SAMICO BETWEEN WORLDS [RUMORS OF WAR IN TIMES OF PEACE]
Samico Between Worlds [Rumors of War in Times of Peace], was a solo exhibition of woodcuts by Brazilian master engraver Gilvan Samico in partnership with Grupo Om.
The exhibition Samico Between Worlds [Rumors of War in Times of Peace] presented to the public of New York City fourteen woodcut pieces produced by the artist Gilvan Samico (1928–2013) in the period between 1997 and 2010. Curated by Marcio Harum, the exhibition happened in the Lower East Side from February 4th to March 5th of 2017.
Focusing on the metaphysics of Samico’s work, the exhibit introduced the oeuvre of one of the most important Latin American artists, whose career comprises 300 exhibitions in 30 different countries, awards in the Venice Biennale and works acquired by MoMA.
Born in Recife, located in the northeastern region of Brazil, Samico and his artworks have been “rediscovered” after his death in 2013. With various solo and collective exhibitions in Brazil, his woodcuts have been featured in the latest biennials that took place in the country. His work stands out and differs from his peers due to its universal language. Tapping from legends and myths while it reinvents the popular art of his birthplace by adding elements and themes from many other cultures, Samico has achieved, according to himself and art critics, what Jung called “Collective Unconscious,” a kind of common knowledge of legends, imagery and symbols from different cultures that are shared among human beings.
“Some people ask me about my fascination for Egyptian art because they see Egyptian influences in my prints. I’ve got nothing to say [in return], unless it is part of my experience in the collective unconscious. I don’t know. It is as if these old stories keep repeating themselves in [our] genes until they reach me. A certain critic once said that my woodcut pieces are impregnated with these essential symbols of popular culture. I think he is right.” - Samico quoted by Tânia Nogueira in the book Mythology and Cordel.
For Júlia Rebouças, curator of the 32nd São Paulo Art Biennial, where 51 of Samico’s artworks were presented, there has been an enormous repercussion among the Biennial audience, an event that evidenced the contemporaneity of his work: “Samico is very current and his work is very much universal. It had a huge impact on the audience and the international curators.” Reports from the Biennial mediators say: “I gave an approach that I found very interesting and beautiful, which was to ask the [visiting] groups what nationality they thought the artist was from. I think it is an interesting approach when we think that Samico takes us back to the archetypical, “original,” symbolic references that could have been from anywhere in the world, from just any remote past (...). Visitors often associate them to card decks, Egyptian drawings and also religious narratives and feminism.”
Considered one of the icons of the Armorial Movement, an art movement that sought to create Brazilian art that would stem from the indigenous, African and European elements that served as the base for his local culture, Samico adopted a more authorial interpretation of his universe in his latest works, which will be presented in Samico Between Worlds [Rumors of War in Times of Peace]. “Please understand, I don’t do illustration. I am tapping from legends to create a new world,” Samico declared.
The curator Marcio Harum, who has been in charge of the São Paulo Cultural Center curatorship, one of the most important institutions of contemporary art in Brazil, added scheduled tarot reading sessions to the exhibition program as a mean of evidencing the recurring identification of Samico’s work with the aesthetics of tarot cards, and connect it to the practice of the artist’s widow, Célida Samico, who is a ballerina, yoga teacher and tarot reader.
Samico Between Worlds [Rumors of War in Times of Peace] is curated by Marcio Harum and produced by Grupo Om, Dream Box Lab and Juliana Freire.
SAMICO (1928–2013, Recife, Pernambuco) is one of the Brazilian artists whose artworks have been revisited with more intensity at the present time. In 1962, he participated in the XXXI Venice Biennale and, in 2016, in the 32nd São Paulo Art Biennial, among other major exhibitions. An engraver, painter, draftsman, and teacher, Gilvan Samico founded, together with other artists, the Studio Collective of the Modern Art Society of Recife (SAMR) in 1952. He studied woodcut with Lívio Abramo (1903–1992) at Escola Artesanato at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM/SP) in 1957. One year later, Samico moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he enrolled in an engraving course taught by Oswaldo Goeldi (1895 - 1961) at the School of Fine Arts from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Enba). In 1965, he settled down in Olinda, Pernambuco, and taught woodcut at the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB). In 1968, he traveled to Europe after winning an award from the Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna (SNAM) and lived there for two years. In 1971, he was invited by Ariano Suassuna (1927–2014) to join the Armorial Movement, a cultural movement focused on the popular visual culture of the Northeastern region of Brazil. Through cordel literature and the creative use of woodcut, Samico’s artistic creations are marked by the recovery of the Northeastern folk romancero. His engravings are populated by figures from legends and archetypal narratives, as well as fantastic and mythical animals. Samico’s artworks are part of permanent collections at museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Museo de Belas Artes da Coruña (Spain), the Museum of Modern Art in Brasilia, the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, the MAMAM in Recife and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.