Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013.
In José Bechara, published by Editora Barléu, 2013.
This painting has the typical measurements of those that represent landscapes: a horizontal extension that is reinforced by a smaller height of the canvas, a resource that despite it being a diptych – or in other words, divided into two parts – does not diminish. The rusty color of the floor, more vivid on its right side where there is a predominate brownish-red color of coal that has been blown onto it, arid like the images of the Martian plains, among other particularities that invite the eyes of the observer to sweep over it from one side to the other, going back and forth as if they were planting in the countryside of a flat terrain, without borders, elevations or other mishaps likely to disrupt one’s movement.
With the approximation and consequent miniscule observation, other revelations are made. Starting from the middle-le!, one can see that it is overtaken by a regular sequence of straight vertical stripes that alternate light and dark colors. The light stripes are of the same brownish-red color as the right half of the painting, a strategy that guarantees the unity of this painting. The dark stripes, as if to verify an association, correspond to the surface of the cloth – a used trucker’s tarp – without any trace of paint having been applied by the artist, merely the coloration and the wear that originated from its use during its lifespan, striking and intense. Still in relation to the le! half, it is worth noting two important details. First, there is an irregular and dark stain situated in the lower right, responsible for the relative darkening of the brighter stripes. This shading gives the sensation that the grayish background gently engulfs these stripes, decreasing their brightness, an eðect that also takes place throughout the rest of this half of the painting, with multiple smudges and imperfections, mainly located on the upper and lower extremities. The second particularity relates to the ability of these alternating stripes to counter the lateral movement of the observer’s eyes, forcing their observation to the top and to the bottom, following the virtual rupture of the limits of the pictographic field.
The right half of the canvas has a more homogeneous treatment, without the influence of nature that is systematically geometric in the magnitude of the stripes, making for some noteworthy occurrences, proportioned by chance or by the artist during the production process, leading and precipitating the chemical process that Bechara himself unleashed onto the tarp that extends onto the floor, largely responsible for the powerful pictorial result achieved. The surface of the right half has a sca#ered and unequal brilliance, but continues to be dominant. On the last third of the right side, there is a group of horizontal grooves that perhaps are a result of the tarp’s previous use, something adopted by the artist as a lively embodiment with peculiar characteristics and unique behavior that aðect the harmonized idea of unification. These grooves and crevices run laterally, forcing the observer to look outside of the painting, like a small constellation made up of small and dim stars, provoking a#ention, making the spectator calmly trace the splendor full of hidden secrets of this shallow stage that is the painting of José Bechara.
José Bechara’s entrance into the arts was relatively late, different from his colleagues of the same generation that, despite graduating and working in other professions, took their artistic work towards another parallel path. In the case of Bechara, he a#ended free courses oðered by the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage while already a mature and successful artist who inherited a trade from his father – one that would soon reveal itself as cra! that was not to his liking. On the other hand, his sensitivity and his immense capacity to dig deep into an idea, as well as his awareness that he had a lot to lose, led him quickly to conquer a poetic path, a language – painting – and a manner in which to make it happen that would be his trademark.
The paintings of José Bechara began at the moment he understood them in an ample meaning. Diðerent from other painters of the time, he did not perceive that paintings would continue to perpetuate the same a#ributes as always, the special ability to choose and associate colors, the production and editing of images, or even the construction of visual structures defined as abstract. All of these more or less old-fashioned principles, some of them resolutely fixed in painting’s past, the majority dependent on paint brushes and the mixed record of gestures implied with them. His personal path set out to identify that painting takes place all the time and in everything, in whichever and every surface material or object created by mankind, by definition and without exception to color, varying only in the fact that it is a natural color or applied artificially. The discovery of a tarp from a truck as the base for his painting, raw or modified, came to Bechara as an eðect of his assumptions on the theme. The trucker’s tarp is a substitute for the usual canvas that is treated with plaster, typically used for paintings. The choice to work with a previously used tarp stresses the artist’s decision to use a product that had a prior life, without the impracticality or misleading guarantee as to the purity of a canvas, similar to that of an unmarried and virgin young woman. Through this alone, it is evident that the artist’s relation to the usage of povera poetics, in a genetic lineage that has its roots in the works of Antoni Tàpies – who believed that materials possess their own life and history – making each piece unique and irreplaceable, irreducible to anything else. The marks, stains, inscriptions, stamps, laceration, scratch, incision, tearing and/or mending a tarp relates to the passage of time, to the creation of a changeable and maze-like drawing thanks to the continuous overlapping of layers upon layers of action, many of them identifiable, while others impossible to identify their origin. Anonymity leads the process that has poor weather as its foundation, the force of the elements bearing down on the material: the sun, the rain, the wind, etc. Additional aðictions include the permanent bends and creases caused by the transportation of merchandise that is characteristic of boxes that have sharp corners, as well as the abrasive friction used to tie-down the goods, securing them with the tarp. In this sense, the paths taken by Bechara cross with those of Yves Klein, who was fascinated with the idea of creating some works of art that harbored a natural phenomenon, just as Bechara was similarly interested in working with human phenomenon, with his aptitude to fully engage himself with the ma$er, transforming it. He was also intrigued with the global circulation of materials, assimilating symbols, registrations of situations and various locations. Lastly, a hasty reading into Bechara’s work might suggest a potential correlation of this painting with those of Raymond Hains, especially the one joined under the sign of chance, when while in Paris, found refuge under construction overhangs, the location of a spontaneously produced painting.
However, José Bechara never became comfortable with the inherently reserved a$itude that is associated with a pure and simple procedure. His work would never limit itself by adapting
to something that is already considered as a given, which would equate to preaching to the very eye and its capacity to edit the interest inside of the grime and phony topic produced on a daily basis. Bechara’s focus has always been on production, to participate in a live arena, giving direction, giving rhythm, accelerating, changing the course of the game away from preexisting forces, leaving his mark through association. In other words, he is adding his presence and not singling himself out, like many would have us believe when an artist sits in front of a blank canvas, leading some artists to embrace a pedantic god-like a$itude. The procedure that derives from this understanding translates into Bechara’s peculiar method of operation: transforming a cloth full of traces from previous activity into a workbench where materials will be deposited onto it, later destabilizing it. Steel wool, a copper and steel carbon are some of the materials used in the production of his paintings, a target of processes in which the objective is oxidization, the corrosion resulting from their interaction with oxygen.
In the case of “Daisy Stripe”, the process begins with the artist depositing layers of steel wool onto a canvas lying on the floor, we$ing them next. The composition of water and oxygen a$ack the two materials. The steel wool quickly dissolves, macerated, changing from thin bundles to irregular and rocky pieces, easy to tear, while the canvas receives the resulting deposits of this material. The abrasive action of decomposing steel reaches the surface layer of the canvas, ulcerating and permanently coloring it with the brownish-red soupy liquid it purges. The years of experience and consequent intimacy that the artist has with this practice allow him to know exactly when to suspend the process. In the painting analyzed, there were residuals of the solid material stuck to the canvas. The artist limited himself by sweeping oð all the excess material, leaving behind only the epidermal remains of the creation process. Nevertheless, Daisy Stripes is a diptych and although the painting as a whole has gone through the very treatment described herein, the le” half has gone through a distinct previous preparation that culminates in the stripes previously mentioned.
In this painting, as with the majority of his work, the artist, a”er establishing the desired format, extends long stripes of tape, protecting the parts that will later be covered by precipitation. Contrary to the chemical operation, open to reactions that will eventually escape from his control, in this phase his control is absolute, which is emphasized by the crystal-clear and safe geometry, by the wide field of regular drawings that he will obtain at the end of the fusions that will take place. In the painting in question, the clear stripes and the right side of the painting present the dynamics of the materials, a subtle process of the metal’s loss of electrons due to its interaction with oxygen. Alternating the dark with the light, the vertical stripes illustrate the coexistence of the two processes, one that is obvious in the clear stripes, at point blank, a recent occurrence, very diðerent from the relatively uniform grayish coating that covers the vertical parts, partially seen with a second skin that is silenced by the marks of time.
José Bechara obtains a temporal landscape through the plane space of a canvas using a format capable of provoking in the observer a similar experience to the one he/she would have while standing in front of a landscape.
As with the other works of art in the Gelosia series, this painting is also essentially composed of layers of glass plates that are rested against the wall at the corner of a room, next to each other in an erect position as well as lying on their side. The diðerence between this work of art and the others of the series lies in the inclusion of a trapezoid-shaped sheet of plywood, coated with a clear-green plastic laminate, positioned between two layers of glass that are striped with a ferrous paint. The work takes place within the mixture of these elements in a procedure that is technically associated with an assemblage – a term coined by the French artist Jean Dubuffet in order to designate a collage consisting of objects – which José Bechara was able to inspirationally reinvent, and the proof of that affirmation rests in problematic attempts to classify it. Pictoric and graphic elements, sculptures and even the fundamentals of architecture intertwine in order to constitute a disperse volume with various dimensions that are larger than those customarily seen. It occupies roughly two and a half meters in height, six meters in width and one and a half meters in depth, a margin of error that demonstrates his vocation in making himself at home with the space reserved for him and a coherent adaptability with a diversity of materials used, which are few but contrasting, each one of them endowed with a strong personality. In the work of art being analyzed, there are four types of materials, apart from the supports and materials applied: glass, plywood, plastic laminate and acrylic paint (an emulsion of ferrous oxide).
The word Gelosia (or Jalousie) relates to Colonial and Baroque architecture, meaning wooden louvers set in irregular intervals within a frame that create various designs, which in practice, guarantee a window’s increased safety as well as its transparency from the inside-out, as well as protecting the environment of the house from the curiosity of passersby, a precaution that in the past that was mainly regarded to by women. However, its roots are even older and reference Moorish architecture, the ingenious Arabic Mashrabiya, whose readings, after having been passed through the jalousie, spilled over into modern architecture, principally by way of Lucio Costa, who was responsible for the use of the colonial constructive tradition as a source of modernist production.
An explicit reference to the window demonstrates that this work of José Bechara operates with a mixture of sources. If on one hand it refers to architecture, then on the other it denotes his commitment to painting, whose classic stage practically championed the moment in which it was freed from the judgment of architecture and, thanks to the invention of portable oil paint, transferred to the canvas and from there to the wall where it would acquire frames, the rest an a$ribute closely related to a doorjamb, another architectonic element. However, this alone does not explain the devious commentary that the artist directs to painting. It would be necessary to further consider the naturalist heritage of this support , the commitment to illustrate the truest visual representation possible, a presupposed aesthetic condition found as early as in the writings of Aristotle and with Gio$o in the early 1300s, and the perspective gains an extraordinary breath, expanding into the Renaissance and Humanism. Therefore, this work illustrates the idea of painting as a window.
There is another element in question, one that is fundamental in order to understand the amplitude of the art work being analyzed, one that relates to art as well as architecture: the corner, the everyday part of a room that is made of the meeting of walls. The Corner Counter Reliefs of Vladimir Tatlin, produced during 1914-15, are responsible for the explicit incorporation of architecture in the artistic process, a part of his a$empt to liberate art from everything that suppressed it – itself to the limit – not just in its perpetual commitment to the representation of the visual, but also to the elements it employed, like painting and sculpting.
Tatlin proposed to abandon this designation, changing it to the term “construction,” which in practical terms means the substitution of the representational objective of art for the synthesis between the aesthetic and the technologic, concentrated in the intrinsic possibilities of the various applied materials. At the same time this step was taken, two fundamental elements were deprived of both painting and sculpting: base and frame, two devices related to the interior positioning in the ambient, in the case of the former, any part other than on the wall, since they were a prerogative of the painting that hung on it. Dragging its “construction” to the corner of the room in an interior space, Tatlin produced a new place, adhering to architecture without confusing himself with it, and a new modality that, for lack of a better name and thanks to the historic elasticity of the term, we continue to refer to as a work of art.
Focused on a unique period of traditional Arabic architectonics of the Mashrabiya and in the Counter Reliefs of Tatlin, José Bechara invents a similar work by sandwiching glass and wood together, treated as pictorial surfaces and endowed with the volumetry of sculptures. The use of glass in an artistic expression, namely in painting, is not necessarily innovative and dates back to the mid 20th Century when Duchamp began his “Large Glass,” a nickname from his masterpiece The Passage from Virgin to Bride (1912, MoMA, New York). Today, this work of art is widely recognized, but it was largely kept in the shadows for decades. Despite a revised and broadened version of the classic book by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy entitled, New Vision – Fundamentals of Bauhaus Design, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, published in the United States in 1938 and which largely details the use of glass in art in the post- industrial revolution, Duchamp’s work was omi$ed and the author made no mention of Duchamp’s name. There is no need to list the artists, but it is important to make some observations regarding this material, highlighting the resources that José Bechara takes from it, as you can compare in this work being analyzed.
Different from walls, which are generally made from wood or brick, a common glass plane has the typical discretion of transparent bodies. Resting glass plates against a wall, even though painted with a typical white paint like that of the rooms in which it is presented, this incorporates itself into the work, gaining the status of a pictorial field, a condition that Bechara amplifies with eventual applications of colors in quadrangular areas, similar to the juxtaposed plates. Walls are almost always emphatic, even more so when they are independent from architecture, while glass, even when covering doors and windows, is almost never notable, giving a tender generosity to the transport from inside-out and vice-versa. It is almost impossible to see, a notable presence thanks to the position in which the observer places himself, or due to a certain angle of light. When it does happen it’s due to the reflection of the specular eðect that bonds surrounding fragments to your skin. It is, in fact, a close relationship that air and glass have, and at times, especially when you are distracted, it is diðcult to perceive its materiality, an impression that is corroborated every time that we run into it.
More or less transparent, the depth of glass is limited depending upon what lies behind it. However, as previously detailed, glass is not just depth – nor it is not merely depth in function of its reflective capacity – but it also carries a reflective capacity, one that expands through its surroundings, allowing for its inverted and divergent depth that protrudes the surroundings of the observer. In front of a piece of glass, we can see ourselves looking at ourselves. Continuing on this exercise of the properties of glass, its scarce corporality is partially due to its greenish color, a consequence of its volume andedges , which are clear in the way it divides the ambient space and separate itself from what lies behind it.
In relation to this work of art, José Bechara does not limit himself by placing the slightly inclined plates of glass in a manner in which to guarantee that they do not fall forward. Taking advantage of the corner, the glass plates are inclined in positions that do not meet and that are separated from each other, an arrangement that creates an effect in which the reflections overlap and intertwine so that there is a variety of density. As a consequence of their arrangement, their color is condensed, apart from shadows that play on each other in vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, crossing and intercepting space, diverging a$ention. In the middle of this eðect, reinforcing the collective dynamism, there is the high and thin green-painted trapezoidal plane that crosses diagonally through the center of the work.
Lastly are the interval bands of oxidized paint. Contrary to glass, a material with nearly no apprehensible interior to the naked eye – meaning that you can see right through it – oxidized and ferrous paint provide a sense of interiority. Opaque but dissipating due to corrosion, one can see each band and observe the diðerences as if he/she were able to see the past and the future of the process of metallic degradation. The light and anodyne body of glass is in contrast with the dense and visceral materiality of iron even though it has been transformed into a liquid form and thinly applied onto the glass plate. Two plates of glass are painted with these bands of paint and their partial overlapping reveals that the spacing of the bands is equidistant in both plates. Painted in an alternating order, the bands visually join throughout the area in which the two plates overlap. At the same time, the shadows gather at the quadrilateral figures of the other plates of glass, the lines that restrict them, collectively creating a field of irradiation of phenomenon that derive from disconnected surfaces that slide in perpetual movement at a more or less rapid rate, at the speed of the one’s observation at the work of art.
“Run” derives from the installation entitled Ok, ok, Let’s Talk, presented for the first time in 2006 in the Octógono space at Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo. Before that, the action/installation entitled The House was presented in 2002 at the former se$lement for workers, Faxinal do Céu, in the countryside of the state of Paraná, which was later converted into a project that would hold drawings, photographs, sculptures and objects, apart from the installations mentioned.
First and foremost, we recall the table, an object that is constant and exclusive to the two installations, employed modularly. As the artist summarized, the table “is”, meaning to say that it is an object whose familiarity has been infused into people throughout civilizations and various cultures in both time and space. There isn’t anyone who does not recognize it, who does not diðerentiate it from other objects, who does not associate it with meaning and function, from the most trivial and prosaic to the most hermetic. In relation to the table, both around it and on it, a myriad of meanings and associations have been imbedded into it.
As a beginning point and proof of its indispensability, the table has been designated as a place to prepare meals and the related rituals involving eating – both alone or with company – as well as conversation with others, reading a book or the newspaper, or simply a$entive to the meal, all of which are situations that place the table as the location where some of the most complex domestic situations happen. The table is a space for communion, the exchange of ideas and feelings, patent in the equal sharing of the same choreography, each person seated upright in a chair, having nearby and in front of them a small square area defined by the movement of their arms and that pertains to the time in which they were physically at the table, proof of its ergonomic se$ing and of its ancestral teachings and refinement. Despite the condition of its widespread industrial objective in solutions that are more or less refined, the table has neither lost its complexity nor the interest in which we devote to it. The table has always been and forever will be an irreplaceable space for both intellectual and laborious work, a cell for study and backyard for portable games, a place to lose oneself in thought, for extroversion, an opening where we harbor our spirits, where we unite in order to minimize our solitude.
Opening, backyard, harbor. A table is a piece of floor that is cut out and elevated. Like the floor, it is skin. Like clothing is skin, like walls are skin, like homes, like cities, like everything that we construct from nature, from where we deviate further away from, but in which it is intertwined in everything, despite being transformed, altered or even vilified. Nature encompasses everything since everything derives from it. On the other hand, the analogy of the floor being considered as skin reflects on the compulsion of conditioning oneself to what there is, constructing layers to a mantle capable of protecting us from the abundant mysteries that govern life in general, from varmint to the movement of the tectonic plates. Nevertheless, everything is in movement, in convulsion, transforming, and the illusions of stability continue to sha$er. Everything is noticeable, not only in nature, but also in everything that comes from nature, such as the floor that is constructed on top of an initial floor (and the various layers of floor to come), as well as objects such as homes, streets, skeletal remains, the removal of any sort of rubbish, the digging and excavation for a subway tunnel, an archeological adventure as depicted in the film by Felini entitled Roma, when, while seated in the movie theater, one can witness in fascination the same enchantment as the filmmakers (supposedly, since we do not know if it in fact took place) the testimonies of the responsible engineer technicians of the process who claimed to see human figures that peered at them with the same liveliness and interest as they did in the times in which they were painted.
In Ok, ok, Let’s Talk, there was a large gathering of tables that were practically equal in size within the generous space of Pinacoteca, regular like the stone-slabs of concrete that cover the sidewalk, like the wood pieces that are used in domestic floors, forming an arid space, contrary to the harmony proposed by this object, an intense feeling caused by the presence of two chairs propped-up in the distance, far from one another, emerging from the floor, suðocated and incased. Here and there, the subtle bending of a tabletop, straight slits like the gills of a fish, insinuating a disturbance, the rumor of subterranean events.
Equally based in the idea of tables, Run’s situation is much more radical and dramatic. The reduced number of objects and the organizational asymmetry dismantles the certainly of a regular growth, moved by a rational principle. The group of tables comes undone in a larger space and smaller arrangements, elevating in height and various positions, supported by iron beams, the same ones used in construction for stabilizing a structure. By abandoning the utility reserved for them in structural projects, the iron beams break through the skin just as with compound fractures expose the bones responsible for the regular design of a human body. Run hints at the failure in projected space designated for our comfort, the promises of engineering, architecture and design for pleasant spaces and objects, organized in a calm syntax that we considered eternal.
The series to which this work belongs was idealized as “graphic exercises,” a group of drawings adapted to the bi-dimensional space of paper for the space of the world. Considering that the drawings relate to variations of the position and arrangement of a single geometric figure, the cube, the “graph” refers to a particular modality of drawing – the projective – a drawing of rational extraction which goes from the inside-out. On the other hand, an analysis of this and other works of art from the same series, including preparatory drawings, lead one to believe that these graphic exercises are also studies about the change of state and about the passage from one dimension to another.
Per se, the choice of using a cube, a solid geometric object that is recognized as a pure product of spirit, a$racts the a$ention of José Bechara. By materializing it into a sculptural form and portraying the limits of this foundation of Platonism (Pluto associated the cube to the element of earth in relation to its square foundation), its behavior in relation to the imperatives of materials, the force of gravity and to the action of the elements over all humanity in some sense interrelated to life. The artist creates these exercises while operating with a large quantity of cubes, taking on in its conjecture the following variables of the geometric object: its configuration, the manner in which to organize them, the materials that they are made of, the colors that coat them, the lighting designated to each color, and lastly, the lighting that the artist chose while thinking of the illumination as an illustration of the production of space, coinciding with the art work and transcending directly onto the floor.
In the field of visual arts, the presence of the cube – as well as other geometric solids – is constant and remote. Traditional knowledge recognizes it as a unit that relates to the experience that mankind has with space, in such a manner towards the directions (north, south, east, west, zenith and nadir), as well as the previous, the posterior, the le”, the right, superior and inferior. In arithmetical terms, the number six is the sum and the product of the first three numbers (1+2+3) and is divisible by them. Its designation as being a perfect number places it into the description of the sacred scriptures when it refers to the six days of the creation of the cosmos. Simple and exact like the six points of a snow flake, the number six was correlated to the form of a cube, which dates back to the core of Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca (In Arabic, the word Kaaba literally means “cube”). Additionally, the sanctuary of the Solomon’s Temple was shaped like a cube, just as the vision that St. John had of New Jerusalem.
Deprived of this immense symbolic burden, the cube and its a$ributes of a geometric solid, as well as its place in geometry as a foundation of rationality, resurface with surprising force due to the minimalist and conceptual production that began in the 1960’s. Artists such as Carl André, Donald Judd and Sol LeWi$, speculated openly about the infinite variability of the cube, apt to be obtained through its ordinate repetition. Meanwhile, Michael Heizer, Tony Smith, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Lucas Samaras, and even Eva Hesse, thought of the cube as an ambiguous foundation – or as a producer of unpredictable spatial situations.
Super Oxy with 12 Heads resumes this course with a very personal resolution. To the contrary of orderly action, in a cautious and precise spatial arrangement, the cold and uncharacteristic ritual of a minimalist, José Bechara performs a piling up of cubes, an apparent scrambling of the geometric solid, divided into two configurations, two very distinct versions despite their the same dimensions and for having been materialized in oxidized iron. One version is open, meaning that the cubes are reduced to its corners – its lines created by the intersection of the planes that it is composed of. The other is closed, consisting of opaque cubic boxes, impermeable to sight. As if to accentuate the confusion created by the myriad of overlapping open cubes, there are 12 closed cubes that represent the title of the art work, which are clear volumes that are enclosed within themselves.
Piled, resting, fi$ing with each other, the drawing/sculpture takes place while sprawling itself throughout the expository space as a rough sketch of confused vertebra, an entanglement of straight and sturdy lines that take advantage of the mingling of light and shadows, creating an intriguing ensemble related to the module that it is made of, reflecting certainty and rationality. While the cubes lying on the floor – which are rested on their side – emit the sensation of stability, the second, third and even the fourth layers are made up of cubes that are buried, like an inverted pyramid, displaced, crooked, supported by the extremities of the cubes that lay beneath them. Here and there on the top of this disaggregate structure, an expansion limited by the four walls, are the closed cubes and, despite their heavy appearance and the manner in which there are inclined, oblique and hidden, they appear as if they are floating like dense and hard fruit paralyzed in space. The overlapping of lines impedes the ability to count the open volumes and, despite their sharpness and clarity, the lighting projects their shadows onto the floor, producing a variation from their origin of the drawing, extracting it into a diðuse texture. The use of oxidized ferrous paint highlights the sensation of chaos, demonstrating the process of erosion suðered by this product of spirit and the solar character that is usually associated to geometric solids that come undone in dramatic layers. This erosion of material, which envisions the destruction of the work as a whole, extends to a certain sculptural notion, one that identifies it as a static and opaque object that interrupts the continuity of the ambient. To reflect on this art work means to simultaneously and paradoxically recognize it as an embodied drawing and a sculpture that runs the risk of dematerialization.
UNTITLED [from the series Air, 2009]
In a world swept by the disjunctive forces of all order, a condition that even the immense and undisputable technological progress has not been able to so”en, the “house” is still used as a metaphoric figure of shelter and safety, a spatial product that until recently was seen as enduring, capable of resisting changes over a long period of time. This explains why, even today, when big and medium size cities in the world continue to practice excessive verticality (and probably without return), they continue to recall the education and entertainment of children in the most stereotyped version of a house: cubic volume and the rectangles provided with gabled roofs by pilling up and connecting “Legos” and building blocks, and frequently integrated with their simple illustrations from the family unit.
In the drawing in question, made with vinyl paint on a piece of 200g Debret paper, the artist brings a variant from the habitual image of a house seen in perspective, stamping it onto paper, with the cliché inking of the outlines of the image. Concise and rigorous, the stamped figure appears four times in various positions, disarrayed in relation to the horizontal margins of the paper, two of them between the extremes of erect and fallen over, all with a diagonal base. This which contributes to the sensation that all of them are loose, adrift on a 151cm x 191.5 cm piece of paper, a dimension a little bit bigger than those that creates an intimate situation and invite a closer, miniscule observation. The scale of drawing, engraving, painting or sculpture – when rigorous the language does not matter – is responsible for the type of appreciation, approach, corporal posture implicated therein, that an observer has of it.
The incompleteness of the images with smears in some areas, notably on the vertex where the lines meet, just as with the flawed parts, is due to the deliberate lack of caution in which they were pressed on the pillow full of blue paint, and then printed onto it. An unequal application with fragments of drawings, thoughseen in its entirety, does not impede it from being completed by the eyes of the observer in reason of the foreseeability of its motive. The position of the paper and the lack of precision in finishing it contribute towards the idea of a collapse of a sign, indicative of mankind’s capacity to settle in a territory, which at one point meant the end of wandering and the corresponding nostalgia that pertained to the nomadic communities. The immense blue cloud opening to the homes appeared, denoting the a$ack upon a sign considered as intemporal.
The chaotic approach and arrangement of the houses also occur at the same time that they are dividing space on the paper with two large, thick and explosive blue clouds. Upon judging the space that they occupy, as well as their configurations, one can see that the clouds are responsible for the disarray of the houses,
a source of the violent forces that place them in risk, or subject them to a whirlwind that is spinning in their direction. The clouds are slightly related to natural clouds in the sense that the artist did not intend on imitating them, holding to their homology with low and dark accumulations, impregnated with water. They are products of the dilution of portions of paint in a paste-like state, made directly on the surface of the paper, a true drenching capable of dismantling the prepared work into the miniscule topography of the paper, washing them in unequal waves, making them seep through threads that are unperceivable to the naked eye, as well as the notable depressions that wrinkle into the liquids imposed onto the paper. The spilling varies in direction, resulting in the change of position of the piece of paper throughout the process of its production, proof of how it spread on the top and its sides. The two huge clouds, products of the application of two full applications of blue emulsion, have compact nuclei, losing the intensity while they spread to the peripheral zones.
Simultaneous clouds and stains, these two pictorial activities on paper feed the imagination, invite the perceptions of shapes that are given random meanings, conditioned to the repertories of those who look at them. They are two vortices of blue energy whose progression carries along with them one of our most familiar and dear signs, one of the scarce props in which our hopeful and worn imaginary thought of sharing counts.
The house was sold with every remembrance
every furniture every nightmare
every sin committed or about to be committed
the house was sold with its slamming doors
with its ill wind its worldview
for twenty, for twenty bucks.
Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Boitempo
Certain works of art represent radical changes in the trajectoryof an artist. In relation to the course of José Bechara, The House might be the artist’s most important. The result of a very personal situation, a residential plan in which he had not prepared anything in particular since he did not believe that it would be possible –or even productive to continue forward with any work at that location – due to its distance from his studio, The House meant to develop an abrupt and unexpected expansion of his investigations. Until that moment (April of 2002), Bechara was exclusively a painter who had a room dedicated to his paintings in the 25th São Paulo Bienal, which was inaugurated a little more than one month before the exhibition. With The House, the artist dove intensively into studies about the three-dimensionality, producing what would be his first installation and an expressive collection of work that was cunningly situated between sculptures, drawings, objects and painting. As the artist himself said in relation to his paintings, they were responsible for the attention he received a”er his departure from the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage in the early 1990’s and would remain prominent in his research. However, he also felt a new impulse at that time, radicalizing certain process and allowing him to experiment with new procedures.
In relation to his art work, José Bechara creates intense and strong gestures, materials and processes. The contact with his work suggests conflict and tension. When there is balance, it is always precarious and borderlines crises and destruction. Even his drawings and small-scale sculptures have an energetic effect, an accumulation of quick and expressive graphism, surfaces marked by oxidization among other signs indicative of power and frank development of a process that is beyond one’s perception. In this sense, one can imagine the artist’s reaction upon spending the 15 days that the Faxinal das Artes program lasted at an artistic retreat that took place in April, 2002 in the countryside of Parana’s municipality, Faxinal do Céu. One hundred artists throughout Brazil worked incessantly, presenting their respective works to each other, openly discussing, sharing queries and found solutions. With this creative hustle and bustle, the artist became frustrated with the lack of adequate space allotted, restricting the oxidization of his steel wool – the base of his paintings – and his expectations began to fade of an opportune and moderate retreat in the company of his wife and two daughters, one of whom was very small and for whom he promised the shelter of one of the 250 wooden cottages accurately painted with the touch of an idyllic scenery, like one from a Tim Burton movie that takes place in the Swiss Alps. A”er a couple of days at the retreat, José Bechara was seduced by the idea of making something happen out of the most abundant and evident commodities found at the location: the homes and their furniture.
The house chosen by the artist for his intervention, similar to that of all the others in the old worker’s village, has the privilege of corresponding to a true stereotype. With its gabled roof made out of ceramic tiles, the white painted wooden slabs gently reflecting the dark green eaves and the quadrilateral enclosures
of the plane that connect the façade to the roof, Bechara’s house, as well as the homes of Faxinal do Céu, are prime examples of a Western home, a reference to Adam’s house in paradise, a theme in the renowned research of Joseph Rykwert about the primitive cabana. A basic definition of Bechara’s house relates to shelter, the notion of comfort, like those found in fairytales, in the drawings that children make, adding chimneys, trees and the sun. The proof of the nature of the house chosen by the artist is in its indiðerence to the inclines and of the land, a problem that was originally analyzed by the project, circumventing through modifications to the landscape and the construction of a small plateau for it to be built on. However, the artist would do no such thing. Structured in wooden pillars, the side of the house where the entrance is located is noticeably distant from the ground, an eðcient resource in defiance towards humility, while the other side of the house is visibly closer to the ground with erect pillars coming from the soil that guarantee its upright position, as if it were suspended in the air. A true logo, a house reduced to a simple drawing, a disassociation that the artist would built upon, based on the form of a cube, in his creations that derived from this seminal work of art.
Inside the house, like in all the others that are part of the Faxinal do Céu condominium, beds, tables, coffee tables, chairs, couches, armchairs, mattresses, pillows, footstools, closets, bed frames, the majority a$ributed with variations of brown that is associated with wood, in addition to the furniture covered
in cloth, synthetic leather, laminate, in white and green colors, depicting someone’s desire to be coherent with the color of the home. All this furniture was so schematic, bare of interest, conventional and ordinary just as the house itself – maybe even more so. At the least, the house held to its appearance of a cultural inherency, a natural result of an anonymous architecture with centuries of improvement, crossing unscathed over cultures and geographies. In relation to the furniture, it exhibits modern banality, inexpensive pieces that lack any projection of thought or refined artistic a$ribute. At any rate, the house and its furniture are perfectly integrated; a functional idyll, without aspirations of identity, like a hotel room that merely attempts to disguise its condition as a temporary shelter, or that perhaps displeases its guests, and for this reason emits anonymity and invisibility.
The artist resorted to put the house/emblem in question into the role of a house in general, the use of which mankind has made for ages, its successive improvements, like the aristocratic Roman homes without openings to the exterior, a port of silence and security that carried the name domus, the root word of “domestic” that is applicable to things such as people, animals and objects that we can carry in our hands. The vocation of the utility of a house became refined throughout the centuries.Due to its constant use, it retained and accumulated the memory of generations that dwelled inside of it, a stage for life and death, for small tragedies, dramas and happiness. Our history, our accomplishments and aðictions as sedentary beings are confused with those of a house. Is this not the description that Carlos Drummond de Andrade depicts in the epigraph of this text?
Like a rip in the landscape of a postcard, it occurred to José Bechara that a house, tired of its monotonous destiny or the fact that it can no longer bear the reverberations of life against its walls, could simply regurgitate the furnishings that lie within it, spi$ing them out while at the same time impeding the entrance by creating obstacles to its openings. Doors and windows are blocked by funnel-shaped objects in the doorways, momentarily paralyzed. The blinds retract in order to give way to the furniture and every window is mounted with the organization of that of a vomited painting, with the meticulous calculation of the inclination of each piece, the lazy arches of the ma$resses, the horse hoof-shaped feet of tables, the green circles of footstools.
In the narrative entitled, Casa Tomada (House Taken Over), by Julio Cortázar, the author describes the mysterious and progressive occupation by part of a house from the point of view of someone who is being kicked out. The doors to rooms are gradually sealed because the person knows that the environment that once pertained to them was irreversibly lost. In regard to José Bechara, the artist presents a house that was quickly and furiously abandoned, a house that wants to become free, without anything, empty. Who knows? Maybe it wants to return to the closest possible time when it was just considered an idea. A clean desire, pure like a crystal, still without the defecation that results from its coexistence with humans.
One of the preparatory drawings for the Open House series, like all of the others also made on 21cm x 29.7cm white sulfite paper, presents a rough dra” made with a ballpoint pen, an axonometric perspective consisting of two schematic volumes glued to one another. One drawing was larger than the other and was placed on the front side, glued together with masking tape on the sides. Visible on the drawing was a small piece of plastic laminate, imitating wood, positioned in a way that it would accompany the diagonals of the drawing on the paper. On top of the drawing, to the right, there are two words handwri$en, one above the other: “balsa + laminate,” the latter energetically underlined. Underneath the drawing, to the le”, the word “suspension” is discretely underlined and, above it, the short and intriguing sentence, “the object does not appease,” verification or a state to be persecuted, no one can know. Nevertheless, this art work by José Bechara has its own stalemate, founded in crisis, in the outburst of energy that he perceives and provokes as proof of the incessant transformations that everything is subject to.
“Balsa + laminate” highlight his decision making in selecting which covering ought to be used for the sculpture in which the drawing is a study, an element with dimensions in the order of 40cm x 40cm x 60cm, the average size of what were previously produced. The underlining of the world “laminate” suggest certainty and perhaps the enthusiasm regarding the decision of what materials to use, an emphasis even further reinforced with the in loco presence of the materials. Combining the three terms – schematic perspective, sentence and material – one can observe that the drawing is indeed an important stage of the process. This project was an informative presentation that divulged the artist’s future plans as a sculptor. But, that was not all.
Project and/or expression: a dual origin of this drawing and the majority of the works that belong to this series. The drawing in question contains other information that reveals his bisecting nature, a nature that contributes to his singularity of producing a quick and efficient product in relation to spatial rationale. In this sense, this is what calls a$ention: the change in personality type used by the artist. There was one that was simpler, identifiable by its faint lines of a representation of an “oblique parallel” class that places the object on an ideal plane, as well as a vanishing point situated to the right, a representational strategy responsible for bringing the observed object to the point of view of the observer. This option has more to do with the nature of the drawing, which does not intend on adopting precision techniques exclusively, but also of expressive qualities. To achieve this, he deliberately discontinues and wanders with his lines, and in fact the majority of his lines are partially juxtaposed, complementing some lines here and there, while other extremities finish in a miniscule bow. All this is indicative of a thinking hand that is guided by intuition, going back and forth over the paper, something that becomes especially coiled in the shadings executed on the frontal plane of the larger posterior block, mounted on top of the smaller block. A drawing that is like a scheme, like a pre-project, a sensible foresight, before applying technique – which means to say the stage of implementation. A drawing that refers to an unfinished character, uncertain, in transition from the sculptural object that the artist has in mind. What would that be?
The second text reveals a little about this aspect, of a desire that perhaps excited him when while producing the drawing, or that came to him while making it. Does “suspension / the object does not appease” have more to do with the artist’s spiritual state or the “spiritual state” that the artist wants to bestow onto the object? Does the state of suspension relate to the floating character of the sketch, the lightness of the lines defining a hollow object, light, or to its yet undefined character? In relation to “the object does not appease,” apart from the state of spirit previously mentioned, its inquietude in some way is revealed its fine and fluid constitution, in its weak and disjoined lines, on the borderline of the limits that separate union from dissolution.
The presence of the two handwritten texts do not just categorize the texts themselves as drawings, but as also as abstract signs that embed new qualities to iconic signs, a geometric composition: the first text serves as instructions on how he performed the work and for what will be executed, describing
the future object that will unfold; the second text signals to the internal quality of the work, secret and spiritual, expressing a latency that will never be found and that is contained within the work, on the plane of paper framed and fixed to the wall.
In strict chronological terms, the Open House series comes after The House and at the same time as Graphic Sculptures. In formal and semantic terms, it is situated at the intersection of the two. Its characteristics are neither pure object nor pure geometric solid. As I have demonstrated in the analysis of these other series, Open House preserves from each exactly that which is differential, but emphatically includes the aspects of painting and drawing. This type of uneasy attribute impedes the series’ clear definition in relation to its place in conventional categories, helping to reinforce the idea that José Bechara is an artist that looks to widen the field of art, proposing works of art that do not fit into the norm. Additionally, in a manner as to give closure to this principle, we are presented with a final and complex problem: the works of this series cannot necessarily be judged as sculptures based upon their appearance. They end up looking more like models.
Models are projects, reduced scales of larger constructions that consist of material that is compatible to the situation and the finality in which they are designated. In the quality of anticipation, they (in reference to a temporal plane) exist only in the future, while with regard to the spatial plane, they exist in the dimension of ideas. Whether they are finished for be$er or worse, more or less detailed, the models correspond to one of the preliminary stages of the manifestation of a desire, and for this reason, as they are a response to a feeling of dissatisfaction, they find themselves situated in a vast territory defined by the concept of utopia. It is true that the classical accepting of utopia, particularly that which includes models and drawings, dually circumscribes it as a critique to the existing societies that are duly materialized by the shaping of cities or buildings. In his study about the topic, Françoise Choay commented on a seminary text written by Thomas More, writing, “It [utopia] does not come from out of nowhere: on one hand, it does not belong to an arbitrary and limited imagination, but it is meticulously and systematically constructed upon a radical critique, without concessions to the existing society […] of which it is its antithesis.”
However, the “models” of José Bechara do not correspond to this type of proposal, despite simultaneously referring to the ideal plane – cubes that were both full and empty – and to the real plane – objects like chairs, tables, stands and ladders do not belong to the state of things in the present. They do not propose to fix or repair it since, in the end, they are works of art that find resolve in their current state, rested upon the floor or upon painted white tables which accentuate their color and texture, emphasizing their enigmatic potential, winning over our a$ention due to their strangeness and irreducibility to worldly things. Therefore, the models distance themselves from utopia because while utopia stimulates the present by creating the presence of a plausible construction, Open House fascinates by showing us something impossible to be captured by words, at least those words which are known or simply exhausted due to a continual or automatic usage.
As previously mentioned, Open House derives from The House, a work that originated from a situation – the artistic residence of Faxinal das Artes, an old urban settlement located in Faxinal do Céu, in the countryside of Paraná – whose exceptionality caused Bechara to produce a response outside the norms the he, until then as a painter, habitually exercised (the reader should refer to the text “Installation 2 – The House”). A philosopher once said that the difference between the home of a bee, the perfectly regular honeycomb of a beehive, and the worst imaginable home made by man, resides in the fact that a bee, driven exclusively by instinct, only knows and is only capable of building one type of house with the same material, while man can take with him, in his spirit, the idea of a home, with the notion of protection, materializing it in accordance with the materials and the conditions which he will encounter. On the other hand,
if it is a fact that the notion of a home can fit the space inside a cave, a home (particularly a Western house) – in archetypical molds detailed by Joseph Rykwert in his text “Adam’s House in Paradise” – finds its perfect synthesis in the volume of a cobblestone or in a cube equally surmounted that form an edge, or furthermore, finds through geometry its most rigid reduction – the beginning point of infinite houses – like the ones created by José Bechara, allowing for a certain intervention that opened up a perspective to his poetics.
The cube/idea serves as the célula ma!er (mother cell) of the houses. The interest of putting into question the existing threshold between the real and the ideal, as well as discussing the relationship between the object and the representation of the object, allowed José Bechara, in his 2004 solo exhibition The House at Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art, to occupy the Museum’s monumental gallery with a replica of a chalet used in the Faxinal das Artes. Although plausible, it seemed fake to the artist to simply dislocate the house from its place of origin because it would be, at most, a replica. It would be better to construct a full-scale model than a mere embryo of a model, the literal materialization of an idea, just as apparently absurd as the parable by Jorge Luis Borges entitled “On Rigor in Science” about an empire in which the art of cartography had reached such a high level of exactness that the cartographers took on the questionable task of making a map of the empire “so exact that only a map on the same scale of the Empire itself will suðce.” However, is it not a fact that the representation of objects on a projected drawing eðectively materialize? Are not houses and cities also representations that came to fruition? For this reason Richard Smithson commented in his text “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” that he was walking on a map and that at “any moment my feet were apt to fall through the cardboard.” According to Bechara, if it is possible that the streets of our city were indeed maps, then why would it not be possible to deduce the same about the drawings and stains on the surfaces of a tarp, as a consequence of bad weather, that he proclaims as being paintings?
José Bechara creates cubes that are objects, geometric solids that are things and, given the life that they have, are dispersed, spread out in uncomfortable positions, commi$ed to the stability that is vastly described as their main quality. Submersed in the life that they have taken on, miniature chairs, tables, stands, and ladders are spewed, ordinary objects that are hastily bunched together. The hollowness that embodies them is not a cubic volume without qualities, an isotropic,abstract space. It is a throbbing box, a uterus that expels objects created according to our proportions, with which we encompass and depend on in order to mitigate our painful solitude.
The cubes are truly intertwined in life and, invented figures that are precise and pure as crystals, now have a rough or strongly colored skin. The empty cubes, the cubes receding from the design of their edges, in principle more graphic, abstract and geometric, proud of their alienation from the world, are precisely the ones that take on the vivid reds, greens, purples. And in them, with their parade of colors, we perceive how much color there really is – pure color, that of the material or as a result of the oxidization – that commands the process. This is the same as acknowledging exactly how much José Bechara continues being a painter even when he takes painting far away from itself, approximating it to other languages. As it becomes clear in his works such as Fantastic (Fantástica) and Miss São Paulo, both of which are divided into four colors, the openings where the objects gush out are open slits in the cube, geometric solids full of reason, a translation of the number 6, designated as a “perfect number,” where sources of color flow from. And a color, it is worth noting, before representing something, presents itself as something concrete, tangible, true, and irreducible such as air, water, earth, and fire.