Despite constituting a key reference point for understanding the project of modernisation in Brazil and Latin America over the last sixty-five years of the 20th century, the influential theoretical work of Mário Pedrosa (Pernambuco, 1900 — Rio de Janeiro, 1981) remains practically unknown. Mário Pedrosa is considered the only Brazilian intellectual who could enter into dialogue on an equal footing with the international art critics of his generation, he mainly developed his critique through columns in two Río de Janeiro newspapers, Correio da Manhã and Jornal do Brasil, and he played a significant role in creating diverse spaces and institutional projects — the modern art museums in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the São Paulo Biennial and his work at the head of the International Congress of Art Critics. At the same time, he envisioned the geographical and subjective margins as the new spaces to reinvent and Post-war modernity.
This encounter with the exhibition’s curators will facilitate a dialogue between Pedrosa’s writings and the artists he managed to inspire. Far from supporting a specific artist or movement, he interpreted art as a profound human need for communication and reflected on the far-reaching possibilities of expression triggered during the period of modernity. Thus, he was as fascinated by the art of psychiatric patients or children as he was by geometrical abstraction or political figurative art, the influence of visual psychology, in general, and Gestalt psychology, in particular, affording him an understanding of the artistic process and the creation of visual images.
Mário Pedrosa’s thinking around architecture and urbanism, another significant milestone, concentrated on the construction of the new capital, Brasilia, the place in which the Congresso Internacional Extraordinário dos Críticos de Arte was organised in 1959 under the theme “New City: Synthesis of the Arts”. In Brasilia — a symbol and synthesis of the country’s cultural modernisation — there are debates surrounding Pedrosa’s thesis of being “condemned to modernity”, a paradox merging the history of Portuguese colonisation and the revolutionary nature of the new capital.
Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro. Director and chief curator of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC). He has curated the Latin American Art Collection of the University of Essex, and held positions as the director of Visual Arts at the Americas Society, New York, and curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin.
Michelle Sommer. Architect, researcher and curator of the visual arts. A professor at the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts, Rio de Janeiro, she is also a doctoral researcher at the Federal University in the same city.