Brazilian conceptual artist Rivane Neuenschwander creates playful, ephemeral and often participatory artworks that blur distinctions between author and viewer, object and memory, permanence and temporality. This fall, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other, the artist's first major midcareer survey. Covering a decade of work, the exhibition reveals a wide-ranging interdisciplinary practice that merges painting, photography, film, sculpture, installation and collaborative action. Like her predecessors Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, Neuenschwander is at once artistic instigator, commissioning agent and social organizer, exploring themes such as nature, language, time and the poetry of the quotidian.
The exhibition will highlight three works that invite direct audience participation Walking in Circles (2000), First Love (2005) and Joe Carioca an Friends (2005). Walking in Circles consists of several circles of varying size rendered in transparent adhesive on the gallery floor. The circles darken over time as they pick up dirt from visitors' shoes, creating a physical map of movement through the exhibition space. In First Love, participants are asked to describe their "first love" to a forensic sketch artist; the resulting portraits will be displayed in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. For Joe Carioca and Friends, Neuenschwander painted over several pages of a popular Brazilian comic, leaving visible only the speech bubbles and vibrant background colors. Each panel is then transferred to the wall as a large blackboard on which people are invited to draw their own stories.
Further highlights include a pair of large-scale environmental installations. In Rain Rains (2002), buckets suspended from the ceiling drip water into corresponding buckets beneath them, creating artificial rain. Every four hours, museum staff will pour the collected water back into the upper buckets, thus maintaining the Sisyphean system of circulation. The second installation, The Conversation (2010), pays homage to Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film of the same title and, like the film, investigates the systematic invasion of privacy in an era of dangerously purposed technology. To stage the piece, the Kemper Art Museum will work with security experts to create an Orwellian environment filled with listening devices. Then, prior to the exhibition's opening, Neuenschwander will raid the "bug-filled" room in an attempt to uncover those devices — a performance that will be recorded and played back in the partially dissembled exhibition space.
In addition to these participatory works and installations, the exhibition will include two recent suites of paintings. For After the Storm (2010), Neuenschwander exposed maps of New York state counties to the elements for the length of the Brazilian rainy season. At a Certain Distance (Ex-Voto Paintings (2010) alters the traditional form of the ex-voto — a type of commemorative painting that serves as a remembrance or an expression of gratitude — by removing all reference to pictorial drama or caption, leaving only brilliantly colored abstract spaces.
Other works will include The Tenant (2010), a lustrous film that follows the journey of a soap bubble as it drifts through the rooms of an empty apartment; Involuntary Sculptures (Speech Acts) (2001–10), a series of communally evolved sculptures made by customers during conversations at bars and restaurants near Neuenschwander's home in Brazil; and A Day Like Any Other (2008), an installation consisting of modified flip clocks in which all numbers have been replaced by zeros. Indeed, by constantly advancing but leading nowhere, these altered clocks — which will be placed all around the museum building — highlight the theme of temporality that runs throughout Neuenschwander's work.
About the Artist
Rivane Neuenschwander was born in 1967 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where she currently lives and works. Over the past 20 years she has exhibited internationally, including solo exhibitions at the South London Gallery, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; Saint Louis Art Museum; and Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Wien, Austria; Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Guggenheim Museum, New York. She was featured in the 55th Carnegie International (2008); the 28th São Paulo Biennale (2008); T2, the Torino Triennale (2008); the 9th Havana Biennial (2006); the 51st Biennale di Venezia (2005); and the first Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art (1999).
The exhibition will open on Friday, Oct. 8, with a public reception from 7-9 pm, followed by an artist dialogue with Neuenschwander and curator Richard Flood on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 11 am. Other related events will include a concert of Brazilian popular music by the St. Louis band Samba Bom (Oct. 29), a lecture by art historian Monica Amor (Nov. 8) and the Contemporary Brazilian Film Festival (Dec. 7-9), presented at the Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd. In addition, the museum will host a pair of special curator-led tours, each lasting approximately one hour, Oct. 29 and Jan. 7.
Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other is organized by the New Museum, New York, in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and is curated by Richard Flood, chief curator at the New Museum. The presentation of First Love at all exhibition venues is made possible by a gift from Romero Pimenta. The presentation of the exhibition in St. Louis is provided by the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.
image credit: Installation view from Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other, New Museum, New York, 2010. Foreground: Rain Rains (2002). Aluminum buckets, water, steel cable, and ladder, dimensions variable. Background: After the Storm (2010). Acrylic paint on maps, wood, 31 1/2 x 26" each. Courtesy of the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo; and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo by Benoit Pailley.