In 2010, three ultra-chic art dealers—two Brazilians and one American—emerged as rising stars in the São Paulo contemporary art scene with the opening of their gallery, Mendes Wood DM, in the city’s fashionable Jardins neighborhood. Today, Mendes Wood DM is a São Paulo-go-to for edgy and experimental exhibitions and a mix of emerging and established artists—from Tunga, Brazil’s best-known sculptor, to new discoveries like Adriano Costa, and a slew of up-and-comers—and a track record of firsts, among them, the first Brazil exhibitions of works by David Salle and Francesca Woodman. In 2012, the gallery brought Paulo Nazareth to Art Basel in Miami Beach, where the Brazilian artist signed and sold bananas (at ten bucks a pop) and this week, it continues on the fair circuit with a booth at São Paulo’s local-but-international SP-Arte fair.
Before touring Mendes Wood DM’s booth, we asked Matthew Wood—one part of the gallerist trio, which includes Pedro Mendes and Felipe Dmab—for his insights on the works and underlying themes we should look for. Describing the relationship between an installation by Brazilian artist Adriano Costa, a megalithic concrete work by British artist Michael Dean, and a sculpture by Tunga— “an unlikely, but fascinating triangle”—he points to the dialogue between national and international artists that the gallery has come to know well. What follows are his insights into two stand-out works:
Adriano Costa, Tapetes, 2008-2013
“The installations by Adriano Costa are often made with a musicality that refers to the logic of Surrealist poetry, which deals with a play on associations that are sometimes clear, while at other times subtle. Often it refers to the power of the game to reconfigure sound rules, dismantling routes and playing with varied measures of time to achieve a strict and loose effect.”
Paulo Nazareth, do Projecto Cadernos de Africa, 2013
“We will also be exhibiting unseen works by Paulo Nazareth, derived from his walk from Belo Horizonte in Brazil to New York in the United States. Throughout his work, simple but powerful gestures are used to evoke historical memory, as well as to highlight social and economic tensions and class struggle—tensions that are especially apparent to him in Brazil and, more broadly, in South America. Nazareth frequently combines notions of social justice and resistance with a dose of the absurd, highlighting the pitfalls that await those who believe in progress as a mechanical process, versus a holistic one.”