The visual artist Lenora de Barros exhibits her most recent work, from November 22 through December 20, 2017, after a period of research in New York. Pisa na Paúra occupies Anexo Millan and examines themes like violence and fear through different art forms, including video, installation, wheat paste posters and ceramics.
The word “paúra,” in Portuguese, is a synonym of fear, dread, terror; it derives from the Latin pavere, which means “to be terrified or astonished, to be possessed.” The artist enters the etymological dimensions of the word to engender a set of works that marks a new phase in her career. She is now dealing with new challenges as she devotes herself to manual crafts, especially ceramics, a research she carried out during six months at the Sculpture Space in New York.
At the entrance to the exhibition space, Lenora covers two large walls (6.5 x 11 m) with wheat-pasted posters containing the hand-written phrase “pisa na paúra” (step on fear). The text repeats itself in an obsessive and rhythmic way and overlaps until almost reaching entropy. The phrase is a poetic and radical transition from verbal language to drawing.
In the center of the same space, visitors are invited to step on the letters of the word “paúra,” made of clay, which literally evoke the feeling of the exhibition title, the idea of stepping on fear. Ceramic works also appear in a series of small sculptures titled Máscaras de Mão (2017), whose shape and scale resemble boxing gloves, but also suggest disfigured faces.
The process for its creation came from an insight the artist had while exploring the inner composition of the medium, its visceral aspect. “This primitive state of clay and how it might lend itself to my poetics interests me. At first, I was afraid of the process of creating form, and that feeling made me revisit a poem I wrote in 1972,” she says, referring to MEDO DA FORMAAMORFA. Viscerality was already a recurring element in her work, but now it takes on a more sensitive character.
In a line of research that developed parallel to and in dialogue with ceramics, the artist was experimenting with targets used in shooting ranges – an uncomfortable and disturbing element at a time when violence spreads in a frightening way and turns against determined, as well as random, targets. During her research process, Lenora decided to collect used targets tossed out at a shooting range in São Paulo, which are featured in the show. “It called my attention to the violence contained in these figures in ‘decomposition’ after the shots they received – images of bodies that never lived, but died in a violent way,” she says.
The pieces also served as a starting point for the video Alvos, which was recorded in one of the rooms at this shooting range, in which the artist positions the figure of the target over her own face. “What stood out in this image is the fact that the point that directs the shot is situated over the mouth. This connection with the tongue and language interests me,” she explains, and adds: “The intriguing thing is that this figure has an impassive expression, whose meaning is precisely the opposite of ‘paúra.’”
Lenora de Barros began her production in the 1970s, in a field of research that privileged the relationships between word and image. Daughter of the artist Geraldo de Barros (1923- 1998), she had an up-close experience with the Constructivism in São Paulo. “I grew up in this stimulating environment interacting with artists and poets, under the influence of Concretism, Pop culture and the climate of experimentalism and transgression of sectors of the cultural milieu at a time when Brazil lived under a military dictatorship. All this influenced me and stimulated the development of my work, which came to meet the wider environment of contemporary art.”