Adriana Varejão b. 1964, Rio de Janeiro
Oil on canvas over aluminum, mounted to wood with oil painted polyurethane
94 3/4 x 90 5/8 x 15 3/4 inches (240.7 x 230.2 x 40 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Ruth Baum, Edythe Broad, Elaine Terner Cooper, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Harry David, Gail May Engelberg, Shirley Fiterman, Nicki Harris, Dakis Joannou, Rachel Lehmann, Linda Macklowe, Peter Norton, Tonino Perna, Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, Mortimer D. A. Sackler, Simonetta Seragnoli, David Teiger, and Elliot K. Wolk, 2003
2003 Adriana Varejao. Photo: Masood Kamandy/courtesy of Lehman Maupin Gallery, New York
Adriana Varejão (b. 1964, Rio de Janeiro) is immersed in the complex cultural history of her native Brazil. For Varejão, works of art are vital, living organisms, and her sculptural, relief-like paintings are meant to be read as bodies, both individual and social. In Folds 2 (2003), the pure, white tile “skin” ruptures, exposing the life-blood and organs that usually remain concealed beneath the surface. It is through this dialogue between the equally powerful forces of containment and revelation that Varejão's works transmit deeper allegorical and metaphorical significance. In their architectural aspect, the reliefs suggest ruins or sites of archeological excavation. What is unearthed in the process are potentially ugly truths (primarily the troublesome legacies of colonialism and cannibalism, both bodily and racial, that Varejão references explicitly) that are also essential to existence. Indeed, Brazil's dynamic, hybrid visual culture, with its roots in Baroque-era Catholic iconography, Portuguese art, indigenous customs, and transplanted Asian and African traditions, was borne of forces both beautiful and horrible. Varejão's art—startling, visceral, and alive—is the contemporary articulation of these diverse influences.