12 Artists Depict Brazil

From an early painting of its undeveloped terrain to a large-scale urban intervention in its burgeoning slums (“favelas”), here are 12 ways that Brazil has captured artistic imagination.

Martin Johnson Heade, Rio de Janeiro Bay, (1864)

Although commonly associated with the Hudson River School, Heade was more interested in depicting tropical flora and fauna. He traveled to Brazil in 1863-4, painting dozens of birds and occasional landscapes, like this one of a pristine Rio de Janeiro bay.

Marc Ferrez, Untitled, Rio de Janeiro, (1870)

The massively prolific Ferrez captured thousands of images all over Brazil, but is best remembered for documenting the rapid development of his home city of Rio—its harbor seen here in a relatively virgin state.

Alberto Ferreira, Brasília – Pé ante pé, (1960)

One of Brazil’s best known sports photographers and photojournalists, Ferreira captured some of the most iconic images of Brazilian soccer star Pelé. This photo, whose title translates as “Tiptoe”, offers a glimpse of Brasília the year it became the nation’s capital.

Sebastião Salgado, Gold Mine, Serra Pelada, (1986)

Photojournalist Salgado captured the booming gold rush at Northern Brazil’s Serra Pelada (“Bald Mountain”) in the 1980s. In a lengthy photo essay, he documented the transformation of a rural community into an infamous cesspool of crime, greed, and pollution.

JR, 28 Millimètres : Women Are Heroes, Action dans la Favela Morro da Providência, Favela de Jour, Rio de Janeiro, Brésil, (2008)

As part of his international “Women Are Heroes” project, JR visited the Moro de Providencia favela in Rio, a slum notorious for its violence. He pasted huge photos of local women all over its exterior roofs and walls, “suddenly giving a female gaze to both the hill and the favela,” as he describes.

Claudia Jaguaribe, Série Rio de Janeiro: Pão de açúcar, (2010)

Rio native Jaguaribe is known for exploring subjectivity in her photography. This image captures a dizzying view of her home city with its iconic Sugarloaf Mountain looming in the background.

Sohei Nishino, Diorama Map Rio de Janeiro, (2011)

Nishino roams the world’s biggest cities, capturing snapshots throughout their streets that he then stitches together. Rather than creating literal maps, “I make a map with my own personal memory and experience,” he says.

Guy Tillim, Praça Ramos, (2011)

This image of a bustling square in São Paulo is from Tillim’s “Second Nature” series—lush images he shot throughout Polynesia and Brazil. “Each scene is a place of meditation, of emptiness,” he says of the works. “It provides its own context because in a certain way of looking, it cannot be anywhere else.”

Sarah Morris, Burle Marx - Copacabana [Rio], (2011)

Sarah Morris is world-renowned for her paintings that translate urban architecture into two-dimensional abstractions. This work references the promenade at Copacabana in Rio, designed by famed Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx.

Massimo Vitali, Piscinao de Ramos, Brazil , (2012)

In this photograph, Vitali captures an artificial beach and swimming pool in Northern Rio. It was built in 2001 to make the beach more accessible to residents of nearby favelas.

Thierry Cohen, Rio 22° 58’ 38’’ S 2011-06-04 lst 15:08, (2012)

In his “Darkened Cities” project, Cohen stitches artificially darkened urban vistas together with night skies captured in rural locations along the same latitude line—thus imagining what the skies would look like without light pollution. “Not seeing any more stars stops us from asking questions about where we are coming from and where we are going,” he says of his motivation behind the project.

Vik Muniz, Rio de Janeiro Postcard, (2013)

A master of layered appropriation and found materials, here Muniz imagines a large-scale postcard from Rio de Janeiro, collaged from actual postcards. The piece comes on the heels of a 2012 project in which he created a 20-by-30 meter interactive “postcard” from Rio out of discarded bottles and recyclables.

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