Hudinilson Jr. and Nino Cais
Hudinilson Jr. and Nino Cais
Since 1912, when Picasso made his first collage, the visual arts have undergone serious changes. That gesture, however subject to numerous interpretations, was mainly regarded as an insult to the great tradition of painting because it brought into the canvas --until then a place fully organized in accordance to the rules of representation-- many ordinary things of the world: a theater ticket, a piece of newspaper news. Suddenly, fragments such as these literally surfaced, without any explanation or contextualization, into the holy space of the painting causing much consternation, as one can imagine.
Today, an exact century after that gesture, collages have become almost institutionalized, having turned into that kind of production that is welcomed mostly everywhere, from art galleries to institutions. The show “Hudinilson Jr. and Nino Cais: Collages”, retains something of that first intervention into the representative space of the painting from the time of the vanguards. These are disturbing images. Either because of the frankly erotic content that can be felt in Hudinilson Jr.´s plates or because of the inherently violent actions made by Nino Cais, the works now on show at Jaqueline Martins Gallery are incredibly naughty. The general atmosphere of the show is gloomy. The two artists begin by selecting and collecting old images to which they add enormous psychological charges which, in turn, remind one of going down memory lane or into a skeleton filled cabinet.
In the collage plates made by Hudinilson Jr, which are filled both sides with images, one can distinguish the recurrence of a single, central theme: the male body as the site of desire. “I only desire men”, repeats the artist ad infinitum. More than just a statement of his own homosexuality, the phrase reveals much of the inner workings of his artistic strategies. “When I am not having sex, I am doing these collages”, says the artist. This, clearly establishes the collages´ link with the sexual act. Since the 1980s, when Hudinilson made his famous “XeroxAction”, shown at MAC in august 1983, in which the artist pressed his naked body into a xerox machine producing images that resulted from this direct contact, the male body already surfaced as the greatest theme of his works (in this particular case the action can be interpreted as an intercourse between man and machine).
When selecting the images for the collage plates, which come -- mostly unaltered -- from various magazines, newspapers, advertising brochures and history books, Hudinilson Jr.seems to have a one track mind: erotic pleasure. Naked male bodies are recurrent and abundant. Among porn stars, male models, athletes and cinema stars, one finds not only cut outs of classic greek/roman male sculptures and catholic saints, but, here and there, also surface the images of animals,landscapes and huge architectural towers which are immediately read out asphallic symbols. It is also curious to observe how images of other artists(Regina Silveira and Alex Vallauri, for instance), friends with Hudinilson, creep into his own work. Incorporated into the plates, these personal notes and messages point out to emotional rather than erotic content. It was MarioRamiro, a fellow artist and professor who, since the creation of the art group 3Nós 3 (loosely translated as “3 Us 3”) first called attention to this rich material (composed by the collage plates and the “reference notebooks”) that Hudinilson has been creating since the 1980s. Ramiro notes the importance of the systematic character of Hudinilson´s work which, to him, reveal “the artist´s innate ability for selecting, organizing and categorizing.” It is a fact, Hudinilson seems to thrive on selecting, organizing and categorizing the media stream around him into an archive of personal memories. Thus, these collage plates can be read as some sort of diary in which private memories become the artist´s aesthetics. Hudinilson refuses talking about this work without long personal digressions, without contextualizing them with personal history or political fact. Everything becomes blurred as if no separation existed between his own lived experience and the collage plates he creates. In this manner, and, at least, from the point of view of the artist himself, the line dividing personal and artistic experience is erased, extinguished. Hudinilson´s boxes, also understood as collages, however, tridimensional, obey the same logic of selecting, organizing and categorizing the media stream around him into personal living memory. In the case of the boxes, however, a different set of strategies gets into the stage in order to build a narrative:different textures, volumes and various weights are all balanced into play to create, once more, lust and erotic pleasure. These “boxes” are constructions that demand more than just seeing from the observer. Seeing becomes touching.These boxes are also impregnated with a dozen elements from a symbolic surrealist universe: breasts, iron, stones all seem to be evoke content still unprocessed by consciousness.
Nino Cais presents us with two series of collages and two ready-made sculptures. The first series,made in 2009, is scrapped from a repertoire of fashion magazines published in the 1970s. These are magazines that teach one how to knit and thus they reproduce images of families as idealized at the time. The models, in their vast majority, children and women in the roles of house wives and mothers are displayed in Nino Cais´ collages always with their faces covered, that is, defaced.
Such index of depersonalization -- one is not talking about any particular woman, but of asocial role that is fully embraced (authenticated) by the publication -- serves a double function. At the same time in which it reveals some widely known and accepted ideology for women and for relations within the family, it also reveals how much of it is oppressive: because personal identity is effaced in favor of a role, one cannot recognise the individuality of each figure, just its social role.
The much talked about “happy suburban life” is, with a simple gesture from the artist, forever transformed. Although the beauty of these images should be instantly recognised, the strong contrast of colors and textures, hint at something counterfeit and decidedly false. This series of collages, which makes use of many images from the same magazine to scramble up one single image, calls attention to photographic manipulation. Something that today has been granted legitimacy and become automated with the use of programs such as Photoshop.
The second, more recent, series of collages, Théâtre Français, uses imagens from french theater magazines of the beginning of the XX century. Actors and actresses appear wearing the costumes used in plays they were starring on. The scene is archetypal of photography at the time showing a rather bland background in which the image of the “person” becomes central. Sometimes, one glimpses at role playing: the figures in these pictures are intentionally posing to be photographed.
As with the previous series of collages, Nino´s intervention concentrates on the faces of the people he chose to present. Cuts, with small colorful supporting structures, are created by the artist until these become masks worn by these historical figures. Thus, their faces get altered, becoming tumescent disguises that are both deformed and frightening.
The world of the theater,literally called upon in this series, also explicits some of the notions which are central to Nino Cais´ collages such as the idea of what representation is( programmed acting, in contrast to ingenuity or spontaneity), character (as in a deliberate construction of a type, something that differs from personal identity), masks (as social clothing), narrative, drama, comedy and tragedy (as previously accorded scripts ready to be acted out). As a background theme, the strong de-naturalization of these images, serves to reinforce their nature as role playing, scripted acting. The artist´s intervention, which literally pierces through the image, acts as if backstage came forward into the stage. Such act, not without violence, breaks with the script of the spectacle.
Much like Lucio Fontana´scut canvases, Nino reminds us, his interventions create a new layer of meaning that explodes unpredictably and thus re-signifies the whole of the work.
In the scratched images, such explosion of new meanings works differently. The image is not pierced but erased: their faces are scratched, grated until identity is completely erased.The wiped out spaces turn into vacant lots, sites that have once been occupied by many but which now do not belong to anyone. Thus an indefinite fog at the borders of what we know was a face is created.
These collages from Nino bring back the classic idea of life as a stage. And they do so from a very specific repertoire: imagens published in magazines. Because these were published some time ago, today they serve as documents to be peeked at by modern audiences as portraits of an era.
The works of these two artists from different generations and inclinations, share a common interest for trivial, disposable images that, in their nature, seem to become irrelevant the day immediately after their publication. Hudinilson Jr. and Nino Cais give these images a second go which is much more problematic and tight. Each of these artists revealing hidden vocations, latent content that, at first, have been deemed dormant.