One of the most significant painters of the 80s generation, Rodrigo Andrade displays his most recent works at Galeria Millan, from June 1 to July 1. Duas Cavernas (Two Caverns) occupy both buildings of the gallery in the São Paulo state capital, covering the main tendencies the artist has concentrated on intensively in recent months. Known for his ability to radically change the course of his work, in the quest for new lines of research, Andrade is experiencing a moment of greater synthesis, in which the various paths of his 33-year career appear to converge more profound interaction. With this exhibition, he creates an interesting interface of dialog with the major retrospective exhibition of his work at the end of the year at Estação Pinacoteca Museum.
In all, the exhibit include 30 canvases, organized around three main axes: the landscapes, largely inspired by the classical works of masters such as Ruysdael, Uccello and Bellini (occupying the main gallery); the abstract paintings, the Bilaterals, consisting of two large chromatic fields, in equilibrium (shown in the annex); and, as the balancing factor, since they introduce questions common to the two previous groups – a series of recent works, the “binary figures". These works, always with two figures, which may be more or less abstract, invariably consider the idea of the pair, of the reflection, an aspect frequently seen in all the artist's work. "This has pretty much become a structure in my work. I understand myself in the pair", he explains.
Some of these binary figures are more figurative, with aspects that hark back to the universe of cartoons or to references of art history (as in the case of Fera e Princesa (Beast and Princess), in a clear dialog with Uccello's St. George and the Dragon, and Bicho e Pedra, depois de Neves Torres (Creature and Stone, after Neves Torres), an abstraction based on a work by the author named in the title). Others are more indecipherable, like the gigantic 6 x 11 meter mural that Andrade painted on one of the Annex walls: "Some say they are men in hoods, others see marine creatures”, laughs the painter, revealing that in fact they are the caverns that give the exhibition its name.
The grottoes, catacombs and rocky outcrops, picturesque themes of the 19th century, have long captivated the artist and he has been collecting images of this type since 2010 and reworking the theme pictorially, until reaching the current stage. His fascination does not stem from philosophical and poetic connotations. "It's a void that I'll paint with positive matter, matter in relief. This spatial situation is perfect for me. As for all the other connotations that may appear, so be it", he explains.
The caverns and his other works are dimensional bodies, they project themselves beyond the plane, conquering space. In dealing with the masses of paint – in work that harks back to the geometrical forms of his paintings of the 2000s, which became a kind of artistic signature – Andrade uses masks and carefully designed templates in the cutting out process. "It's the design moment”, he explains, revealing that he no longer works with projections or a preexisting photographic source, as he did for the early landscapes. He sometimes refers back to the great masters, but with a very personal interpretation. However, the more recent scenes, such as Pântano ao Luar (Swamp by Moonlight), are completely imaginary, in a slow process of mental elaboration until the painting takes shape. As the artist puts it, "It's as if I were training for a triple jump".
The paintbrush, which he uses only for landscapes, gives way to the silkscreen rubber blade, used to spread the paint with great precision. The stroke, the preference for fewer gestures, which seems to be an inherent part of Andrade's process, assumes an even greater dimension in the Bilaterais (Bilaterals). The structure is extremely simple: two dense masses of color, laid in virtually a single sweep of the blade, which act as magnets to each other (again in a dual equilibrium) and collide in the middle of the canvas, forming a kind of crest. There is a great deal of chance and fatalism; but also a precise calculation, a leisurely selection of paints - often left over from other works - and above all, a return to the basic principles of painting. "I felt a lack of form and color”, Rodrigo tells us. Adding: "I hadn't had such an intense engagement with painting for years".
This is a significant statement from one who has dedicated himself to the form for more than three decades, passing through different phases and radical changes in this process of experimentation. Since the early years, when his work and that of other colleagues – meeting at the Casa 7 (Number 7) atelier – came to the public's notice with their participation in the 18th São Paulo Biennial, there have been a number of radical changes in his output. The most recent of these was in 2010, when Andrade – who had been producing markedly abstract work – surprised the circuit with the black, immaterial landscapes, based on photographic records, displayed at the 29th Biennial (2010). Now, in addition to boundless vitality and a turning back in search of a greater incidence of color and form, the artist seems more inclined to tread parallel paths, discovering in each of them aspects to feed his research.