In an oblique way, José Bechara´s career has always included the notion of violence. In a wider sense, the artist proves himself capable of confronting both the development of such an energetic exhibition –an avalanche of domestic furniture diagonally traversing two rooms- and the noiseless collision that takes place at the most subtle dimensions of matter. Such proclivity to violence is evinced from the beginning, as the artist presents a series of canvasses –the kind commonly used for transporting goods on trucks, ragged canvasses, near the end of their useful life- as paintings.
Bought from truck drivers themselves, the canvasses must, however, be put through the artist´s sieve, who endorses them as the kind of paintings in which the relevant traits are always its perforations, scratches and excoriations, the ravaging of a material that is unkindly exposed to sun, wind and rain, a material that contracts with cold and dilates with heat, constantly constrained by the strings that compress it, lacerating it to the point of ripping it up, forcing it to adopt the form of compact volumes; volumes that strain every corner of the canvass when the truck brakes or accelerates, going up and down or maneuvering, turning it into an elastic, enduring skin, as if it were a placenta that has to be emptied and refilled at the end of every trip.
Once this phase has ended, the next step consists in taking the canvasses to the artist´s studio, where they will be put through the controlled precipitation of an oxidation of steel fiber with different thickness so as to oxidize them. The violence of the water-air mixture is so intense that it is virtually possible to witness its attack on the steel fiber, which is dissolved and transformed into a powerful abrasive agent. As a result, the hairy entanglement of steel is metamorphosed into a series of petrified, breakable, flimsy dark-brown blocks. Steel dissolves into dust, spots, an ecchymosis that will irreversibly destroy the texture of canvass. To the memory that the latter still preserved from its protective service we must now add the memory of a powdered material that was formerly underground.
Painting, explains Bechara, refuting those who believe in safe havens, does not take place on a white, pure field like the customary canvasses available at art supply stores. Now, if painting is the result of any action on a surface, then the truck driver´s canvasses can be fairly seen as paintings. Moreover, painting, even without adding a single brushstroke –which, in the end, is nothing but a rhetorical gesture- takes place on every surface, whether it be a face, a stone, a building, the sky, or a barely glimpsed detail on the skin of a fruit, before or after biting into it, and the skin of animals- the cattle that grow up freely in the countryside, their skins scarred by the action of parasites and barbed fences.
It is possible to acknowledge an homology between such cruelty and the passiveness of domestic furniture. From painting to the objects, and then to installation, in a movement that marks a turning point in his investigation, Bechara now confronts those objects as if to reveal their violence, he releases them from their usual domesticity and finally points out that even the things we have for the safekeeping of our tranquility –places, shells, safe cells- are nothing but bodies that suffer from spasms, undertaking unexplainable passions whose effects we cannot certainly measure.
Agnaldo Farias is a professor at São Paulo University. He is also an art critic and independent curator.