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b. 1964, Brazil

Adriana Varejão Biography

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.

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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.

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.

Jessica Douglas | Ocula | 2018

Adriana Varejão Featured Artworks

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Alegoria da América by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoAlegoria da América, 2015Oil and plaster on canvas
134 x 136 x 6.5 cm
Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel Enquire
Pearl Song by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoPearl Song, 2018Oil and plaster on canvas
180 x 180 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Ruína de Charque Brasília by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoRuína de Charque Brasília, 2018Oil on wood and polyurethane
81 x 48 x 13.5 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Azulejão (Moon) by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoAzulejão (Moon), 2018Oil and plaster on canvas
180 x 180 cm
Sold
Victoria Miro
White Mimbres V by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoWhite Mimbres V, 2016Oil and plaster on canvas
150 x 150 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Monocromo Celadon by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoMonocromo Celadon, 2015Oil and plaster on canvas
99 x 99 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Folha de bananeira by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoFolha de bananeira, 2015Oil and plaster on canvas
208 x 76 cm
Lehmann Maupin Contact Gallery
Polvo Colour Wheel III by Adriana Varejão contemporary artwork
Adriana VarejãoPolvo Colour Wheel III, 2014Oil on canvas
Variable dimensions
Victoria Miro Enquire

Adriana Varejão Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Pulse at Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Rio de Janeiro
Closed
7–24 October 2020 Group Exhibition Pulse Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Rio de Janiero, Rio de JaneiroRio de Janiero
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, AAA – Anthology of Art and Architecture at Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo
Closed
22 August–10 October 2020 Group Exhibition AAA – Anthology of Art and Architecture Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo, São PauloSão Paulo
Contemporary art exhibition, Adriana Varejão, Adriana Varejão at Victoria Miro, Venice
Closed
14 July–8 September 2018 Adriana Varejão Victoria Miro, VeniceVenice

Adriana Varejão Represented By

Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel contemporary art gallery in São Paulo, Brazil Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro
Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian Athens, New York, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, London, Paris, Le Bourget, Geneva, Basel, Rome, Hong Kong
Lehmann Maupin contemporary art gallery in 536 West 22nd Street, New York, USA Lehmann Maupin New York, Hong Kong, London, Seoul
Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, Venice

Adriana Varejão In Ocula Magazine

Adriana Varejão Ocula Conversation Adriana Varejão By Camila Belchior, Rio de Janeiro

When I stop working, I go a little crazy, I don’t know how to fill that void. Life loses its meaning.

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Adriana Varejão’s cultural cannibalism Ocula Feature Adriana Varejão’s cultural cannibalism By Camila Belchior

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...

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Adriana Varejão In Related Press

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8 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Toronto to São Paulo and Beyond Related Press 8 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Toronto to São Paulo and Beyond 3 February 2020, Surface

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...

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Walls with Incisions a La Fontana by Adriana Varejão Related Press Walls with Incisions a La Fontana by Adriana Varejão 22 April 2018, Elephant

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...

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Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show Related Press Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show 15 April 2018, The Guardian

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....

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Best art at the Rio Olympics Related Press Best art at the Rio Olympics 15 August 2016, Hyperallergic

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...

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