continues to be repeated in new ways in the present. In her work Paisajem II, the artist layers three separate but related images of the rich, dense landscape of a jungle with a distant Romantic landscape and a sudden (and violent) close-up of a red gash that emulates and open wound surrounded by a layer of bright red pigment. Reminiscent of blood, this thick circle of color encloses an intense lush view of the jungle landscape, filled with the lush palm fronds associated with the tropics. At the center of this highlighted area is a gash, painted in this same blood red. Together, the open space of the gash and the simultaneous distant and detailed view of two different landscapes underscore the physical wounding of the land and the related literal and metaphorical wounding of a people. As seen in this an numerous other works, Varejão's imagery uses landscape, architecture, and the body as material evidence for her visual statements.

The significance of this work lies in the layering of multiple, and seemingly incompatible, landscapes, along with allusions to the body. At the borders and in the center is a placid image of a landscape reminiscent of the Romantic era or of North American landscape painting of the nineteenth century. The Romantic era, in particular, reflects the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment and the subsequent efforts to document and categorize the vast cultures of the Americas. This view of the wild and savage lands across the Atlantic led to a romanticized depiction of the land, its flora and fauna, and the (exotic) bodies that occupied its spaces. This characterization of the land later infused North American painters with a similar understanding of uncharted territories and the ways to present their extension, wilderness, and intensity in traditional, large-scale landscape painting. The bloody gash in the center becomes a metaphor for the disruption of life in these lands and the continuous intervention into the landscape, especially in South America throughout the twentieth century.

Another significant element of this work is the shape of the canvas. The most favored form of the Baroque period, the oval's rounded, elongated line was elegant and challenging and often became a preferred shape for architects as well as painters. By placing her image in an oval frame, Varejo connects her painting and its subject matter to this legacy of the Baroque period in the Americas. Bound by this fanciful shape, her imagery reflects a period that was characterized by splendor and poverty, abundance and lack, value and expendability.

The assertion of the "Western-ness," the Modernity and, ultimately, the invention of the landscape is alluded to in the complex and contrasting layers of Varejao's works. By placing these contradictory images of the land in concert with one another and by intervening the spectator's view of the landscape with a bloody gash, the artist underscores the difference between tame and savage, refined and uncultured, Old World and New.

Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Associate Curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York.

More from Latin American Sale

View All
View All