Turner Prize winning artist Antony Gormley, 61, has created a buzz in Sao Paulo where tabloid headlines have been dominating the media in the run-up to the opening of two simultaneous exhibitions of his work. ‘The Still Being’ is located in the CCBB and ‘Facts and Systems’ is in a pop up White Cube gallery show. The Still Being exhibition, located in the downtown area, shows 27 sculptures in the shape of upright men made of cast iron. In typical form they are situated at the top of the buildings, on the edge balancing like suicidal patients, getting ready to jump. The exhibition includes four major installations alongside a number of works and other models (most of the figures are self portraits of Gormley himself). The installation has prompted frantic calls to the police and emergency services, reporting sightings of strange figures on the rooftops of Sao Paulo.
A similar exhibition was seen in New York (2010) in Madison Square. Some people were frightened because they thought that the sculptures could be potential suicide cases. Gormley who has placed his work on the waterfront and also in the parks, is impressed with the architecture of São Paulo. “It looks like a piece of geology, unconscious, made with clever use of concrete and graffiti. The buildings are like crystals,” he says. The exhibition – which is curated by Marcello Dantas Still Being is the first major exhibition of Antony Gormley’s work in South America and focuses on the themes of body as space and space as object that have been central to the practice of the artist over the last 40 years. Corpos Presentes – Still Being opens in São Paulo on May 12th at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) and will subsequently travel to the CCBB in Rio de Janeiro and the CCBB in Brasília.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue. Still Being includes several major installations alongside a number of other works and models. One of the installations included in the exhibition is Event Horizon, a work most recently seen in New York City comprises 31 life-size body forms of the artist cast in iron and fiberglass, which will be installed across the Anhangabaú Valley, the central area of São Paulo, on the rooftops of buildings and in squares and sidewalks. Other important installations included are works such as Loss, a human figure constructed of hovering blocks of stainless steel; Breathing Room, an immersive environment of luminous space frames; Critical Mass II, an installation of 60 iron body forms suspended and fallen; and Amazonian Field, a work that comprises more than 24,000 terracotta figures made 20 years ago with the help of over 100 residents of Porto Velho, Rondônia, Brazil.
The exhibition includes four major installations alongside a number of other works and models. “Event Horizon”, most recently seen in New York City in 2010 and comprising 31 life-size body forms of the artist cast in iron and fibreglass will be installed across the Anhangabaú Valley, the central area of São Paulo. Positioned on the rooftops of buildings and in squares and sidewalks, the artist wishes to engage the viewer in a visual assessment of the inner city.
This exhibition demonstrates the breadth of the artist’s practice, including works such as ‘Loss’, a human figure constructed of hovering blocks of stainless steel; ‘Mother’s Pride’, in which the artist has eaten out his own body shape from slices of industrially-produced bread that are fixed to the wall; and ‘Breathing Room’ an immersive environment of luminous space frames.
‘I question the notion that retinal response is the only channel of communication in art, and the notion that objects are discrete entities. I want the work to activate the space around it and engender a psycho-physical response, allowing those in its field of influence to be more aware of their bodies and surroundings’ says Gormley.
Brazil has served as inspiration and raw material for the artist’s development. Twenty years ago Gormley created ‘Amazonian Field’. With the help of over one hundred residents of Porto Velho, Rondônia, he created more than 24,000 terracotta figures: hand-made surrogate body forms which completely occupy a given architectural space. The ‘Field’ project has been made across four continents: Australia Mexico and the USA, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Central Europe and China and Japan.
The rotunda of the CCBB will contain one of the artist’s most celebrated works, ‘Critical Mass II’: sixty, 630kg cast iron body forms suspended and fallen. Each of the twelve positions conveys a very different evocation of a mental state; sometimes playful, sometimes conflicted, depending on their position in space.
People passing by the exhibition were quite scared with what they saw”, explained to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo Luis Fernando Spaziani, the programme director of Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB), the cultural centre funded by a major bank in Brazil and responsible for the event. “When the police came and finally noticed that it was just statues, the problem was solved”.