By Mario Gioia, art critic and independent curator | August 12, 2021

The 322 pieces that make up Espíritos sem nome (Nameless Spirits), a retrospective dedicated to the production of the Bahian Mario Cravo Neto (1947-2009) at the São Paulo headquarters of the Moreira Salles Institute, attest to his vigor as a visual artist; With the robustness of his work, he permeates media beyond photography, since he produces pieces in languages ​​such as cinema, the three-dimensional, drawing and publishing, among others.


Many of the most interesting works of the selection precisely escape the two-dimensional image and some key points of what is presented in the SP institution have project dimensions, unfinished and procedural. Thus, it follows the line of O estranho e o raro, a solo exhibition curated by the artist Bené Fonteles, exhibited at the Millan gallery, also in São Paulo, in 2019.


Not that the artist's most famous series are absent, like Eternal now - strong, but seen to exhaustion at art fairs for years and years. And the images of native Salvador, with baroque light and skillful approximations to what and who is portrayed, are also relevant within Espíritus ... in various sets.

Initially, the audiovisuals can be highlighted. Gato Capoeira (1979)surprises, made in 8 mm and with 13 minutes, which follows the wanderings of a capoeirista through the capital of Bahia between the undeground and the iconic, the forbidden and the touristy. The film Luz e Sombra (1976) already presented in Millan, extracts intense poetics from the serious accident suffered by Mario and which leaves him under medical imposition for almost a year, a laboratory of deep thematic-visual experimentation of precariety. The accident also reserves an important section in the exhibition, ranging from the click of the completely damaged Brasilia car to watercolors of praised synthesis, a technique used by the artist at different times during his production.


The video GW-43 (1991), for its part, focuses on the Gulf War that took place that year and which was highlighted by the massive coverage of North American television. "There is in this work a set of references that accompany it: the fascination for contrasts, for fire, for struggle, for the tragic and poetic dimension of human existence", writes the curator of the exhibition, Luiz Camillo Osorio (ex MAM Rio).


The 70s are lavish in this experimental facet of the artist and this has explanations. In 1969, Mario settled in New York to study at the Art Students League and addressed conceptual ideas, reinforcing more permeable investigations in his photographic perspective - manifested in his career not only in the strictest photography, which can be hung in a frame, but in other formats and configurations too. Thus, the subway, industrial ruins, cars in constant motion, dynamic human landscapes, places of little leisure, for example, acquire readings loaded with subjectivity. At the same time, the artist continues with his studio work, creating sculptures and watercolors, among other media, resulting in a solo show at the Zegri gallery.

In the current exhibition, somewhat hidden in the chronology, there is a work of authorship shared with Bené, from 1979, in which the bird's nest made with fiberglass 'stolen' from the artist's workshop appears - the unique construction itself is exhibited in IMS. "the process goes through it / The fiberglass nest / artist must tune in with that / built by birds / in the environment of my / studio" are phrases inscribed in the work, in the manner of those years, reinforcing the discourse and not just what can be seen. The show, from the same decade, also highlights the series that Mario made in Denmark in 1976, when he met the family of his wife, Eva. Memories that fall between the intimate and the voyage, the affective and the curious.


From the following decade, the still lifes built with extremely banal elements -a tire, broken tiles, canvas, a shovel- in the Bahía series (1982-83) reinforce the intricate photographic links with sculpture and maintain a tone of Art Povera.

And from those years the key to the title of the exhibition arises, which serves to condense what is shown today. Espíritos sem nome (1985) is an unfinished project, in which the book presents images flanked by poems and with relationships that are sometimes not so clear and obvious. It is an open program, like the scrapbook started in the previous decade and that crosses later times, in which its blank and paginated surfaces house plans, thoughts, pocket photos, equipment inserts, formulas used in the study, invitations to exhibitions and various other things. Mario Cravo Neto's grammar encompasses various interests, approaches and procedures, incorporating the accidental and chance, but always with an intelligence seen in few in the history of national visuality, and not only in photography.

Mario Cravo Neto - Espíritos sem nome (Nameless Spirits)

Until 9/26/2021

Instituto Moreira Salles Paulista

Avenida Paulista, 2424

São Paulo

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