Paulo Bruscky: Art Is Our Last Hope is the first survey exhibition of Brazilian artist Paulo Bruscky’s career in the United States. Bruscky was born in Recife, in northeastern Brazil, in 1949. He came of age during the darkest time in his nation’s history, witnessing the 1964 military coup that instigated more than 20 years of dictatorial oppression and ruthless attacks by the military regime on insurgents as well as anyone deemed “subversive.” Nevertheless, he has always operated under the utopian vision that art has the potential to instigate social change, and in his multifaceted works he consistently challenges the socio-political status quo.
One of the world’s first artists to manipulate the xerox machine as an esthetic device, Bruscky is also a mail artist, poet, creator of artist’s books, inventor, performance artist, photographer, and filmmaker. He has played a critical role in bringing major international artistic movements to Brazil, including Fluxus, mail art, and performance art. Throughout his career, he has produced artworks inspired by everyday experiences that challenge audiences to think about how the world unfolds around them. He has continuously addressed the anonymity and alienation of the individual in the urban landscape, countering that experience with humor, irony, and caustic wit.
Despite being one of Brazil’s most important contemporary artists, one at the forefront of avant-garde artistic practice in that country since the 1970s, Bruscky has long been under-recognized outside of his homeland. This exhibition seeks to remedy that. Curated by Dr. Antonio Sergio Bessa, Director of Curatorial and Education Programs at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the exhibition features works created between 1971 and 2011 in a range of art forms, including mail art, video, sound art, Xerox art, and performance documentation. The presentation at Phoenix Art Museum has been organized by Dr. Vanessa Davidson, Lampe Curator of Latin American art at Phoenix Art Museum and is on view from September 6 to December 28, 2014.
The catalogue accompanying the exhibition will offer English-speaking audiences a window onto Bruscky’s pioneering production for the first time. The volume will feature two major essays interpreting the various facets of Bruscky’s work. Dr. Bessa will contextualize Bruscky’s practice within the broader international scene by tracing a parallel between the artist’s strategies and the various theoretical and philosophical ideas current since the late 1960s. Dr. Davidson, who defended a doctoral dissertation on Bruscky’s work, will contribute an essay exploring what he called “communication art” in all its iterations: mail art, telegram art, fax art, xerox art, and newspaper classifieds, all linked by the artist’s subversion and simultaneous transformation of ready-made communication systems into unorthodox channels for art. The book will also include an interview with Paulo Bruscky conducted at the artist’s studio in April, 2013, by Dr. Bessa, and a chronology spanning the artist’s career, including an overview of the socio-historical context in Brazil throughout the 1960s and 70s, organized by Dr. Davidson.
Paulo Bruscky: Art Is Our Last Hope will be accompanied by extensive public programming, including a lecture by the artist, a symposium on mail art in Latin America, and an exhibition of contemporary mail art from around the globe.
International Mail Art Symposium - October 8th, 6 - 8 p.m.
Singer Hall, Phoenix Art Museum
Focusing on mail art in Latin America, both historical and contemporary, this symposium will bring together leading scholars on this subject, including John Held Jr., Mauricio Marcin, and Dr. Vanessa Davidson.
Artist Talk: Paulo Bruscky - October 29th, 7 p.m.
Singer Hall, Phoenix Art Museum
Artist Paulo Bruscky will present a lecture on his work spanning 5 decades.
Mail Art Exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum
October 1 to November 2, 2014
On the occasion of the exhibition Paulo Bruscky: Art Is Our Last Hope at the Phoenix Art Museum, Dr. Vanessa Davidson and John Held Jr. are co-curating a contemporary mail art exhibition entitled Focus Latin America. Centered around the theme “art is our last hope,” the curators seek to revive dialogue about the challenges facing artists living in Latin America and the utopian projects they have historically undertaken to fuse artistic practice with social engagement. Created in 1983, Bruscky’s artwork Art Is Our Last Hope was envisioned as a billboard piece consisting solely of those five words. How have art and life in Latin America changed since he issued that proclamation? What meanings does this notion engender in Latin America in the 21st century?
Artists are invited to submit work exploring the themes of utopia, dystopia, and the grey areas in between with a special focus on Latin America. Mail art, artistamps, artists’ books, and other artworks that can be mailed and relate to these themes are encouraged.
Postmark Deadline for Participation: September 1st, 2014
Paulo Bruscky, Pelos Nossos Desaparecidos (For Our Disappeared), 1977 © Paulo Bruscky.
Paulo Bruscky: Art Is Our Last Hope was organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and made possible with support from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, the Consulate General of Brazil in New York, and Itaú, with the support of Galeria Nara Roesler, the Associação para o Patronato Contemporâneo – APC.
The Phoenix Art Museum showing is generously supported by The Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation.