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The Journey of the Carrancas

01 Aug 2015
18 Oct 2015

AUG 01, 2015
OCT 18, 2015

In 1946, photographer Marcel Gautherot, in partnership with Pierre Verger, toured the coastal and inland regions of the state of Bahia and recorded the “carrancas” (riverboat figureheads) that are still found on boats on the São Francisco River. The photographs, published in magazines O Cruzeiro (1947), Sombra (1951) and Módulo (1955), as well as in the book Brésil (1950), drew the attention of the public and researchers. Now a part of these carrancas and the photographic series by Gautherot arrive at Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the art museum of the São Paulo State Secretariat of Culture, in an unprecedented exhibit curated by Lorenzo Mammì.

A Viagem das Carrancas [“The journey of the Carrancas”], which opens August 1, features 41 such figureheads from public and private collections, and 42 photographs belonging to the Instituto Moreira Salles, in addition to small sculptures, a model boat, and various documents. Among the highlights of this show is the figurehead of the legendary vessel Minas Gerais, the largest ship that ever sailed the São Francisco River, sculpted by Afrânio – the first known sculptor of carrancas, still in the late nineteenth century.

“From the beginning, the carrancas were known for their grotesque traits, which have become a recurring feature of the genre. However, many of the older ones are quite realistic. This is the case of a series of lion heads, with almost classic contours, as well as most of the horses, generally used on smaller vessels. All on display at the Pinacoteca,” explains Mammì. Also part of this exhibit is the figure carved on the boat Americana by Francisco Biquiba dy Lafuente Guarany (1882–1985), Brazil’s best known and most highly respected sculptor of carrancas. He began carving these types of figureheads in 1905, and this was the third one of his career, completed in 1907.

Six other carrancas carved by Guarany but were never used on any vessel also make up the exhibit. They belong to the first phase of his production for collectors, in the 1950s and 1960s. “Mainly for their aesthetic quality, and because there is nothing like them anywhere else in the world, the discovery of the carrancas ushered in a new phase in the evaluation and even the creation of folk art in Brazil. Addressing this issue today demands that we develop new critical tools for assessment of this type of production,” adds the curator.

A book published by Instituto do Imaginário do Povo Brasileiro, Editora Martins Fontes, and Instituto Moreira Salles, thoroughly illustrated with images of carrancas and the photographic series of Marcel Gautherot, in addition to records by Hans Gunter Flieg, Pierre Verger and researcher Paulo Pardal, will go on sale August 1 at the Pinacoteca gift shop and partnering bookstores. The book also includes essays by Lorenzo Mammì and Samuel Titan Jr. A Viagem de Carrancas, brought to you by Instituto do Imaginário do Povo Brasileiro, Instituto Moreira Salles, and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, is sponsored by Sabesp, DesenvolveSP and CCR, and be showing on the first floor of the Pinacoteca from August 1 to October 18. Visitation is free of charge.