From ArtRio to the São Paulo Biennial, Here Are 9 Brazilian Artists Under 35 You Need to Know

As the global art market continues to expand and new technologies allow artists to connect with audiences on a massive scale previously unimaginable, new art centers are emerging as quickly as their artists are growing and exhibiting internationally. Brazil is one of these, and continues to prove itself as a thriving arts center, not only in terms of education or public projects, but also in the realm of galleries and contemporary artists. In anticipation of the 2014 edition of ArtRio and the 31st São Paulo Biennial, the following are nine contemporary artists from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, all of whom are under 35 and making waves in the international art world. 

Tatiana Blass (on view at Galeria Millan at ArtRio) 

Carrying on the rich and seemingly endless Surrealist tradition, São Paulo native Blass experiments with paintings, video, sculpture, theater, and installation works, all of which are intertwined with language and narrative. In 2011, Blass won the PIPA Prize, awarded annually to emerging Brazilian artists. She creates work that is provocative without being heavy-handed; she has said, “I don’t like the idea of a ‘message’… I think art has to provoke. There are many possibilities for readings, but I don’t like to define them so specifically.” 

Chiara Banfi (on view at Vermelho Galeria and Silvia Cintra + Box 4 at ArtRio)

Chiara Banfi, born in São Paulo and currently based in Rio, will represent both Brazilian cities at ArtRio, with work in booths by São Paulo’s Vermelho Galeria and Rio’s Silva Cintra. Before moving to Rio, Banfi attended São Paulo’s Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation (FAAP) followed by a residency at London’s Gasworks Gallery. Today, her work is known for combining nature and music; in her first solo exhibition with Vermehlo in 2005, she filled the gallery with organic flower motifs, accompanied by song, and other works have referenced the colorful “sunburst” painting used to decorate musical instruments, such as electric guitars. 

Juliana Cerqueira Leite (on view at Casa Triângulo at ArtRio) 

A Brazil-born graduate of London’s Slade School of Art and currently based in Brooklyn, Cerqueira Leite makes sculptural work that investigates the relationship between the head, heart, and hands. “My work is driven by an investigation into physicality and how we interact with the physical world,” she says. Championed by Charles Saatchi and previously exhibited at Art Basel in Miami Beach and a New York Foundation for the Arts-funded artist in residence at Sculpture Space in New York, her work revives a sense of physicality in contemporary art, reminding us of both the limits and potentiality of our own bodies. Many of her pieces have the appearance of being performative moments frozen in time, remnants of actions taken by the artist, connoting intimacy in raw, organic ways.

Paulo Nimer Pjota (on view at Mendes Wood DM at ArtRio)

Originally from São José do Rio Preto, Nimer Pjota now lives in São Paulo and works with the theme of cultural evolution, exploring the interrelations of landscapes both artificial and geographic, as well as cultures and their origins. Much of his work integrates unusual materials that carry certain cultural connotations, like empty sacks of flour and rice, bricks, and cardboard fruit boxes. Pjota recently showed in Oslo at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and also had a solo exhibition at his representative gallery, São Paulo’s Mendes Wood DM.

Sofia Borges (on view at Galeria Millan at ArtRio)

With an interest in experimental and conceptual photography, Borges has worked for five years in the field of photo-based art and research; her work extends beyond the museum and white cube into other more untraditional atmospheres. She’s said, “What I’m interested in are the objects presented in a space of representation, rather than the exhibition display per se. So besides a wide variety of types of museum, I have also visited zoos, aquariums, and research centres.” Borges explores how images come to represent both objects and ideas. Her work is beginning to garner international recognition, having been awarded the Porto Seguro Photography Prize in 2009 and nominated for the Paul Huf Award in Amsterdam.

Ana Mazzei at Galerie Emmanuel Hervé

Mazzei’s artistic practice is limited to no single discipline. She is immersed in photography, printing, sculpture, video, and sound installations that raise questions of temporality, space, and art’s potential for playful self-referencing and meta critique. The idea of performance is central to her work, not as much in a medium-specific sense as in the realm of psychology, and her work explores how we perform for one another on a daily basis, wearing and shedding various personal masks and costumes. Mazzei was a student of the Independent Study program at Escola São Paulo and was chosen for residency at Paris’ Cité Internationale des Arts in 2014. 

Thiago Rocha Pitta (on view at Galeria Millan at ArtRio)

After growing up in the small historic Brazilian town of Tiradentes and later moving to Rio in 1999, Rocha Pitta began showing his work in 2001 and four years later was awarded the CNI SESI Marcantonio Vilaça Prize and has since exhibited internationally. Citing Hélio Oiticica, Robert Smithson, and the disciplines of history and philosophy as influences, he prefers working outside of the studio, in direct response to his surroundings. His work is rooted in exploring the interactions between human artificiality and natural chaos. Rocha Pitta’s work is currently on view in a solo exhibition, “Atlas / Oceano,” at Galeria Millan in São Paulo. He is also newly represented by Marianne Boesky Gallery. 

Rafael Carneiro (on view at Artur Fidalgo Galeria at ArtRio)

Considered, “one of the main representatives of the new generation of painters based in São Paulo,” Carneiro creates large-scale paintings that aim to highlight the mark humanity has left on the natural environment. His works generally lack human subjects and instead showcase the earth, its scars, and its ruins, as well as its human-enacted enhancements and technological adornments. A sense of ominousness and doom is present in many of these works, which highlight the growing insecurity of the world and the scarcity of global resources. Carneiro has exhibited at the Palace of Arts, Itau Cultural, and the Parana Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Alice Quaresma (on view at Mercedes Viegas Gallery at ArtRio)

A recent recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious photography prizes, the Foam Talent Prize, Quaresma’s work deals with memory, nostalgia, and family. She splits her time between NYC and Rio, having attended both Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Pratt Institute. Her recent work explores specifically the geographic relevance of Rio on her upbringing. While Quaresma is definitively Brazilian, her practices transcend cultural boundaries and allow us to ponder both the beauty and pitfalls of memory.

—Charlie Ambler  

Explore ArtRio 2014 on Artsy.

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