Copyright 1987 Associated Press

All Rights Reserved


The Associated Press


These materials may not be republished without the express written consent of The Associated Press


November 18, 1987, Wednesday


Brazil Has One of Most Important Art Exhibits in World

By STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press Writer 

An extraordinary array of paintings, sculptures and other forms of international contemporary art is on display in South America's largest city at the 19th Sao Paulo Bienal, considered one of the most important events of its kind in the world.

More than 3,000 works, from the linear and cerebral production of France's Roman Opalka and the glittering neon structure of American artist Stephan Antonakos, to the historical work of Mexican muralist David Alfaros Siqueiros and the dark and somber paintings of West Germany's Anselm Kiefer, went on last month.

Some 400 artists from 54 countries are represented at the Bienal, which according to curator Sheila Leirner is one of the three major events of its kind after West Germany's Kassel Dokumenta art show and the Venice biannual exposition. The Brazilian show runs until Dec. 13.

Organized every two years, the exhibition is being held at the huge 36,000-square yard Bienal Pavillion, a white, modernistic concrete building designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

The general theme of this year's Bienal is "utopia versus reality."

"We chose this theme as our main focus because we are witnessing the decadence of mankind's values and of the Utopian dream," Leirner said. "Yet, there is still hope because there are people who manage to go beyond this reality and dream of a better world.

"The clash between Utopia and reality is visible in contemporary art. Sometimes, art works are essentially Utopian. At times they are merely linked to reality, and sometimes Utopia and reality are contained in a single work of art."

According to local art critics and organizers of the event, the main attractions at this year's Bienal are the works of American artist Robert Stackhouse, Scotland's David Mach and France's Roman Opalka.

Stockhouse's "Ruby Birth" is a large open-ended, tent-like structure made of several wooden slats painted red. Behind it is a painting of a huge red snake.

He said his work "stands for a personal journey from the past to a hopeful future. A future we can only dream may be Utopian."

Mach's provocative sculpture is made up of 12 tons of magazines shaped in a kind of whirlpool pattern on top of which rest a tractor, a wheelbarrow and a cement mixer. It is called "Business as Usual."

"It's a kind of protest against today's mass production and mass consumption of goods stimulated by the mass media," he said.

Opalka's "1965/1-Infinity" is a collection of 29 canvases which contain nothing more than numbers painted on them.

For Opalka, his work "is a philosophical and spiritual, rather than a pictorial image of the progression of time and of life and death."

He painted the number 1 in 1965 and has not stopped since. He said he plans to continue painting numbers on canvases until the day he dies. In the 22 years since he started his project, he has reached the number 4,021,853.

The 56-year-old artist did not want to predict what number he would be on when he died but said he would be happy if he reached 7,777,777 "which has a profound , philosophical and religious meaning."

One of the highlights of the Bienal is an exhibit of photos, drawings, engravings and documents belonging to the late French artist Marcel Duchamp, a pioneer of such artistic trends as cubism and futurism.

The Bienal is also displaying several special exhibitions that include architectural design, video-art, photography, art design and a collection of lamps, furniture and clothes.

Music has also been included in the Bienal with programs focusing on the minimalist compositions of Philip Glass and Steve Reich of the United States and Louis Andriessen of Holland.