Being the first art gallery ever to show the works of Teodoro Dias in an individual exhibition is a double pleasure for us. The artist is our friend.He has been working for many years, and his main desire has always been that of creation. However, every artist faces a moment when it gets frustrating not to show his work to the public, locking it up in the studio or, at most, showing the works only to the artist’s closest people. With the maturity of his work, and also encouraged by some of his friends, including Germana Monte-Mór and Rodrigo Naves, Teo finally came out of his den.
Rodrigo, very much excited with his production, is the curator of this first individual exhibition. It was he who brought me the proposal, and I hesitated at the start. Teodoro is not a self-learner, but then neither were Samico and Lorenzato. I now feel that the Galeria Estação art gallery, in its 11th year, is mature enough to show art in all its segments.
After several visits to his studio in Poços de Caldas, the city where Teodoro Dias lives, and also after lengthy conversations, we now come to the long-awaited moment.Enjoy!
Teodoro Stein Carvalho Dias Curated by Rodrigo Naves Opening: 13 August at 7 p.m. (for guests only) Runs through to 17 October 2015, from Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The anonymous art of Teodoro Dias
For Tiago Mesquita
It is currently very rare for someone to have his or her first individual exhibition at the age of 60. For example, Degas only had one individual exhibition in his whole life. Mondrian did the same when aged almost 70, in New York. This was not rare – even though there were many exceptions – up to the 1950s, when the artistic circuit (including art galleries, museums, specialised magazines, art critics, curators, and University courses, among others) had no longer experienced the significant professionalism of current times, with its virtues and its problems.
I do not want to compare Teodoro’s works with those of Degas and Mondrian. It would not make sense.
However, the artist has dedicated himself to his work since 1999. He has acquired considerable experience in the art sector along the more appropriate paths (he did not start from theory to a close relationship with the works, but rather went in the opposite direction) and, in the few collective exhibitions in which he participated, it became clear that he was seeking his own intuitions, especially in relation to engravings, through which he started. The response to this late entrance into the public world could be explained by the artist’s delay in convincing himself that he had arrived at reasonably autonomous visual accomplishments that are able to provide new sensations that would expand the field of vision and also the experience of the public.
There is no doubt that the strict interpretation which is assumed in this wait also involves some personal traits that have somewhat gone out of fashion: a rejection of acknowledgement at any price, strictness of procedure and, most importantly, the desire to not present anything “confusing”, which would be works that, even though they do not convince the author, could find in the current chaos that reigns some acceptance from part of the public that often responds to attractive productions in an anxious way exclusively because of the noise they bring about. I see no problem in an artist enhancing his or her production in general sight. This could even be the best course of action. Teodoro Dias, in his very own modest way, also did this. The only difference was that the dialogue presented by his works was largely limited to a group of people very close to him. It could be that a prior exhibition, wider in scope, may have presented some gains. Now it is too late to criticise it. This, all the more because he has finally become convinced that he had something to show, and in this regard I have no doubts whatsoever.
The fact that he chose an art gallery aimed mainly at high-quality popular art – Galeria Estação – for his first exhibition is far from being a whim, and may help one to better understand the real meaning behind the artist’s work, with the artist himself being an informed admirer of this type of artistic work. First of all, his work in the fields of painting, drawing, engraving, and three-dimensional objects make use of simple ordering, almost bordering on minimalism, despite a strong and vivid presence of colours, which would evidently be unacceptable to orthodox minimalism, as this would assume subjective choices which, at least initially, would be foreign to the movement. For minimalism, the rejection of expressiveness and even authorship refers to the situation of a society of the masses, in which the possibility of someone proposing disagreeing experiences became a sort of chimera. This was therefore a case of making it possible to see the origin of serial layouts, which is an ordering which was closer to living experiences in large cities.
In addition, many of the three-dimensional constructions by Teodoro allow the observer to handle and manipulate them, thereby introducing a participation which extends well beyond the author’s decisions, which is also a typical trait present in contemporary production. However – and there the popular “context” is extremely important -, in these simple forms, apparently unpretentious, there is a simplicity which also brings them to the brink of the trivial risks that make us note down the scores with dashes when playing cards or, in a crueller situation, the days spent in the umbra of a prison cell or the graffiti which is scrawled upon the wall of our big cities using a sharp-edged instrument. Even though the two movements (minimalism and prosaic practices) both reject authorship or the complexity of what we normally consider to be art, they point in opposite directions.
In such documents, anonymity can be understood in different ways which scramble up the codes as established, with reciprocal gains. The motto by which “one thing comes after another” – which is almost a dogma held by Donald Judd – acquires, in the unpretentious gestures of daily life, a meaning which is really detached from the authorial, while the minimalist works were destined to be worth millions of dollars, which is an irony that the movement was not able to consider (and which may actually be impossible to predict). In the works of Teodoro, the plain and free acts tend to be hoisted up to a renewed status which is simultaneously ludic and somewhat enigmatic. And its colours also address a world which is enriched with stimuli, the order of which intrigues and fascinates. Another thing that calls attention in the set of works is the variety of techniques used without any loss of quality or direction. Even though Teodoro Dias does in fact have incredible skill with his hands, I believe that what is really in play here is an effort to show the countless possibilities of procedures that are apparently quite simple, together with an extreme ability to extract, from each different medium, results that do not cause any aggression against them. This is also a feature of games.
Many of his works are reminiscent of wooden toys. However, they also indulge in conversation with the active objects of Willys de Castro, with drawings and paintings of Cássio Michalany, with the boxes by Sérgio Sister, with the shapes and colours straight out of Volpi. The most interesting thing of all about the exhibition as a whole derives from the simplicity of this dialogue, brimming in generosity. Originality has already been the distinctive criterion par excellence for choosing the best art – something that North American critic Harold Rosenberg has called the “tradition of the new”, which is a formula which is intentionally made paradoxical (how can a tradition comprise something which is in stark opposition to it?)
Nowadays, the issue of originality, while still important, often gets intermingled with a tedious mannerism which thinks that it can criticise through the syncretic use of disparate quotations – as was done, in the passage from the 16th to the 17th Centuries, with much more significant grandeur, by the historic mannerists (Pontomo, Rosso Fioretino, Parmigianino, El Greco etc.) The painting Autorretrato num espelho convexo [Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror] may be the picture that best represents this final and lukewarm phase of the Renaissance. After the conquest of the verisimilitude, all that remains would be to distort it.
For Teodoro Dias, the criticism of the myth of authorship assumes a lower tone and also a significant modesty. The combination of simple forms and popular practices – whether artistic or not, it does not matter – means an added value to behaviour patterns bordering on the spontaneous (such as the singer of a cleaner, popular expressions, or the whistle of a passer-by) plus the ambition of making this experience something that can be shared by all. It would not make sense for the artist to keep them within a private environment.
I also think that these concerns are what justifies the relatively modest size of the works. The involvement and the enchantment of a significant section of modern production often trigger an action upon the observer that is so wide in scope that it is impossible not to give in to its enchantments. I believe that the brief creative existence of the installations is due mainly to this trait, which from very early on showed itself to be almost authoritarian, considering the conditions that were forced upon the public. It is no easy task to obtain, as Richard Serra has done in most of his works, the experience of involvement and, at the same time, rejection of control, as at the end of the day it is the law of gravity which governs us all.
The colour works of the artist have a style of happiness which is somewhat like that of Calder, albeit using completely different dynamics. Instead of placing the colours to serve the experience of a pastoral world, where nature (the breeze) does not confront the world of culture, but rather embraces it sweetly, Teodoro acts by putting mechanics to co-operate with the senses. His three-dimensional and movable objects provide an almost unlimited spectrum of colours, both by variation in the colours themselves, as also by the way some colours act upon the others. In drawings and paintings, the light contours of the lines and the coloured strips make it more difficult for there to be the individualisation of colours. Here, rhythm and vivaciousness are more important. Once again, what moves the artist is the wealth of visual stimuli, thus avoiding the compositions that could immobilise them. Just like Calder, this other young man also deals with colours, to make them free and also in control of themselves.
The main concern with the production of objects whose artistic dimension has little or no ostentatiousness, the modest size and formal parsimony of the works by Teodoro Dias seek a poetic style that makes regular possibilities stand out more than individual artistic genius. However, no misunderstanding here please. The citizen Teodoro Dias hails from a rural area, from which he only moved away in 1999 (only relatively, as his heart still rests largely in the country, so much so that he still lives in the mineiro country town of Poços de Caldas). The bleak anonymity of large cities is not his cup of tea, not only for the cultural possibilities which metropolises have to offer.
What moves him forward in the search for impersonality comes from the trust of a man who bets on the independence of the common citizen, but not necessarily along the lines of the surrealists or Joseph Beuys, who considered that all human beings were artists. After all, could it not be that we are giving art an importance which is foreign to a coffee picker, a bank cashier, or a barber? The fact is that artists do not disregard such people. (After all, on a daily basis, men and women of all classes are treated with a degree of courtesy that would make everyone envious). Yes indeed, it is in his interest to propose a relationship with objects that are at the same time potent and simple. In a famous excerpt from On the aesthetic education of Man, Schiller writes: “Well, the prevalence of the analytic faculty always robs the fire and force in fantasy, as also the more limited scope of objects helps to reduce the wealth thereof”.1 I really do believe that Teodoro’s art is moved by similar factors.
The artist does not do things. Similarly, he or she does not allow – especially in cases of works in 3D – highly complex relations to move them away from the world of life and of common citizens. The imagination or fantasy that buds out of these work projects do not lead to oneiric spheres or even to the opaque brutality of matter. In this context, fantasy is getting ´colours, shapes, volumes and lines to show themselves with happiness, like in the work of Miró. In other words, even though some rods of painted wood could be fixed onto a support, the simple fact that they can move already grants a considerable degree of autonomy to the elements. There would be no happiness without this. To experience this, it is essential to suspend, albeit momentarily, the subordination of the phenomena to a fundamental base. Only then can we achieve the lightness of the greatest art: simultaneously material and physical, but able to transcend them.
It was not by chance, therefore, that Schiller’s book came to mind when I thought of the works of Teodoro Dias: “Amidst the terrible kingdom of forces and the sacred realm of laws, the aesthetic impulse silently erects a third kingdom, which is happy, based on games and appearance, which detaches humanity from all ties presented by the circumstances, thereby breaking free from all moral or physical coercion.”2 Not even this happens, even in the largest of projects. Really there is a need to obtain lightness and autonomy of the constituent parts so this may be achieved. In modern art, I believe that Miró, Calder, Klee, and Matisse of the arabesques are exemplary in the achievement of this goal.
Returning to the point where I started this text (the reason for late exhibition), I notice that the attempt to better understand Teodoro Dias’ works brought up another possible reason for such a prolonged postponement. I believe that the artist had never been interested in crafting anything that could be quickly acknowledged as art. This would practically rule out the “aesthetics of anonymity”. As a result, he slowly but surely conquered these somewhat amphibious objects, discreet to the extent that they belonged to no-one, yet strong enough for an experience in anonymity that would be a cause for pride and solidarity.
This exercise of simplicity also leads to other notable solutions. In the boxes, the colours, however luminous they may be (and these are not very common), always show themselves only partially: sometimes as a profile, other times as a surface or with some bias. The refusal to show them in full also has an element of play involved. They play hide-and-seek. At the same time, they assume an intense reasoning about them: anything that is scandalously revealed refers to a world of debauchery, abandoned by technique or reason. This very rarely occurs in nature. Flowers, fruits, foliage or animals very rarely flaunt their colours, not only for being in three dimensions, showing only some aspects of them, but mainly for having their own life and, therefore, always changing their appearance as they grow, mature and die. The artist does not want to mimic them in a banal way: for this, it would suffice to paint still-lifes.
Many inorganic or lightly industrialised elements stand out within this vital process. Rocks, shells, water, iron or gold are, on the inside, exactly identical to what is shown on the outside. The artist is well aware of this fact. So much so that one of his favourite supports is wooden rods, with which he constructs his colour machines. As everyone well knows, every item in wood was once part of a tree, a tree that was felled to be industrialised. Teodoro does not intend to artificially resuscitate them, which would be through the use of colours that, at the same time, would hide their dead sides while injecting into them a little bit of vivaciousness.
His boxes of colour are not mechanical by chance. They need to be mechanical, to stress the artificiality of the wood. It is its operation that suspends the causality of forces that move bodies, on turning them into problem objects – non-objects, to use an expression which is dear to the neoconcretists. However, one problem still remains: how can one conciliate the happiness of these light and autonomous beings with the extreme coherence of this works involving such diverse techniques and supports, which remind one of the unfolding of a telescope, with its several cylinders swallowing each other up?
It is well known that coherence can be a virtue as well as a vice. Names such as Morandi, Volpi or Donald Judd spent much of their lives poring over so intensely related “issues”, that only their significant subtlety knew how to turn into a difference. I believe that this same practice has not acquired diversity in George Segal’s sculptures or in Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings. Instead of working with light tonal passages leading to the perception of a growing ability of discrimination, Teodoro decided to create his very own diversity based on a deep familiarity with the different artistic techniques, from them squeezing out as much as they can give, while maintaining the requirements regarding simplicity, that are their guiding principles. The work of Teodoro Dias may, in the relations shown between the different moments, be not unlike the cylinders of a telescope – but, instead of approximating the objects optically, they try to put their own given and opaque reality in check.
1 Schiller, Friedrich. On the aesthetic education of man – in a series of letters. Translated by Roberto Schwarz and Márcio Suzuki. São Paulo: Iluminuras, 1989, page 43.
2 Idem, ibidem, page 143.
AT THE GALERIA ESTAÇÃO
Opening: 13 August at 7 p.m. – Closes 17 October 2015
Even though only now Teodoro Dias (Poços de Caldas, 1954) is belatedly presenting his first individual exhibition, since 1999 he has been constructing his artistic universe with obstination. According to the curator of the exhibition, Rodrigo Naves, these are modest objects in which daily possibilities stand out. Hence the interest that the Galeria Estação has shown in housing this artist’s works in the gallery’s premises, dedicated to artists that make art out of the life around them.
According to Mr Naves, during all these years Teodoro has sought to enhance his work and was not willing to achieve fame and recognition at any cost. He participated in some collective exhibitions and waited for his work to become mature and autonomous enough, before bringing a new experience to the public.
The 40 works, including metal engravings, oil paintings and panels, as well as some objects in three dimensions, show the variety of techniques used by the artist. “Even though Teodoro Dias does indeed have incredible manual skill, I believe that the issue here is an effort to show the countless possibilities of apparently simple procedures, together with an extreme capacity to extract, from each medium, results that are not aggressive against it”, stresses the curator.
In spite of the significant use of colour, his work is based on a very simple artistic order, not unlike minimalism, while at the same time the constructions in three dimensions come close to contemporary production, as these can be manipulated by the observer, creating new proposals that go well beyond the artist’s own decisions. However, even though he is not a self-taught, and although he has several different types of artistic influence on his work, in the opinion of Rodrigo Naves the popular context is very evident in Teodoro’s works. “In these simple forms, apparently unpretentious, there is a simplicity that also brings the work closer to the basic strokes that we make when we note down, with marks, the points made in a game of cards or, more cruelly, the days spent in a prison cell or the graffiti that has been scrawled on the city walls using some sharp instrument.”
The combination of simple forms and popular practice – whether in the artistic field or not – are other significant traits present in the works of Teodoro Dias. “Teodoro has decided to create diversity based on deep familiarity with the different artistic techniques, thereby extracting from them as much as they can give, while maintaining the guiding requirements for simplicity.”
Teodoro Stein Carvalho Dias
Opening: 13 August at 7 p.m. (for guests only)Runs through to 17 October 2015, from Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Rua Ferreira de Araújo, 625 – Pinheiros, São Paulo, Brazil
Telephone: ++ 55 11 3813-7253
Pool de Comunicação – Marcy Junqueira
Press Relations: Martim Pelisson and Luana FerrariTelephone: ++ 55 11 3032-1599
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com