Art Trip: Pots, Lamps and Comics in Rio

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A couple of weeks ago, I visited the “Carlos Scliar – from reflection to creation” exhibition at Caixa Cultural, in Rio de Janeiro. With a friend by my side, who is also a designer and cartoonist, I had the chance to look closely at his paintings, drawings and screen prints.

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I wasn’t really familiar with Scliar’s work, although his name does figure among the greatest Brazilian artists. This ended up being a fortunate ignorance, because reproductions will never do his work justice. Getting to know it in person was a touching experience, especially regarding his colors and subtle use of texture (I’ll leave the pun). In many of his paintings, you can see layers of paper and fabric that serve only as a tactile hint beneath the paint. It left me wondering if it served in any way as a direction for the compositions, or if he had it all planned from the start.

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In other works, this layering is more evident as he uses collages of music sheets and book pages. It was a pleasure to take a closer look at the patterns of mite-eaten paper carefully incorporated to the paintings. I’ve been experimenting with layering and collaging in my sketchbooks and these observations have inspired me to explore it further.

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Another happy moment of this first close encounter was a realization similar to, I imagine, what occurred to Sally Ingraham at the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit (as she writes here). Not too far into the gallery, as I walk, noticing the artist’s synthesized depiction of flowers, candles, pots and lamps, I see comics. Two of his compositions follow the well-known 9-panel grid.

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Into the exhibition’s second room, this similarity becomes more evident and justified. Here are his drawings and screen prints, with more explorations of what can be seen as a comics grid, and a graphic style similar to what flat design trends and contemporary illustration seem to be channeling lately. The justification comes from a video interview with Scliar, played on loop at the center of the room.

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In this interview, the artist recounts his trajectory as an illustrator; the influence of pop-art and german expressionism in his work; his early experiences with typography for a newspaper; and later on, as an art director for an avant-garde magazine. After watching it in full, my friend and I left thinking how it all made sense now, to somehow “find” comics in a work coming from a background like that.

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Art Trip is a series that features reflections on art and comics, and the adventures that transform those who seek it out.

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Manzanna, or Anna Mancini, is a Brazilian freelance designer, illustrator and comics artist. Check out her work HERE.

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