Sem história: Victor Gerhard, 1964-1984
Sem história: Victor Gerhard, 1964-1984
Sem história: Victor Gerhard, 1964-1984 features the research done into the output of the artist born in Santa Cruz do Sul in 1936. After moving in 1959 to Rio de Janeiro, where he still lives, Gerhard began his studies at the MAM’s open art school with Ivan Serpa and Domenico Lazzarini, had his work featured in numerous solo and group shows in Brazil and elsewhere, and in four São Paulo Art Biennials. For the first time in Rio in over 30 years, Galeria Jaqueline Martins is proud to once again feature this wide-ranging experimental repertoire spanning painting, engraving, collage, photography, video and Gerhard’s pioneering use of neon in Brazil.
The exhibit’s unifying thread is the idea that “whenever faced with image, we are faced with time”. We designed this career overview under the assumption that it contains both the artist’s vast multimedia output and the signs of an inscrutable silence that began in the 80s and still lasts. Employing a subjective equation, we could say that the traces of that forgetfulness, coupled with the ever-positive remainders of what we call “passing time,” result in the possibility of a gaze which updates itself as it enters the realm of Gerhard’s imagery.
This is a continuous action, a movement of expansion of the understanding that we now have of what has become cemented as our most radical, pungent 60s and 70s avant-garde, to allow new sparks to emerge and dilate the art scene we recognize ourselves as affiliated with. An apprehension of the past that is intended to break, with a very unique gesture, from capitalist civilization, and one that is even more particular to our condition as underdeveloped metropolis, leaving us at the mercy of a systemic entrapment where culture gets devoured as exception and spat out as rule. Thus, the more radical, offbeat figurations that once conquered space through their sheer force, now inhabit the imaginary that has become established as a dominant medium, merged into the pacified landscape of history.
Against the primacy of a definitive image, we weave out new matrixes of the visual field in revisiting Victor Gerhard’s output. Borrowing its title, Sem história (Historyless), from one of the artist’s collages, this set of works featured at Galeria Jaqueline Martins looks to emphasize not only the objective condition that limited Gerhard’s production in its utter stillness, but also his reluctance in subscribing to a specific framework of significations, often adopting an aesthetic that ran parallel to contemporary discourses.
The discursive and symbolic periphery of the artist’s work afforded him an independent stance regarding art’s programmatic definitions, at once committed to the spirit of the times and fueled by an authentic desire to make his own aesthetical discoveries. As a keen observer of the raw reality of the streets, from his earliest works he tapped into the urban materiality of newspaper stories, announcing an interest in the constituent perversity of the modern metropolis. This theme takes on a pop-like configuration in house interiors recreated from home décor magazine cutouts. These images indicate, through a formal exercise, the degree of artificialism that the house assumes in its bourgeoise layout. As Frederico Moraes pointed out in a 1975 text on occasion of the artist’s Ocupação series, “Gerhard simply concretizes the half-concealed virtualities that underlie the photograph. The color works at once as commentary and interference”.
In the early 70s, Victor Gerhard ushered in neon artwork in Brazil. Influenced by the works of Chrissa, Piotr Kowalski and Martial Raysse, Gerhard’s neon output translates the paradigm of a new industrial reality, coming into being just as a fledgling art market was taking shape in the Rio-São Paulo axis. His objects represented a shift in his interest towards novel experimentation with sensuous shapes. As a development of this new outpouring of expression, he initiates one of his last major series, with photographic images featuring neon and a subdued, allegorical obscenity. The connections between eroticized shapes and his use of industrial materials hint at noxious relationships in the heart of industrial civilization – ones which, looking back, are ever-present in his brief, intense career.