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Curated by Ulisses Carrilho

03|26|22 - 05|14|22

There is a light that never goes out 

by Ulisses Carrilho


Far above the world

Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do

David Bowie


"I love whoever craves the impossible". When facing the chaos of the world, champion the poetry of color and form. A step further, swerve away from them. This essay is a call to those who, together with the artist, are engaged in the herculean task of giving meaning to art in order to experience such paintings steeped in heat. Multiple, varied, inconstant, fabled, dramatic, misunderstood, mysterious, confusing, naive, fierce, excessive, seductive, enthusiastic: many are the reasons that lead a person to create art. And equally vast is the range of possible interpretations available to those who decide to stand before a painting. To entitle this exhibition, we chose the Portuguese word calor (heat) which, by having one letter changed, becomes the English word color. The Portuguese title, therefore, makes a reference to climate and temperature: it's about energy, about what sets the world in motion and also what destroys it. It's about what the body feels and what is produced by it. When we talk about history, it's a mistake to think that we are reporting a chain of events; I am talking about what survives in us – despite everything.


This essay's goal is to put forward four perspectives which may guide a journey through the exhibition, perhaps sharpen one's vision, and hopefully instill hunger in the reader's eyes: the dismissal of the idea of ​​autonomy, present not only in the interaction between the organic forms that abound in an intense relationship, in agglutinations and juxtapositions in Jan Kaláb's work, but in most of the debate about geometric and informal abstraction in the course of modern art; to shed light on the artist's public enterprise as to understand not only the city as an element that is addressed in his paintings, but the complex social relations that organize and confuse the world – for now, we will intentionally avoid the term graffiti;  we will steer clear of a speculative examination of the possible causes that drive an artist to work toward the creation of objects and, at the same time, in the gigantic, social and common scales of public assets to, above all, speculate on questions of color and form, from the point of view of the year 2022, asking ourselves for what reasons we see the artist's work as a relevant output for enlightening the current state of things. It's urgent to crave the impossible.


Picture it all in


"When I started painting the pelvis bones, I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them," said Georgia O'keeffe, an American painter who produced a series of paintings of pelvis bones as if they were her muses. This statement by the artist also helps us to resignify the shapes and forms objectified by other artists: perhaps we should, with a romantic ethos, think of paintings not only as an accumulation of paint on the surface of a canvas, but as a kind of specular portals, windows to an outer reality that doesn't let itself be seen too easily. Paintings can be openings whereby we may, in a very unique way, watch the world while we are all, artists or not, shaping it.


Anyone who describes the shapes employed by the painter Jan Kaláb as organic is certainly not making a mistake – enough has been written about this artist's output pointing this aspect out.  But history teaches us that its missteps are as relevant as its supposed logics. By history, I mean what survives in us.


The shapes chosen by the artist for his artwork, marked by abstraction, generously allow themselves to be understood and experienced from a contemporary standpoint by means of a series of shapes that preceded them.  His interest in color and its relations is evident, which could hint at Kandinsky and his color studies based on the recombination of circular shapes in correlation. In such work, Wassily Kandinsky applied layers of watercolor in concentric rings whose edges overlap, transforming each other in the process.  These studies were done with a methodical and systematic approach to color theory, which Kandinsky later used as a professor at the Moscow Institute of Artistic Culture, between 1920 and 1922, and also at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, between 1923 and 1933. For Kandinsky, color meant more than just a visual component of an image: it was its soul.


Even though the history of art points to such directions, I dare to propose another.  In the history of design or the production of goods for mass consumption, the so-called era of atomic design, some speculate that the visual appropriation of the atom that occurred after experimentation with technologies around the creation of the atomic bomb was reflected in  household objects as a way to relieve anxieties related to the destructive power of atomic weapons in the 1940s-1950s.  Others believe that this trend reflected optimism about the employment of atomic science as a promise of peace. While citizens around the world tried to cope with the complex implications of this new technology, in an impending dystopian scenario of the end of human life on Earth, the emergence of nuclear iconography in households, regardless of the precise reasons for it, shows that the atom - with all its potential uses - was not a scientific model disconnected from everyday life, but rather an image-promise in the minds of people who lived in that time. Organic shapes were another hallmark of Atomic Era design.  This style used nature-inspired shapes to evoke living entities, from amoebas to planets, including cells and microscopic or galactic views, predominantly curvilinear shapes. 


Another individual who dared to bet on form/shape as a constitutive element of the artistic experience was the sculptor Constantin Brancusi – especially with his works entitled Fish (a small bronze piece from 1926, and a bigger one, in marble, from 1930): " When you see a fish, you don't focus on its scales.  You think of its speed and its floating, shimmering body seen through the water.  I tried to express just that.  Had I depicted fins and eyes and scales, I would have stopped its motion and seized it in a pattern, in a form of reality.  I just wanted a flash of its spirit."


Probably affected by the images that revolve around the scourges of our time, marked by distance and tension between bodies, Kaláb conceives interactions between color and form that seem to resonate both the biggest nuclear explosions and the microscopic experiments, on a cellular scale, like shapes observed in an in vitro fertilization. Popularized by assisted reproduction techniques, in vitro is a Latin expression ascribed to all biological processes that take place outside living systems, in the controlled and secluded environment of a laboratory.  Art is certainly not this environment, as it is strongly marked by social regimes – even though the opacity of abstraction doesn't let us grasp this in a literal way.  To see such shapes with free eyes is, for now, an impossible task.  There are those who prefer microscopes, and there are those who choose brushes.


As mythological as it is literary, the title character of Goethe's Faust shows a craving that, indirectly, resonates the urge to materialize the impossible in the work of the Czech Jan Kaláb, born in 1973, in Prague, in the Czech Republic. The technique employed by the artist seems to swerve away from the technical fastidiousness of singling out each feature present in the artwork to venture, instead, into limpid, undeniably beautiful fields of color. The impressive result of his paint on canvas doesn't point to the making, to singularity or individuality.  It points to a light that never ceases to exist.


On February 24, 2022, one month before the opening of this exhibition, Ukraine, a former member of Soviet Union, was invaded by the military forces of Russia, the former center of the Soviet Union.  It is, therefore, a story of disintegration: independence and, why not, autonomy.  At the time that this essay was being written, there were 15 thousand deaths, approximately 3 million people left homeless, 1.9 thousand people with injuries caused by the violence of the war, at least 1.7 thousand buildings already destroyed and  an estimate of $119 billion in property damages. Without historical perspective, we live in the imprecision of a time marked by fragile truths, human dignities historically tested, an excessive and disproportionate attention paid to objects and subjects.


The 20th and 21st centuries have brought about changes in what we call logic – and art, unfortunately, cannot be the only answer to such questions. The explosion of the Tsar Bomb in 1961 was the hugest nuclear detonation that has ever taken place on Earth and is perhaps the most famous example of a fusion weapon ever created, having the power of 50 megatons, that far surpasses any other ever built. The temperature at the sun's core is usually estimated at 15 million degrees Celsius.  Some medium-sized thermonuclear test detonations made by the former Soviet Union and the US, reached, albeit very briefly, 200 or even 300 million degrees Celsius.  In January 2022, a nuclear fusion reactor in China set a new record for high temperatures,   by releasing heat five times higher than the sun's for more than 17 minutes.  The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak  (EAST), known as the 'artificial sun', reached temperatures of 70 million degrees Celsius in the first experiments. To talk about heat is to invite us to perceive, also through color and shape, what we don't even dare to know yet.  There is no other way to end these introductory lines, which are not intended to do much more than to instill hunger in your eyes, than to quote the Brazilian poet Ana Martins Marques, who, in her "Linha de Rebentação", dared to stop the world: "(Wait: I am inventing a language to say what I need.)"

tour virtual
exhibition views

Opening: 03.26.2022
 | 2pm - 7pm
Visitation: 03.28.2022 - 05.14.2022
Tue - Fri: 11am - 7pm
Sat: 12pm - 6pm

Technical file
Press office: CWeA Communication
Lighting: Antonio Mendel
Photography: Rafael Salim
Virtual Tour: Aboutvisit
Graphic design: Lucas de Sousa and Maria Dantas
Montage: Gilmar Pires
 Eduardo Fradkin
Music: DJ Mam

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