Paulo Nazareth believes his social art practice is driven by an innate thirst for rebellion. “Sometimes we don’t choose, we are chosen instead,” he says. “It’s difficult to escape the suffering, the ugly history and an ugly present; watching police brutality, seeing and feeling racism, feeling them watching you and following you all because of the color of your skin and the texture of your hair. This is the place from which I’m creating, using the gifts I have to hopefully change something while supporting others trying to do the same.”
The Brazilian-born artist’s work is grounded in activism and renowned for its durational, performative nature. In Melee, his first U.S. retrospective at the ICA Miami, the extent of his Odyssean investigations are on full display. Whether traversing the Underground Railroad in Louisiana; raiding the tombs of disappeared rebels in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay; or tracing African influence across Kenya, Nigeria, and Mozambique, Nazareth’s is a starkly personal journey to understand the oppressive, exploitative nature of colonial history.