One of the foremost figures of Brazilian conceptualism, Cildo Meireles was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1948, and during his youth resided in the interior of the country, Goiânia, Belém and Brasília, where he began to train as an artist in 1963. In 1967 he returned to Rio where he continued his studies but also produced his early series of works on virtual spaces based on Euclidean spatial models, Espaços Virtuais: Cantos (1967-68).
Meireles formed part of the group of artists who worked in the direction of conceptualism in the late 60s and early seventies, notably Antonio Manuel, Rubens Gerchman, Artur Barrio, and Antonio Dias, who were making a significant mark in the Brazilian scene with dissident work in the context of an increasingly repressive military dictatorship, which, in 1968, decreed the Ato Institucional No. 5 (AI-5) that among other things, imposed a severe censorship of the press, media and cultural manifestations, including music and art. This turn of events increased the critical stance of artists towards the repressive regime for whom conceptualist strategies became a useful tool in channeling their political and ideological critiques. Meireles' early spatial concerns progressively shifted towards an engagement with circuits, and flows, of information and capital. In 1970, Meireles produced a series of works that precisely relied on the insertion within different circuits, the circulation of the press, of commodities, and of money: Inserções em Circuitos Ideológicos: Projeto Coca-Cola, and Inserções em Circuitos Ideológicos: Projeto Cédula. That same year (1970) Meireles participated alongside Artur Barrio and Hélio Oiticica in the landmark exhibition Information at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with these two works.
However, Meireles' initial spatial concerns often intersected with the political, as in his 1969 Inserções em Jornais where he occupied space with his name under the word AREA in the classified ads of a newspaper. In the context of the conditions of censorship at the time, this occupation of space in the press was a political gesture. Ideas of space, scale, and measurement have been since explored throughout his entire production, taking on different connotations, many of which resulted in spatial experiences that highlighted the political tensions that are the subtext for many of his works.
In 1992, for his participation in Documenta IX, Meireles produced a large-scale installation made up of rulers and clocks, Fontes (1992-2008) in which he engaged in a rethinking of the concept of measurement and its relation to the social body. The altered units in the rulers and the dropped numbers from the clocks that lay on the floor, conveyed a desire to resist the measure. This installation generated a series of works made with rulers, of which Metros II 9B forms part. Here, rather than the modification of the units of measurement, there is a picture plane formed by the superimposition of the yardsticks that becomes a painterly space, where the measurements are progressively erased by yellow paint, of the same hue as that of the rulers. This painted surface, in which the numbers are partially veiled, is interrupted by a piece of paper painted with a thick coat of yellow paint that suggests a hole emerging from this plane of rulers, a disruption that speaks of the desire for the subjective to transcend the mold prescribed by the norm. Like many of the works from this series, this work relativizes the concept of the measure vis à vis the perception of the individual subject, and underscores the tension between the subjective and real that articulates Meireles' entire oeuvre.
Julieta González, curator