Blessed be the Filthy: Camila Soato Celebrates Sexuality and Taboo

This fall at Zipper Galeria, Brazilian artist Camila Soato presents a series of figurative oil works that are satirical perversions of Catholic iconography, revolting against a sexually repressed, male-dominated society. Her characters—mainly women, children, dogs, and pop culture figures—play in a Dionysian, domestic world smeared with excrement and bodily fluids; together they form a dynamic, coarse, and risqué display. The show at Zipper Galeria is divided into two sections: “Imundas e Abençoadas” (“Filthy and Blessed”), consisting of a quintet of life-sized vertical paintings and one larger work that is a riff on the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, and “Românticas Canalhas”(Romantic Bastards), a grouping of smaller works.

“Imundas e Abençoadas”depicts modern Amazons revolting. Bare-breasted women (who, it must be noted, closely resemble the artist), are arranged in front-facing positions and utilize symbolic objects in meaningful gestures that suggest Catholic altarpieces, albeit perverted. In one painting, a praying Madonna in a gas mask stands over a seated figure clutching two brooms and wearing a tribal headdress, while below, a woman speaking into a microphone has her head licked by a mid-coital dog. In another, two women struggle to cut the throat of a Christ-like figure, while above, a woman with angel wings makes a triumphant gesture; in a third, similar work, the face on a Brazilian real banknote looks on in horror. In each work, the characters’ brazen feminine sexuality triumphs over stand-ins for masculinity, church and state; they are the entitled blessed and filthy. 

In the majority of the works that make up“Românticas Canalhas,” the main characters are caught in the middle of a taboo act, but seem unapologetic: a group of men moon the viewer; a child relishes the smell of his feet; a baby tries to suck on the foot of a small dog. There’s also an appearance by the Pope, his mitre replaced by a box of McDonald’s French fries. Like the first series, colorful stripes in the background push forward the action in the work, and the buildup of the impasto has a loose painterliness, which lends the works a further visceral quality. Despite this, the tone of Soato’s work never becomes too aggressive, and successfully questions the dynamics of power while still retaining a mischievous air.

—K. Sundberg

Camila Soato | Nobres Sem Aristocracia: Projeto Vira-Latas nº51” is on view at Zipper Galeria, Sept. 2nd–Nov. 1st, 2014.

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