The artistic production of Paulo Roberto Leal (1946 -1991) is the subject of the exhibition presented by the Bergamin e Gomide gallery from November 8th to December 8th. The Rio-born artist fully explored the plastic possibilities and manipulations of kraft paper and other high-end papers. He began his career in 1969 as a visual programmer of catalogues.
The 1970s and 1980s marked Leal’s career, influenced by the Concrete and Neoconcrete movements typical of his generation, as well as by the Minimalist movement, Arte Povera and Conceptual Art. Supported by these approaches, the artist created a reflexive output, even without having an academic education.
He developed his technique through his contact with artists and critics, his study of contemporary works and his visits to museums and galleries. Leal’s work has an experimental character, with the objective of developing a logic of ideas by means of a plastic-visual expression.
The exhibition on view at Bergamin & Gomide showcases about 16 works, including Armagens, which have an acrylic frame with kraft paper fragments folded at the borders, right before they form a crease. The work explores the elastic tension of paper itself. Curling the sheet’s plane up to its limit, Paulo Roberto Leal creates curvatures and imposes order on the fragments that accumulate, forming lines where the various sheets meet. Armagens is a territory bounded by the frame and a volume contained by the milky and transparent acrylic surfaces, which recall the Renaissance technique of chiaroescuro (contrast between light and shadow).
In the Entretelas e Sobretelas series however, Leal conveys a renewed delicateness using raw canvas and sewing thread, and no kraft paper, creating geometric shapes with a tenuous suggestion of color by means of the threads.
In 1978, the artist’s creations underwent a fundamental change with Armaduras, which highlighted the simplicity and autonomy of materials. Despite being visible, the line is dematerialized, formed by means of clippings and collages. The line is a kind of desire.
Following the social, political and cultural changes that took place during the first half of the 1980s, the repression and the dictatorship began to give way, and artistic expression gained more color and painting gained more space. Leal’s art also underwent transformations and veered toward the pictorial, without entirely giving up the legacy and tradition of concrete constructivism. Within this context, the artist became more open to the city, to pluralism, to well-humored expressions and to the introduction of figuration.
In 1984, Paulo Roberto Leal organized together with Marcus Lontra and Sandra Magger, the exhibition “Como vai você Geração 80?”, at the Parque Lage School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro. The event showcased 123 artists from Rio and São Paulo. Leal and Lontra summarized the spirit of the exhibition in the following manner: “everything is here, all the colors, all the shapes, squares, transparencies, matter, painted mass, human mass, sweat, little airplanes, the “Serrote” generation, radical and liberal, the trans-avant-garde, punks, pancakes, post-moderns, neo-expressionists (...)”