A small Brazilian photo club that rose to the horizon

Europe was over after World War II, and Brazil was ready to take on the slack. Dozens of artists had left Europe fleeing fascism, and the Brazilian government was ready to support ambitious cultural undertakings, which are reflected in museums dedicated to modern art and the opening of the So Paulo Biennial in 1951. This enthusiasm for modern art and new technical forms such as photography can also be felt in amateur clubs such as the Photo-Cine Club Bandeirante (FCCB), founded in 1939 in So Paulo. A trailblazer in the avant-garde art scene but little known outside the country, the group takes center stage in the show”Fotoclebismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946–1964“At the Museum of Modern Art.

This exhibition of more than 60 photographs, illustrations, and almanacs is the first American museum show about the FCCB, mostly involving hobbyists: journalists, scientists and businessmen and women who traveled together on weekends, taking photographs and attending workshops, exhibitions and publications. constructed. Promotion of photography as an art. The club included a number of professional artists – or photographers who later became professionals – in its ranks, as well as a variety of photographs from growing immigrant communities. It is readily apparent that these photographers were ambitious in their approach. Using new techniques and abstract motifs, he indicated that he was aware of the development of art not only in So Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but also in Paris, Moscow and New York.

Brazil’s campaign to become a “developed” nation – that is, more industrialized and with a greater presence on the geopolitical platform – is made clear here. There are lots of images featuring photos of people in expanding cities, automobiles and the beginnings of modern building: concrete, steel and glass.

The painting “Ministry of Education” (circa 1945) by Hungarian-born Thomaz Farkas is a virtually abstract, sculptural figure considered the country’s first modernist building. Called the Gustavo Capnema Palace in Rio de Janeiro (also known as the Ministry of Education and Health Building), its design team included architects Lucio Costa, Roberto Burle Marx and Oscar Niemeyer, with French architect Le Corbusier as consultant. was working in (Niemeyer continued to design the country’s new modernist capital, Brasília, into the late ’50s.) The images, from the club’s field trips to the newly developed housing complex Virzia do Carmo, are a bit more modest, but they give photographers the edge of their cameras. Pointing to the same theme, which nurtured the spirit of camaraderie and competition.

The mental breakdown of a society trying to achieve warp-speed development can also be seen in images such as Marcel Giro’s “Light and Power” circa 1950. The picture is more like an abstract depiction and description of the development, with the power lines perhaps serving as metaphors. people and policies.

Many of the works here echo modernist photography experiments from North America and Europe, such as activities at the Bauhaus in Germany or Russian avant-garde practices in the 1920s, exemplified by artists such as László Moholy-Nagy or Alexander Rodchenko.

Another criterion is ’30s surrealist photography, which aims for more dreamy, psychedelic effects. “Solarized Portrait” of German Lorca Reminiscent of this practice from around 1953. Lorca belonged to the club for four years, from 1948 to 1952, and left to open a professional commercial studio. The “Solarized Portrait” uses an experimental technique that was popular with Surrealists: an inversion of tone to turn on the lights in a darkened room during the developing process that adds an ethereal aura to the sitter’s profile.

The abstract painting in “Photoclubismo” forms the link between photographers for fun or entertainment and those trying to make a new and modern artistic statement. Geraldo de Barros’ membership in the FCCB preceded his fame as a painter and in 1952 as co-founder of Grupo Ruptura, which was identified with geometric abstraction and concrete art. His rigorous painting, “Diagonal Function” (1952), a composition of black-and-white geometric forms, echoes the work of Piet Mondrian, a major influence on Latin American artists, for its rigidity and cultural rather than loose, gesture Wanted to show progress. Painting of the Abstract Expressionists in North America.

Another abstract geometric painting here, “Untitled” (1954) by Uruguayan artist María Freire, features black and yellow lines with a red triangle on a gray-green background. Freire reviewed an exhibition of FCCB photographs in the group’s influential publication Boletim Photo Cine, arguing that the organizers could have gone further in showing “too much abstract, too little figurative work”.

You can see this concrete art approach extended into de Barros’ photography work. “Photoforma” (1952–1953) is a black and white gelatin silver print that uses the same geometric precision as his paintings. His day job at Banco do Brasil informs images such as “photoforma”, in which he uses a bank punch card that he brought into a dark room, shining light through holes on photographic paper to create his abstract image. Had been.

One of the standouts here is Gertrudes Altschul, a German-born artist who fled Nazi persecution and settled in So Paulo. In Brazil, Altschul revived his business – making artificial flowers for women’s hats – and many of his photographs were produced for this botanical (or botanically inspired) interest. However, many of his works also focus on architectural features, framing them like elements in geometric painting, or unidentified objects that, for photography, become a beautiful abstract composition.

But where are the more amateur photographers and their works? Looking at display cases with club bulletins, you can see pictures of more mundane – and frankly less skilled – people, places, and things. They don’t have the kick or zing or experimentalism of wall-mounted photos. (After all, this is the MoMA.) But the club’s work in Boletim reveals the enthusiasm and enthusiasm of its members. Some were more talented and committed than others, but the FCCB was also the forerunner of photography’s role, both as a valuable art medium and as a way for everyone to capture in images – and arrest the moment – ​​fleeting and Fast changing world to them.

Fotoclebismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946–1964

through September 26 at the Museum of Modern Art; (212) 708-9400, moma.org.

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