Adriana Varejão is a Brazilian artist whose work fuses themes of colonialism, politics, cultural anthropology and miscegenation, and spans painting, sculpture, drawing and photography. She draws on a myriad of references, including religious art, Baroque art, wall tiles, ceramics, iconography, architectural ruins and natural sciences, to name a few.Read More
In the 1980s, the future artist was an engineering student. However, upon watching Elizabeth Taylor's performance as a bohemian artist in The Sandpiper (1965), she decided she wanted to be just like this character. Thereupon she quit university and rented a studio, determined to pursue a career as an artist, which she has done successfully, exhibiting globally and achieving recognition as one of Brazil's leading contemporary artists. Her work is included in numerous collections worldwide, some of which are the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, among others.
On discussing art as a way of being in the world in her January 2016 interview with Ocula Magazine she says, 'It's a collective way of seeing the world, not individual. It's a point of view that's inserted within a culture. It's sociological.' Visually, Varejão appropriates stylistic traditions that were introduced to Brazil upon colonial encounter. Brazil itself is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, and this has undoubtedly informed her practice and style. Over the course of her 30-year career, Varejão has built an iconic oeuvre that speaks of the formation of her country's identity, culture and race, and by implication, also the construction of her own identity. Today Varejão works and resides in Rio de Janeiro.
Alluding to the expansion and transformation of culture, in each of her series Varejão weaves together disparate histories and art practices. Her 'Baroque' series (1987–88) utilises the ornamental style that came with the conquistadors. In her series 'Terra Incognita' (1991–2012), she explores the pictorial traditions that were imported in the 17th century, notably those from The Netherlands, Portugal and China. Her later 'Proposal for a catechesis' series (1993–98), uses decorative azulejos (Portugese ceramic tiles) to create fake antique surfaces that reference the Portugese presence in Brazil during the early 18th century. In these works, painting and sculpture are fused together, where blood oozes from the spliced tiles and guts spill from the skin of the canvas to allude to the violence behind colonial histories.
Similar themes are explored in her 'Jerked-beef ruins' series (2000–04), but the works become even more three-dimensional. Varejão incorporates even more tiles in 'Saunas and Baths' (200309), but focuses distinctly on architectural tension and uniformity. The eery works in soft hues are distrubingly still and hint at happenings that may occur beyond the scene in the canvas. Today Varejão works and resides in Rio de Janeiro.
Having previously exhibited with Gagosian in Rome (2016) and Los Angeles (2017), Varejão's 2021 solo exhibition, Talavera (3 May–26 June), is her first show with the gallery in New York, featuring new paintings and sculptures which explore the Mexican ceramic tradition of Talavera poblana.
Speaking to Ocula Advisory prior to the exhibition, on the cracks, or craquelure, in her work, Varejão explains 'First considered an accident in the production process, [the craquelure] came to be purposefully incorporated in the work. I like that it looks like a rhizome, branches or veins in your hands. There is this fragility and unpredictability, but the craquelure occurs according to nature's innate intelligence'.
Adriana Varejão's artwork is held in numerous collections worldwide, including Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Tate Modern, London, among others.
Adriana Varejão's solo exhibitions include Talavera, Gagosian, New York (2021); Adriana Varejão, Victoria Miro, Venice (2018); Transbarroco, The Sowden House, Los Angeles (2017); Interiors, Gagosian, Los Angeles (2017); Azulejão, Gagosian, Rome (2016); Kindred Spirits, Lehmann Maupin, New York (2016); Kindred Spirits, Dallas Contemporary, Dallas (2015); Adriana Varejão, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2014); Carnivorous, Victoria Miro, London (2014); Polvo, Galpão Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo (2014); Adriana Varejão, Victoria Miro, London (2011); and Adriana Varejão, Hara Museum , Tokyo (2007).
Adriana Varejão's group exhibitions include An Exhibition with Works By..., Witte de With, Rotterdam (2020); Interiorities, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019); America Will Be!: Surveying the Contemporary Landscape, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas (2019); Echoes, Gagosian, San Francisco (2018); Surface Work, Victoria Miro, London (2018); Paula Rego and Adriana Varejão, Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Rio de Janeiro (2017); Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2017); The colour of Brazil, Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Future Seasons Past, Lehmann Maupin, New York (2015); and Imagine Brazil, Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon, Lyon (2014).
Jessica Douglas | Ocula | 2021
When I stop working, I go a little crazy, I don’t know how to fill that void. Life loses its meaning.
Brazilian contemporary artist Adriana Varejão’s artwork is provocative, visceral and charged with references to Brazil’s colonial past, miscegenation and the history of art. Renderings of architectural ruins or tiled surfaces that expose fleshy interiors; paintings inspired by cartography and European academic portrayals of...
On the occasion of her solo exhibition at Gagosian in New York, Adriana Varejão discusses the influence of ceramic traditions on her paintings and sculptures.
Construção When: Feb. 6–Mar. 21 Where: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo What: Though this exhibition takes its name from Brazilian singer Chico Buarque’s storied 1971 song, which tells the tale of a construction worker who dies on the job, the gallery emphasises in an accompanying text that it does not intend to dwell on that troubled era of the...
Lucio Fontana's best-known works to this day are without a doubt his Concetti Spaziale, the simple, aggressive slashes into monochrome canvases that he began to make in the late 1940s. In the Argentinian-born artist's mind, he was cutting into the cosmos, bringing another dimension to the flat planes of painting. The highly recognizable slash...
There are certain shows that change one's sense of art. Surface Work is one of them. Spread across two sites, it is nothing less than an anthology of abstract painting spanning an entire century, from early constructivism to post-digital sampling, in which every work holds its own and every work is by a woman. This is a rare and historic event....
Women sweep the gold this year, with Mariko Mori and Adriana Varejão both introducing two stunning, large-scale installations. Incidentally, both also center on water. Over five years in the making, Mori’s Ring: One with Nature sets a luminous acrylic ring at the peak of the 190-foot-tall Véu da Noiva waterfall in Cunhambebe State...