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Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic

27 Feb 2016
29 May 2016

FEB 27, 2016
MAY 29, 2016

Starting February27, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo – a museum run by the São Paulo State Secretariat of Culture – will host one of its main exhibitions slated for 2016: Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, which recently showed at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, and at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The show was born out of a unique partnership entered into in 2010 between the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago, USA). The exhibition will bring to Brazil 105 works by major artists from the Americas, such as Tarsila do Amaral and Pedro Américo, from Brazil; Frederic Church and Georgia O’Keeffe, from the US; José Maria Velasco and Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), from Mexico; as well as Canada’s Lawren Harris and David Milne, Venezuela’s Armando Reverón, and Uruguay’s Pedro Figari, among others, which can be seen together for the first time ever.

Curated by Valéria Piccoli, Georgiana Uhlyarik and Peter John Brownlee, this is the first exhibition to examine landscape painting from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, in a Pan-American context. The show is organized by themes, and emphasizes artistic production from Argentina and the Rio de La Plata region, Andean countries such as Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, USA and Canada, where the presence of landscape painting was more expressive.
“During this period, landscape painting was the primary means for articulating symbolic concepts related to the territory, making ownership over it more visible in the formation of the national states. Gradually, landscape painting reveals a change in attitude regarding the territory, figuring the creation of cultural identities based on a sense of belonging to a particular place. One can identify these changes while walking through the exhibition,” said Ms. Piccoli, chief curator of the Pinacoteca.

The project is ambitious and involved a network of institutions, academics and sponsors from throughout the Americas. At the website picturingtheamericas.org, you can learn more about all the members of the scientific committee of the project, as well as details about the show. “In April 2012, we hosted a meeting of the curators, specialists and consultants, and we’ve participated in several other academic events in the last three years. The professionals involved are recognized and their contributions were vital to the quality of the work that can now be seen the Brazilian public,” added Ms. Piccoli.
The show will run through May 29, 2016, on the 1st floor of the Pinacoteca – located at Praça da Luz, 02. Admission is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, and visitors are allowed to remain until 6:00 pm. Tickets cost R$ 6 (full price) and R$ 3 (half-price for students, seniors, etc.). Admission is free-of-charge for children under 10 and adults over 60. On Saturdays, admission is free for all visitors.

The exhibit is sponsored by Terra Foundation for American Art, Grupo Segurador BB e Mapfre, and Ambev, and supported by the Consulate General of Canada in São Paulo and the Brazil–Canada Chamber of Commerce (CCBC).

The primary aim of the exhibition is to span international borders and to dialog with artists from all across the continent. The show is organized from six themes, seeking to emphasize aspects that are common to the history of all countries in the Americas. Terra Ícone Nação (Land, Icon, Nation), for example, features a selection of seven iconic paintings that demonstrate how – as the American nations became independent – certain landscapes were chosen as representative of a national identity. This is the case of Guanabara Bay for Brazil, the Valley of Mexico for that country, or the western frontier for the United States. These paintings made the national identities more visible as they were being developed throughout the nineteenth century.

‘Do Campo para o Ateliê’ (Field to Studio) gathers drawings and paintings that resulted from scientific expeditions that traversed and explored the most remote regions of the Americas, inspired by the writings of naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Artists like Germany’s Johann Moritz Rugendas, Canada’s Paul Kane, and the US’s Thomas Moran – with their majestic images of the dense interiors of tropical rain forests or the icy peaks of the Arctic – exemplify the spirit of investigating nature that guided landscape painting in the nineteenth century.

The paintings assembled in ‘Batalhas Fronteiras Territórios’ (Battles, Borders, Territories) show us how the artists imagined the often violent and conflictual history of the territorial disputes that mark the borders defined across the Americas, not only between nations but also between nations and the continent’s indigenous peoples. In these painting, territory emerges as a character in and of itself, emphasizing the creation of national myths and symbols.

‘A Terra como Recurso’ (Land as Resource) features paintings that reference the riches of the Americas – fertile soil, timber, minerals, among others – that glorify man’s dominion over the natural world. Paintings of coffee plantations, logging, and even collecting ice in Canada comprise this central theme, with romanticized visions of the working world and the exploitation of natural resources.

‘A Terra Transformada’ (Land Transformed) shows the emergence of the modern age, disseminating the taste for industrial shapes, echoing natural forms. Works by Mexico’s Juan O’Gorman, Uruguay’s Torres-Garcia and Brazil’s Tarsila do Amaral exemplify the predominance of urban landscapes – featuring ports, factories and smokestacks – in early twentieth century painting, dismantling the aesthetics and artistic conventions of the previous century.

The show closes with ‘Ícone Nação Ser’ (Icon, Nation, Self), which mirrors the first thematic section by gathering seven works that express the artists’ individual responses vis-à-vis nature and the beauty of the territory. These are places that the artists knew well and where they projected their memories and experiences, in order to express a profound sense of belonging. The Venezuelan coast, represented by Armando Reverón, and New Mexico landscapes by US painter Georgia O’Keeffe are noteworthy examples from this show.

With editions in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the book – edited by the exhibition’s curators – contains 260 color images and will be on sale starting February 27 at the Pinacoteca gift shop. The material also includes essays by 45 invited authors.