Antônio Obá

Pina Contemporânea (Sao Paulo), Jun/23-Feb/24

Antônio Obá, a Brazilian artist, currently has a show on display at Pina Contemporânea, which is part of one of the most important museums in São Paulo city. Entitled ‘Revoada,’ the Portuguese word for ‘flight of birds,’ its curators are Ana Maria Maia, chief curator, and Yuri Quevedo.

Obá was born in 1983 in Ceilândia, a neighbouring city to Brasília, the Brazilian capital city, where he now lives and works. He is well-known in Brazil and is represented by Mendes Wood, a world-level gallery with locations in São Paulo, Brussels, New York, and Paris. He exhibits locally and internationally. In his 20-year career, he has explored many media – painting, drawing, photography, video, performance, and installation. It is also important to highlight his teaching activities, as a teacher and an art educator.

His oeuvre has three aspects. First, the remembrance of historical events (for instance, those relating to the fight for black people’s rights in the US). Second, the attribution of the meanings to those events. Finally, the educational process. All these three aspects can be seen in this show.

Installation view

The show consists of 20 paintings and one site-specific installation. The paintings develop themes relating to childhood and are constructed upon a vertical movement. They transform acts of violence into something out of time – we may call it entities. Children in these paintings are not passive – instead, they can lead world’s transformations.

The installation hangs from the ceiling and its name, Revoada, serves as the show’s title. It was built in conversation with the museum’s history, whose building was, in its very beginning, an art school. One of the taught techniques was foundry. This was chosen by the artist – he invited some dozens of children to create their hands in resin, in workshops he carried out at the museum and in three other places. Now, two hundred hands fly in this gallery.

Installation view

The paintings create a very personal link between the artist’s own history and world history. They often refer to actual people. We will take two examples. In Variations on Sankofa: those who hold the lead open the paths, for example, he took a photo from the 1950s as an inspiration for depicting a woman opening an unexplored path and guiding people behind her. Bathers # 3: Lookout remit to a 1964 episode, in which black and white activists invaded a hotel pool, from where they were violently pushed away. In this painting, there is a situation of apparent calmness but also filled with tension.

It is an unmissable show. Once you enter the gallery, you feel you must slow down your pace and pay extra attention to the details of the paintings and installation. They remit you to places of violence but also of transformation.

Pina Contemporânea is the new building of the Pinacoteca do Estado museum, a state-run institution with a 118-year history. Pina Contemporânea was opened last year to be devoted to contemporary art. Nevertheless, it is not that Pinacoteca is only now delving into contemporary art – it has been showing and collecting contemporary artists for decades. But Pina Contemporânea’s building has better premises for high and large works and installations.

Installation view

There are more than two months left for you to visit this show. Don’t miss it. The best way to visit it is by booking a tour with London Art Walk, whether it is a group or a bespoke one. We will not only help you better understand Obá’s works but also will show you some of the other shows on display at Pinacoteca. Get ready to walk – they now have five contemporary artists’ shows on display, besides their long-term shows with works from the 19th century to nowadays.

Luis Sandes for London Art Walk
December 2023