Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Museu de Arte Modern - Rio"

Alton DuLaney @ Museu de Arte Moderna - Rio

The Museu de Arte Moderna, or Museum of Modern Art, in Rio de Janeiro, is one of these gorgeous museums where the architecture of the museum, in this case coupled with the beauty of its surroundings, competes with the actual artwork on display. Similar to the Guggenheim in NYC by Frank Lloyd Wright or the Oscar Niemayer masterpiece, the Museum of Contemporary Art, perched right across the bay in Niteroi, Brazil.

The MAM was designed by the architect Affonso Reidy in the post-war mid-century modernist movement that swept Brazil even more thoroughly than it did the Untied States. This was, after all, the era of Brasilia, the invention of a whole new modern capital city, when optimism was running rampant and the country really believed in the future. The megalith of steel and glass floats delicately on concrete "V" shaped pillars, surrounded by the Central Park of the south, the Parque do Flamengo - or the Flamengo Park, fully realized with tropical foliage by the landscape architect Roberto Burle Max.
View from MAM across park and marina to Gloria, Rio.

The park winds along the bay, conveniently linking my little pied-a-terre apartment in Gloria with the Museu, only a short and scenic walk away. From a perfectly placed floor to ceiling window, I gaze out from the museum, across the park and the marina, to Gloria. (That's my apartment building to the upper right hand corner of the photo, the white, curvy one.)

The wide open expanses of the MAM are prefect for large scale sculpture, and the main gallery contains several over-sized pieces in steel.

Jose' Resende at MAM, Rio.
The large, quasi-industrial pieces by Jose' Resende feel right at home on these polished cement floors. The interiors, cold and hard, juxtaposed with the exterior, lush and warm, create a worthwhile tension, while along with " equilibrio e a gravidade" (equilibrium and gravity), make some of the forces that Resende explores in his work.

A quick ascent up a beautiful spiral staircase, and I am in another gallery, filled with the sculptural objects and maquetes.

Assemblage by Jose' Damasceno, MAM, Rio.
Small assemblages and large scale installations compete for importance, with lines blurring as to what is a little part of something larger or a big part of something smaller. Nevertheless, each of the works by Jose' Damasceno successfully tells some story, leaving me, the viewer, trying to read more deeply into the scenario.

The Museum runs several exhibits concurrent, so there is always something for everyone to see. A smaller exhibit, "Genealogias do Contemporaneo", features work one might expect from Brazilian artists, though I fear it veers dangerously close to folk-art. (Side note: Nothing against folk-art, especially Brazilian folk-art, with all of its riches, both culturally and economically. Certainly, I have been known to profit from that genre in multiple ways.)

Modern St. Sebastian
What I prefer, though, is a little of the unexpected. What may appear a typical Brazilian, or "Carioca" scene, is in fact a modern twist on the classic Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, (or as it is also known, "a cidade de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro").

Of course, no modern art museum would be complete without the classics, and MAM has its share, despite a disasterous fire in the 70's that destroyed much of its permanent collection. The exhibit "E' Assim Mesmo" or "It's Like This" which promises the "grandes nomes de arte do nosso tempo", and certainly delivers with the requisite Pollock, Haring, Giacometti, Warhol, Picasso, and others.
Tacila do Amaral
Mixed in with these names of the international art world are the Brazilian names that deserve equal billing - Helio Oiticica, Tunga, and my favorite, Tarcila do Amaral, the modernist icon. Her renderings of distorted figures define a movement, and paint complicated histories with a minimum of strokes.

Andre' da Costa, "Paris Video", Rio de Janeiro 2011
And finalmente, (finally) a funny concluding story. My host and tour guide in Rio, Andre' da Costa and I both enjoyed all the exhibits and the grounds of the Museu. One piece in particular struck our fancy though, a video installation of Paris, projected into the corner of one of a gallery, inviting the viewer to interact. In 2009 when we were in Paris, we visited the George Pompidou Modern Art Center. There, one of the galleries had a video installation featuring the Rio neighborhood Gloria, in particular the Parque de Paris, which is near the Museum de Arte Moderna. Ironic to have seen Gloria in a Paris museum and to now see Paris in a Gloria museum.
Andre' da Costa, "Gloria, Rio Video",  Paris, 2009.

For more of the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, visit:

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