Geraldo de Barros – The Photographers Gallery

In the early part of the twentieth century a structure emerged within the visual arts that has since remained emblematic of the modernist ambition. Geraldo de Barros - Sobras American art critic and theorist Rosalind Krauss posits that the grid – developed most notably in Piet Mondrian’s non-representational paintings and Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist compositions – evades both strict materialism and spiritualism.  Krauss maintains that its ambiguity renders the grid all the more powerful. The work of Brazilian painter and photographer Geraldo de Barros currently on display at the Photographer’s Gallery flourishes in the ambivalence inherent in Krauss’ modernist structure. The grid underlies de Barros’ abstract photographs and photograms, as well as several of the artist’s intricate photo collages. What Remains, which incorporates pieces from the series Fotoformas (Photo Forms) and Sobras (Remains), opens up a dialogue between what Krauss refers to as the anti-narrative and storytelling; between the anti-historical and memory. Geraldo de Barros What distinguishes de Barros’ abstract photographs and photograms from the early modernist paintings of Mondrian is a spatial and temporal depth. Whereas Mondrian’s Compositions explicitly rejected a narrative or sequential reading, de Barros’ photographs imply an unraveling through time, rendering the work symbolic. The artist’s multiple exposures of the ironwork rooftop spaces of São Paulo, such as Untitled (São Paulo Station), or slightly more figurative works such as Birds (Rio de Janeiro), unite modernist abstraction with narrative. De Barros takes this one step further in photographs such as Untitled (Telegraph Wires) and Untitled (Tatuape, São Paulo) in which everyday objects such as wires and balloons form Constructivist compositions. Geraldo de Barros In works that depart from the flatness, geometry and order that constitute Mondrian’s paintings, such as de Barros’ Self-Portrait and his photo collages, the grid appears in the form of windows. In symbolist art the window, at once transparent and opaque, functions as a multilevel representation, suggestive of forms of Being. De Barros’ subtle use of this motif allows him to communicate what early modernists sought to express in their strictly abstract compositions – the Universal.

Geraldo de Barros, Untitled from the series Sobras, 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery.
Geraldo de Barros, Untitled, Tyrol, Austria, 1951, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery.
Geraldo de Barros, Untitled from the series Sobras, 1996-98, Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery.

-Lisa Stein

Geraldo de Barros: What Remains is on display at the Photographer’s gallery from 18 January – 7 April 2013.