After seasons in Berlin, Lisbon, Paris and Madrid, Photographic Modernities, 1940-1964 – with works by photographers José Medeiros, Thomaz Farkas, Marcel Gautherot and Hans Gunter Flieg – one of the five best exhibitions in the world arrives in Rio.
Photographic Modernities , 1940-1964 is the new long-term exhibition on display at the Marc Ferrez Gallery at the Moreira Salles Institute in Rio de Janeiro. Until March 5, 2017, it will be possible to explore more than 160 images from four great Brazilian photographers in a crucial period for the formation of modern photography in the country. Curated by Ludger Derenthal, coordinator of the Kunstbibliothek photography collection in Berlin, and Samuel Titan Jr., cultural executive coordinator at IMS, the exhibition presents the photojournalism of José Medeiros (1921-1990) to the modernism of Marcel Gautherot (1910-1996 ), from the abstraction by Thomaz Farkas (1924-2011) to the industrial photography of Hans Gunter Flieg (1923) – with a country undergoing rapid and contradictory transformation as a backdrop.
In October 2013, the exhibition Photographic Modernities, 1940-1964 began its itinerary through the Museum für Fotografie, in Berlin, then went on to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon, and then to the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, in Paris. Finally, it was shown at the end of last year at the Circle of Fine Arts in Madrid. A catalog with two essays by Samuel Titan Jr. and texts by Lorenzo Mammì, general curator of IMS programming and events, Sergio Burgi, IMS photography coordinator, and Helouise Costa, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC USP), accompanies the exhibition. ).
In a period of great migratory flow, the origin of the four photographers could not be more different. Gautherot was Parisian, of working-class origin, with a background in architecture and the most nomadic life among them. Sympathetic on the left, he was especially interested in the process of forming a national identity and collaborated with several initiatives and agencies of the Brazilian State. Flieg, a German Jew who fled Nazism and war, was the only one to establish a photographic studio and provided services to almost always industrial clients, creating for him the image of a professional photographer. Medeiros, a Brazilian from Piauí, a poor state with no artistic traditions, was the photojournalist par excellence, learning his trade in the daily life of newsrooms in Rio de Janeiro, where he settled. Farkas was born in Budapest,
This cultural wealth resulted in an exhibition of great formal and stylistic variety, but also of enormous wealth as a documentary record of a vast and plural country. The themes are the most varied: untouched landscapes in the Amazon, factories and plants, African religions, football and carnival, statues and baroque churches, mechanical tools, popular celebrations in the countryside, worldly and cosmopolitan glamor in the cities, indigenous tribes in the Midwest, modernist buildings in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in addition to, of course, the construction of the country’s capital.
From 1940, when he settled permanently in Brazil, Gautherot endeavored to register and get to know the country he adopted, traveling a lot, especially to the North and Northeast. Right from the start, he went to work together with the Historical Heritage Service, recording monuments from the colonial period, especially the baroque architecture and Aleijadinho’s work in Minas Gerais. At the same time, he became Oscar Niemeyer’s favorite photographer, photographing his creations, and had ample access to the construction of Brasília, where he recorded the three years of construction in the city. His coexistence and friendship with intellectuals linked to the modernist movement of the 1920s led him to document Brazilian popular parties as well.
To understand Medeiros’ work, it is necessary to consider it within the universe of the press. His photographic language was established in the dialogue between photojournalism and the major illustrated magazines that existed in the 1940s and 1950s, with O Cruzeiro being the best Brazilian example, where he worked for 15 years. His photographic coverage ranged from the glamorous life of Rio de Janeiro, with his characters allowing themselves to be photographed, to the initiation rite of candomblé in Bahia. It also documented the March to the West, a state program for the occupation and consolidation of territories, of which the construction of Brasília was a fundamental part.
Farkas won his first camera at the age of eight and explored the region where he lived, recording the passage of a Zeppelin in 1936, and the inauguration of the Pacaembu stadium in 1940. But it was only two years later that he took his decisive step towards becoming a photographer when he joined Foto Cine Clube Bandeirantes, where names like Geraldo de Barros and German Lorca were found. There, he became interested in an idea of pure visual grammar, eventually flirting with abstraction. In the following years, his friendship with Medeiros led him to approach a more humanist photograph, but never forgetting his first references. From that moment on, he began his gradual transition to documentary cinema and then came the Farkas Caravan, responsible for a series of short and medium-length documentary films, mostly in 16 mm,
Flieg arrived in Brazil in 1939 with some knowledge of photography, having worked, still in Berlin, with the photographer Grete Karplus, in addition to some knowledge of the aspects of contemporary German photography, such as Bauhaus and the Neue Sachlichkeit movement (New Vision). With that luggage, he settled in São Paulo and opened his studio, building an image of professional excellence. For three decades, it has accumulated an image archive that documents the process of industrialization in Brazil like few, especially the city it chose to live in. He served clients such as Pirelli, Mercedes-Benz and Willys-Overland, in addition to photographing major engineering projects. His work was usually commissioned for advertising campaigns or for institutional reports and brochures.
The Instituto Moreira Salles
The Instituto Moreira Salles is a singular institution within the Brazilian cultural scene. It holds important assets in four areas: photography, with the bulk of material, as well as music, literature, and iconography. The Instituto has also gained renown for its exhibitions, highlighting visual arts by artists from Brazil and abroad; and it has a soft spot for cinema.
The Moreira Salles Institute is a nonprofit organization founded by the diplomat and banker Walter Moreira Salles in 1992 with the creation of its first cultural center in Pocos de Caldas (MG). Subsequently, the institute also started to operate in São Paulo (1996), in a mansion located in the Higienópolis neighborhood, and in Rio de Janeiro (1999), in an old residence of the Moreira Salles family, built in 1951 with architectural design by Olavo Redig de Campos and landscape design by Burle Marx.
The IMS’ activities are supported by a donation initially provided by Unibanco and later added to by the Moreira Salles family. With sites in three cities – Poços de Caldas, in the southeast of the state of Minas Gerais, where the Instituto was born 20 years ago; Rio de Janeiro; and São Paulo – the IMS releases exhibition catalogues, books of photography, literature, and music, in addition to ZUM Magazine, dedicated to contemporary photography in Brazil and around the world, and serrote, a quarterly publication of essays and ideas.
In the conservation, organization and dissemination of its collections, IMS has immense tasks. Photography takes care of about 2 million images, from the most important testimonies of the 19th century – and here the splendid images of Marc Ferrez emerge – to relevant collections that cover almost the entire 20th century. In the latter, names like Marcel Gautherot, José Medeiros, Maureen Bisilliat, Thomaz Farkas, Hans Gunter Flieg and Otto Stupakoff, among others, should be registered. In 2016, the collection of newspapers of the group Diários Associados in Rio de Janeiro was acquired, with about 1 million items, and it is a priority of the Institute to incorporate images of the 21st century into its collections. This formidable set of collections and complete works by the artists accredit IMS as the most important photography institution in the country.
IMS in Rio de Janeiro
In 1999, the house in the Gávea neighborhood where Walther Moreira Salles and his family lived became the headquarters of the Moreira Salles Institute in Rio de Janeiro. It presents exhibitions, films and shows, in addition to hosting the collections of Photography, Music, Literature and Iconography. The house itself, a landmark of modern 1950s architecture, is an attraction for visitors.
Defined by Guilherme Wisnik as “a farmhouse”, the former residence of Walther Moreira Salles is, according to the architect, “a monumental, elegant and austere building, designed to house both a large family and an intense social life, marked by frequent receptions for distinguished guests ”.