Carmela Gross

Carmela Gross (1946, São Paulo, Brazil) participated in the Bienal de São Paulo for the second time in 1969, the same year she completed her BA in arts at FAAP, in a course conceived by Professor Flávio Motta based on his proposal for a training course for teachers in the field of drawing. Since that time, Gross has structured her work by a complex understanding of project and drawing. Aware of drawing’s power as a formative action to impress intentionalities on the world’s material organization, she often explores ways of subverting the operation of drawing, using techniques and languages to design scribbles, noises and outlines.

These unique creative procedures are constantly based on her observation of the urban space. The group of works she presented at the 1969 Bienal, for example, referred to veiled or hidden urban elements, usually unseen by passersby. In the context of the intensification of censorship and violence by the state during the military dictatorship, a large greenish-gray tarp covering a large metallic structure, A carga [Cargo] (1968), appeared as something more than a mysterious sculpture: it bore connotations of threat and danger. Presunto [Ham] and Barril [Barrel], the other works in this set, were also exercises in registering an urban landscape charged with an ambivalence between opacity and morbidity.

Aside from the works shown in 1969, Carmela Gross exhibited an unseen work at the 34th Bienal. Composed of over 150 monotypes, Boca do Inferno [Hell’s Mouth] is the result of, in the artist’s words, a “daily exercise of making and remaking dark masses, explosive smudges, muddy holes, black fire, clouds of soot...”. Gross built a collection of images of volcanoes before processing them digitally until she had formed a group of symbols in high contrast and with clear outlines. She then reworked these images, sketching hundreds of small drawings onto paper in pencil and India ink. Next, working at a printing studio, she directly applied paint onto metal plates, creating dark masses that would later be imprinted onto paper or silk, in a process that involves a certain degree of chance. Thus, by accumulating multiple stages of synthesis and transference, the artist created an immense panel of convulsed stains that, in their repetitions and differences, metabolize her revolt against the contemporary Brazilian context. It is because of this sense of unburdening and defiance that Carmela Gross named her work after the nickname given to Gregório de Matos, the poet from Bahia State, in the 17th century.

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