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A nota aí - óleo sobre tela - 150x250.jpg

Text: Lucas Albuquerque
06|03|23 - 07|01|23



Image is testimony. By demarcating a historical, social, artistic, economic and political point, what we see requires us to return a dialogue in which the negotiations of the discourses that are established build agreements between the meaning and the seen. Based on this premise, the paintings by Marcos Roberto, from São Paulo, lead us to reflect that the horizon of those who for so long lived on the margins of dignity has changed. Result of struggles that cross generations, the so-called "New Power" is, above all, a new sharing of the common that goes through the alteration of the sensible.


The series of works that names his solo show "Páginas para um tempo em branco"(PAGES FOR A BLANK TIME) (2022-2023) is built around metal - the raw material of his former craft as a metalworker - which is emancipated from its purely functional purposes to become the support in which other possibilities for the future are inscribed. In them, the presence of racialized people is recurrent, giving the viewer a glazed look, never appeased, as if crystallized in the compositional canon elaborated in 1938 by Tarsila do Amaral in the painting Trabalhadores (Workers). If the modernist's work already presented the non-white body as the proletarian mass that supported the modern developmental ideal, separating it diametrically from the intellectual work as a form of social ascension, the mass presented by Roberto has even darker skin tones, highlighting the socio-racial inequality experienced in Brazil, especially in what concerns the most tinged bodies. The composition, however, does not sustain its own weight and rips itself apart, revealing in its reverse side marks of colonial history that form the texture of the population. Between the arrival of the Portuguese colonizers to the indigenous lands and a police car in march, the back of the image projects itself downwards, in a dramatic tear that opens the way to another scene, this time in the background: a young black man inside a school environment leans on his notebook, having total control of the pencil in his hand. He writes on the threshold between the paper that falls in front of him in complete mismatch with a failing past and the one he rests on his desk.


In his new set of small-format paintings that are part of the aforementioned series, Marcos bases his practice on the intersection between listening, art-education, and historical research. Made during the artist's residency at Instituto Inclusartiz, the metal plates return, painted in such a way as to simulate sheets of ruled paper, which work as a tabula rasa for historical accounts and narratives by inciting a macro-glance from the election of personal biographies. Among figures already consecrated by history, such as Carolina Maria de Jesus and Darcy Vargas, and students from the public school system - an approximation that occurred because of the period in which he lived in downtown Rio de Janeiro - the artist calls for the relevance of remembering those who in the past produced cracks where it was possible to glimpse another tomorrow, a power that still shines today on the faces of young people who carry with them the survival of this ideal.


As a way of evoking their semblances, Marcos makes use of three visual styles that alternate between oil painting with an extensive chromatic palette, blue outlines also in oil, simulating drawings in ball-point pen, and the errant trace in graphite, which is sometimes projected in the form of erasures and sketches, and sometimes in paragraphs that weave biographical comments. The artist uses them to condense times, memories, dreams, desires, and stories, articulating them in the transmutation of the materiality of his support: the steel plates, of apparent lightness, give the composition a certain air of ingenuity inherent to unpretentious drawings made on discarded sheets of paper - exercises that reactivate the past in a fabulous aura. In his frank dialogue with the figures represented, he notes that, although such projects for Brazil have been suffocated by a policy of scarcity, their germs still survive. The utopian dimension gives way to the non-negotiable, established through the exercise of memory and historical rescue.


A set of paintings on canvas is also shown that discuss the presence of black bodies within the educational system, telling stories of success and constant dispute. In A nota aí (The note there, something like write it down), uniformed students display three-digit license plates, all above 780. If before a black body holding a license plate was capable of evoking police and pseudo-scientific photographs that attested to it as a deviant from the law or an object of anthropological study, the scene painted by Marcos attests to the potential success of an educating and emancipating policy in which students boast high grades earned in vestibular exams. The numbers they carry are not imposed now as the social marker of a condition imposed by the color of their skin, but attest to the sea of possibilities of a generation capable of accessing quality and free education. In A utopia over the horizon, let's walk, the path followed by the child in the center is surrounded by figures that show the possibility of a new path guided by the independence of his fellows. The idea of utopia returns, since the social mobility produced by an accessible and free quality education is still one of the great challenges of our political conjuncture.


Finally, a set of paintings points to the place where art and education meet, highlighting the importance of the entrance of black bodies in exhibition spaces. In Um dia vou ao MAR (One day I will go to the MAR - Art Museum of Rio and in Portuguese “mar” is sea) and Primeira vez no museu (First time at the museum), the discussion point of education as an emancipating tool shifts its focus from schools and higher education institutions to the public museum. While the first canvas presents a group of students walking towards the Art Museum of Rio (MAR), whose school-museum project is known for its accessibility policies and interaction with socially vulnerable groups, the second one contrasts the figure of a black boy in the center of the composition with a rereading of the sculptures from the series Ruínas de Charque (Charque Ruins), by Adriana Varejão, set in Pina Luz, the first headquarters of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Beyond a pure fictionalization or representation, the two paintings function as autobiographical testimonies of an artist whose presence in such spaces occurred belatedly. They point to a place of dispute, whose symbols must be constructed collectively. Thus, we return to the relation between art production and the opening of senses, in which not only Marcos Roberto's practice is based, but also the ideals that guide the pages of another time. Blank pages for the possibility of rewriting; never by forgetting.


 Lucas Albuquerque

Article shown on 06/24, on RJTV 2nd edition, which presents the exhibition "Pages for a blank time".
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