Two of the photographs featured in Parede‘s mosaic also appear in Bastidores (Embroidery Hoops/Backdrop, 1997), printed on circular pieces of cloth in the embroidery hoops that give the piece its name. The original title in Portuguese is polysemous, referring also to the backdrop in which many black women are stitched in the patriarchal and racist weave of Brazilian social fabric. Women, with their mouths, throats, eyes and heads hastily stitched over, sewn by crude strands of silence and violence. Patuás and embroidery hoops that form a kind of self-portrait by way of family tree. Placed directly on the wall, they also seem to literalize one of the artist’s self-confessed political goals: to fill the white cube of museums and galleries with black faces. Not with exoticism, labor, slavery or sexualization of their bodies, of which examples in the history of photography and art in Brazil abound. Here, the aesthetic and political premise is a record in the first person, singular and plural.
Biography, biology, history
The exhibition brings together a collection of 140 works by the artist from São Paulo, in an arc from 1993 to 2018. The rooms highlight “three main aspects of the artist’s work”, according to the introductory text by curators Valeria Piccoli and Pedro Nery: “the autobiographical dimension”, “interest in biology” and “works centered on history”. This division is more didactic than conceptual. In truth, these themes intertwine in Paulino’s works, with their original solutions, creative mediums and processes contained by an artistic view that is distinctively authorial, and impossible to reduce into thematic blocks. Reflections on gender, the social place of blacks, scientific racism, exercises in classification (entomological, botanical and human) as instruments of power, memory and affectivity, the rewriting of the history of art, country and self are some of the artist’s centers of interest, which often intersect. They testify to the consistency and longevity of Paulino’s research.
And they also affirm Paulino’s technical versatility as an artist, moving elegantly from engravings to photography, from needlework and sculpture to drawing and printing.
Smaller works, such as the blinded terracotta Rainha (Queen, 2006), with breasts of a black Artemisia and watchful glass eyes scattered across her lower body, to larger-scale installations, such as Tecelãs (Weavers, 2003), in which insect-women, outside glazed earthenware nests, spill across the exhibition room, writhing out of the cocoons that envelop them with fibers spooling from within. Metamorphosis, reconstruction, the act of becoming a woman: concepts that span differences of language and prism and are reflected in Paulino’s other works, such as the shocking Assentamento (Settlement, 2013).