Artist Mauro Restiffe Marks The Death Of Oscar Niemeyer at Frieze
One of the highlights of Frieze week in London 2013 will be the return of the Brazilian artist Mauro Restiffe with his new body of work, Oscar, a series of black and white photographs made on the occasion of Oscar Niemeyer’s death in December, 2012, at the age of 104.
Hearing suddenly that there would be an unexpected viewing of the architect’s body in Brasilia the day before his burial in Rio de Janeiro, Restiffe jumped on a plane in Sao Paulo and arrived less than an hour before the ceremony finished in one of Niemeyer’s landmark government buildings, Palacio do Planalto. In that short period of time he created a remarkable series of images that serve as a coda to his previous signature photographs of president Lula da Silva’s first inauguration in Brasilia on Jan 1, 2003.
In Empossamento, the group of black and white photographs that Restiffe made on that inaugural day, he portrays the spectacle of a celebratory populace spilling over Niemeyer’s iconic modernist buildings and grounds in a teeming display of new political demographics. The throngs are seen from a distance, along with lone security men stationed on rooftops and jets soaring overhead in a military salute. The Empossamento series was presented at Frieze in 2007; a purchase of 11 of those photos was acquired for the Tate Collection through the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund.
In the Oscar series, the populace is gone but the security team remains, blending in with a contingent of government officials, whose menacing suggestion of power and control creates an ominous silhouette against the landmark Niemeyer facades. The image of surveillance and authority playing out on the sensual Niemeyer stage is a dark reminder of the political conflicts suffered in his career, when his leftist politics collided with the right wing military coup that seized power in 1964 four years after the utopian plan of Brasilia was executed. In Restiffe’s work, a final tribute to a national treasure becomes a chilling comment on state power and watchful privilege.
The Oscar photographs are in different sizes, ranging from 20 x 30"(50 x 75 cm) to 54 x 82"(135 x 207cm). Galeria Fortes Vilaça, which represents Restiffe, will have 9 framed Oscar photos and a portfolio of 17 additional prints (Frieze Stand D7). Part of the series was shown for the first time at Panorama 33, an exhibition that opened October 5th at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo - MAM-SP.