Daniel Reich Gallery is very pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Jarbas Lopes, Jarbalopolis.
Jarbas Lopes is a Brazilian artist who draws on his conviction that art is public, socialist and powerful. He incorporates his ideas of open accessibility and the mutual experience of the quotidian within an unusual framework of sculptures, ceramics, and drawings, creating an environment within the gallery setting. Jarbalopolis aspires toward this social and communal cultural exchange as a proposal for a nomadic city of Lopes’ own invention, created out of coincidence, cosmic will, and the desire to find a way to reincorporate soul into the post-industrial world, addressing the relationships between individuals to their ever-changing outside environment. As such, Lopes’ work is a highly invested practice. Jarbalopolis is not merely a proposal which synthesizes modernist urban aspiration with a comic book absurdity, but a motion that Lopes attempts to actualize in his everyday life. As such, Lopes works actively to encourage lifestyle change through an interplay with his sculptures and environments.
Untitled, the first clay sculpture positioned in the main gallery walkway, embodies and embraces the transient, impermanent aspect of life. While its shape mirrors that of a human body, it has the feeling of an urban monolith impressive in its weight and stature and not unrelated to a comic book hero made of stone. The form is reminiscent of the unwieldy unpredictable Golem of Weimar cinema, the human attempt at the divine construction of life. In terms of the transformation of meaning in Lopes’ work, its oppressive size and location signals our inability to escape it, yet it discreetly retreats as the work reveals its more peaceful function through in its cocoon-like construction from the organic metaphorical material of clay from which humans were made. It is in the end, not a totalitarian monolith hindering special circulation so indicative of the contemporary city, but a shell that serves as a sanctuary for transformation and evolution that, while empty after the release of its evolved entity, retains the power and beauty of its offspring. And in this way it is a metaphor for the way that a solid impenetrable form of social constraint like the concrete barriers which protect New York City buildings from explosives or the new lanes which organize transit around a global New York City as tourist commodity, can be modified, recycled and imbued with progressive function through sensitive human use.
Lopes’ work conveys the individual, the community, and the individual’s ability to become harmonious while conscious of the world at large highlighting the meaninglessness of technology without a person on the other end. For instance, one work mimics the towers for wireless communication by making the tower human size. Sponge Suit encourages a similar transformation to that of the clay sculpture, one that moves toward beauty through evolution and personal revelation as well as a way of “unplugging” from contemporary communication for at least a few minutes. In this instance, the viewer is encouraged to move into the experience—to free themselves of their clothing and all that separates them from the outside world and to step into this sponge suit which is of a rough sponge material and offers a sensory relaxing tingling once one is in it. Its appearance is of course rather ridiculous in that one appears like a giant peanut so humor and absurdity like the monolith at the entrance allows the art object to retire to a space of flexibility and imagination. With this call to liberation, the viewer can now interact with the world and, like a sponge, absorb the environment. Although covered in every way and able to clearly see the environment around them, the participant is shielded from judgment, influence, and at once liberated by nudity, while completely protected from the outside world with which they are conditioned and often long to connect.
Lopes’ constructed antenna comments on the technology of urban life, standing both as a likeness to the human form and also as a physical representation of the communication between members of an urban community. Antennas receive input and transmit information—this exchange takes place between societies at large as well as within interpersonal relationships. All use invisible and visible cues that we are receptive towards much like antennas that dominate urban environments. Another aspect of this work is the sensory preference given to the technology, which is highlighted by Lopes’ inclusion of the bicycle in this installation. The bicycle opens its rider up to a world of physical experience while, with the idea of the aerial bike path, a proposed terrain which would consist of raised wood planks for cyclists to revel upon, elevating the rider above the city’s geographic and sociopolitical landscape and into the potential space of spiritual and mental enlightenment.
Guru, Guru Black Power is a banner with traditional studs attached to black plastic spelling out the words: Guru, Guru Black Power. As with Jarbas’ other works, it contains many meanings and functions at once being an entirely flexible object. Using double meanings to reference the superstitious aspects of Brazilian culture and its relationship to death and the supernatural, Lopes expands the thought to the surrounding world and its own transformation. The phrase Guru Guru functions at once as an allusion to that culture with the literal reference to “Gurus” or spiritual guides, which possess the knowledge of the “other world” or that “black power,” a power that Lopes describes as a shared universal darkness that encompasses not only the dead but that will also inevitably enshroud all life and the cosmos itself. It also plays on the association of the color black with the supernatural while simultaneously and inseparably suggesting the emergence of an existentialist African identity as a key component of modern hybrid Brazilian identity. As a phrase it is both an absurdity and a call to arms by its inflection emphasized by its form as a banner like those held in protest.
“Guru Guru” is also gibberish, a colloquial means of expressing nonsense that Jarbas once heard. The banner was originally used in a performance to mark the absurdity of death. The performance involved two people crawling beneath the shroud and speaking to each other nonchalantly while blanketed by its black form. The pair would discuss daily life in a rather mundane way beneath it as though momentarily eclipsed by the power of the universe. In general, it is a comment on the banality of formal social relations and cultural anxiety about death in the face of which Lopes proposes a society which is more of a continuum with less clear boundaries and more communication between things. In the presence of death, banal life must inevitably move on and daily existence continues, and more often than not the two simply co-exist. This shroud is an invitation to approach this unusually macabre, and irreconcilable inevitability with an air of enlightenment and acceptance.
The idea that people can shape their society and social interactions as works of art contributes to the meaning of Lopes’ works. His informal drawings are often made collaboratively with his own children. Collaboration contributes to the environment of Jarbalopolis and to Lopes’ work on a whole.