SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The 30th Sao Paulo Bienal sprawls from the main exhibition space at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park to six other smaller sites that include an old chapel and the Museum of Art of Sao Paulo.
Vastness is appropriate for the most populous city in the Americas and the world’s second-oldest art fair, after the Venice Biennale. More than two dozen galleries prepared independent exhibition areas apart from the 111 artists featured in the biennnial. The festival curators had in mind a structure like a constellation.
One of the stars is Arthur Bispo do Rosario (1909-1989), a schizophrenia patient discovered in a Brazilian mental hospital who turned institutional objects into visual art. The area devoted to him contains a significant collection of his extensive, obsessive work. In Bispo do Rosario’s efforts to re-create the world around him, he used pieces of embroidery, miniatures and reproductions in wood wrapped with the threads of patients’ unraveled uniforms. They compose a dreamlike universe.
For Leandro Tartaglia’s Journey Through Sao Paulo, the viewer boards a van and dons headphones to listen to the Argentine artist’s “moving theater piece in two acts.” Each part takes about 20 minutes, the time that the van spends transporting the viewer from the pavilion to the Morumbi chapel. The journey serves as a thread connecting far-flung venues.
Micah Silver and Robert The, co-founders of the Maryanne Amacher Archive, used recordings and visual components to convert the 1825 chapel into a sound installation, in the manner of the late U.S. artist Amacher, a pioneer in this work.
The exhibitions include lots of compilations or montages of words, objects and images that aim to be poetry, in line with the biennial’s challenging theme, The Imminence of Poetics.
In Hans-Peter Feldmann’s A Pound of Strawberry, individual photos of strawberries taken out of a box are pinned one by one on the wall. The piece gives us an idea of singularity in an era of mass consumption. He has done similar assemblies with photos of women’s legs and mouths.
Eduardo Gil’s Dictator’s Newsreel or Bruise turns history’s cruelest moments into a colorful, dynamic panel. Newspaper images of political victims were printed on 270 color rectangles in a spectrum that ranges across the hues of bruises. Each piece is attached to a motor-driven axle that keeps it slowly spinning like a propeller.
The work sparked debate in Brazil by including Joao Goulart, the country’s former left-wing president, who was deposed by the military in 1964, giving way to the dictatorship that lasted 20 years.
• The Sao Paulo Bienal, www.bienal.org., runs through Dec. 9.