Iberê Camargo: layers and over layers of high poetic expression

Iberê Camargo Foundation

Almost at the end of his life, Iberê Camargo (1914-1994) came to be acclaimed by the Folha de São Paulo newspaper as "the greatest painter in activity in Brazil".

This title may point above all the mundane taste for the superlatives, which is so often so expensive for journalism, but it reveals the stage of recognition the artist experienced in life.

Iberê was one of the most notable creators of the country in the second half of 20th century, with influence and permanence still little tested.

The foundation has received the name of the painter, working in an admirable building designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, in Porto Alegre, invested in an incisive way in the preservation and the divulgation of his aesthetic legacy.

With this, he will have achieved an even greater breadth of projection of his work, including in an international context.

There isn't as denying the high poetic quality of this production, which was manifested mainly in oil painting, drawing and metal engraving.

For purposes of teaching or better understanding, Iberê's trajectory can be examined in four or five more or less distinct stages.

There is an extensive stage of formation, which includes since the artist's youth, still in the region of Santa Maria, in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul, extreme and remote south of Brazil, until the conquest of the national prize that gave him a stage of studies in Europe, where he was a pupil of the French André Lothe (1885-1962), cubist master, and where attended the Italian Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), great influence in metaphysical painting.

The second stage, after the studies with Alberto da Veiga Guignard (1896-1962), an important Brazilian painter, is the consolidation of the expressionist palette of Restinga Seca painter, with a more intense figuration and a greater accumulation of oil paint.


The third stage, will make the Iberê name recognized, with participation in the 1962 Venice Bienniale and the creation of a 160ft panel at the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva in 1966, is the one that more closest to abstraction (although he never admitted it himself), with a generally wide canvas, with more closed colors and with the juxtaposition of layers and layers of paint, which would be one of the marks of his desire for expression.

The final stages of this production correspond to the return of human figuration in the 1980s to creatures with a phantasmagoric profile and their first Cyclists, followed by a new wave of creatures, denser, more elaborate and more dramatic, who becomes the Idiots, inconsolable characters who seem to be resigned to the meaninglessness of life and the inevitable expectation of death.

All these stages, including the most intimate of expressionist abstractionism, went following by the constant presence of the Spool.

Iberê adult represented insistently, isolated or in groups, sometimes on tables or in interaction with human figures, these were his favorite childhood toys. Of humble family, with few resources, he had fun with the reels of line that were left of the seams of the mother.

This form, which he sometimes summed up in four lines, like those of an hourglass, pursued the artist of the youth to the last works, on the eve of what would be its 80 years.

In a recent exhibition, in 2014, alluding to the centenary of Iberê's birth, the foundation that honors him confronted his painted Spools with huge spools of more than 9ft high, designed by the Brazilian artist Eduardo Frota (1959).

The gigantic pieces were produced from the gluing of thin wooden slabs and plywood, cut and glued together.

They reproduced in space the same delicate (im)balance of reels drawn, painted and engraved by Iberê.

An arrangement both delicate and monumental.

They showed, with luck, something of the power and repercussion possible and so vigorous in the contemporary art scene. Something still to be better checked and explored.

Credits: Story

Text kindly provided by Eduardo Veras, critic and art historian, professor at Institute of Arts of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

Organized by
Gustavo Possamai

Translated to English by
Franciele Amaral

Every effort has been made to acknowledge the moral rights and copyright of the images in this edition. The Fundação Iberê Camargo welcomes any information concerning authorship, ownership, and/or other data that may be incomplete, and is committed to including them in future updates.

© Fundação Iberê Camargo

Credits: All media
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