By Mario Gioia, art critic and independent curator | November 09, 2021

“Moving with great fluidity between spirituality, the production of visuality, academic reflection and political action, Heráclito is explicit when he says that he wants to ‘act, in a symbolic way, on the devastating consequences of racism and social inequality that affect the black populations'." In this way, the curator and researcher Solange Farkas (Videobrasil and ex-MAM Bahía) summarizes the approach to the production of Ayrson Heráclito, a Bahian artist who won a retrospective at the MAR (Museu de Arte do Rio) and who had an important recent solo show at the Simões de Assis Gallery, in São Paulo.


The panoramic view of Heráclito’s pulsating work crowns a gradual and persistent development, never superficial, which gained a more intense light abroad, especially during his participation in the 57th Venice Biennale, in 2017, and in various exhibitions in countries such as Germany, Angola, Portugal and Senegal, among others. The production of the Bahian artist has ceased to be a 'secret' in Brazil for many of the reasons listed by Solange. However, the deep connection with the spiritual side within art is striking (with inescapable and diverse names in the country, such as Mira Schendel and Mestre Didi, for example, but still an understudied aspect) and a fluid and changing formalization, configured by the best strategy driven by political, economic and social data and with strong historical and religious symbols.


“It has always been in my interest to work with 'intermediate' materials, that is, matter in its raw state - matter of reflection. Intermediate, because they are in a constant state of transformation due to their physical or symbolic nature. Materials that promote a direct association with a given theme and, at the same time, provoke an expansion of various other interpretations”, says the artist, in an interview conducted in 2017 about his participation in the collective Partilhas, Presenças, Projetos, en Blau Projects, in SP. "I found that some materials could be interpreted in a hegemonic way by various local social groups, for example, materials used in rituals and in Afro-Bahian cuisine. Following the path traced by Beuys, I want to arrive at the methexis - the concrete expression of an idea or spirituality. Palm oil is one of them. Simultaneously, I promote a decoding and a new way of absorbing its habitual meaning."


Juntó, a solo show recently exhibited at the São Paulo gallery, is also important in the artist's career due to its mobility in languages ​​and media. Thus, Heráclito presents two sculptures and seven watercolors, means that broaden the artistic scope of his oeuvre. Six photographs complete the cut. The graphic work, with lightness and more subtle approaches, counterpoints the more robust material presence of the three-dimensional ones - despite the metal and the somewhat totemic structure that houses an elegant read in a formal key - and the colorful symbolism of the photographic pieces, a medium already known to the artist with mastery.

Perhaps paradigmatic in this sense is O Pavão Azul e Pavão, com Cauda Abaixada, in which the intense blue, the hieratic posture of the bird and the enigmatic air, with readings related to Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion followed by Heráclito for more than 30 years, cross their meanings with ecological purposes (in defense of the environment) and developments in contemporaneity (reinforcing ancestral and unique narratives, with pre-colonial roots, today exposed within a global artistic circuit). In other words, resistance as a political vector in production without neglecting today's visualities - Heráclito skillfully signs the facets of video artist and performer.


An active artist since the late 80s, Heráclito has a good summary of his career in the Rio de Janeiro museum exhibition that runs until December, which includes an ambitious painting panel. Regresso à pintura baiana (2002-21), almost 10 m wide, in which the key ingredient in the cuisine of the Brazilian Northeast State is used as paint and, through gestures and drips, its texture, color and presence allude to other meanings of the stratified and deeply unequal Bahian society (and, by extension, the Brazilian one). From the first steps in its production, language is investigated and somehow decoupled by other developments, as in As Meninas (1988), whose title refers to Velázquez's masterpiece (1599-1660) and Foucault's text (1926-1984) about canvas, and consists of a performance that combined the rereading of canonical elements of art with a sharp critique, at the time, of the media.

Another key work in the retrospective is Divisor III (2002), in which water, salt and palm oil are placed in a large, heterogeneous, unmixed glass aquarium, in a clear metaphor for Brazilian society. The title is also the same as that of the central work of the famous Rio artist Lygia Pape (1927-2004), Divisor, from 1968, a year of conflict, in which the exponent of neo-concreteism created collective clothing that depended on joint efforts. to give effect to work.

Thus, in this clipping where he presents other essential pieces such as the video installation and photographic series O Sacudimento da Casa da Torre and O Sacudimento da Maison des Esclaves em Gorée (2015), screened in Venice, and Transmutação da carne (2015), a surprising performance that participated in the exhibition Terra Comunal, by Marina Abramovic in SP, Ayrson Heráclito consolidates his practically unmatched contribution to the contemporary scene of the country, between the archaic and the mediatized, the sacred and the common, the exorcised and the planned, the affective and the cerebral.


Yorubáiano - Ayrson Heráclito

Curators: Marcelo Campos and Amanda Bonan

Until December 2021

Museu de Arte do Rio


Juntó - Ayrson Heráclito

Text: Solange Farkas

Simões de Assis Gallery