On account of the initiative of the Embassy of Brazil in London, the art of Maria Bonomi is finally being presented to the British public in an exhibition at Gallery 32, a venue of consistent and worthy endeavours to foment Brazilian artistic production.
Maria – as she is affectionately addressed by all of her friends – is currently one of the most noteworthy names in the cultural landscape of Brazil. In effect, few visual artists currently achieve as much mediatic resonance in Brazil: she has even become a character in a TV mini-series. A witness and an agent of our cultural history over the past fifty years, she has created one of the most numerous and distinguished sets of works of art in public spaces in the city of São Paulo. She is one of the most assiduous participants in the São Paulo International Biennials and fittingly has received awards in both visual arts and scenography.
In contrast, there is nobody more averse to formalities, more distant from official procedures, more opposed to acclaim than Maria Bonomi, an eternal adolescent that, with boundless energy and creativity, reinvents herself at each moment, producing an oeuvre that is constantly migrating and exhibiting a cartography that extends from life in metropoli such as São Paulo and New York to experiments with the Chinese culture and Amazonian nature. A pulsating oeuvre of vitality and desire that is part and parcel of the scope of the best tradition in Brazilian art, particularly manifest in engravings as an enhanced expression of commitment to social issues along with experimentation as an ethical vision of the world.
The complexity of Bonomi’s oeuvre inhibits both linear reasoning and unidirectional reflection, as it is made explicit by the selection of works presented at this exhibition at Gallery 32. The selection encompasses colour xylographs in large scale, which she started to create in the 1970s – juxtaposing and dislocating matrices in a process that results in images with delicate hues and high visual impact as in Tropicália, Sex Appeal and Sappho, to the latest creations as in the complex Tetraz, a xylograph created in 2005 on Nepalese paper, or the delicate lithograph La Niéce, both examples of the same thought that spans various media. Transformed – a colour xylograph on Japanese paper which is two metres high, was made by Bonomi specifically for this exhibition in London. This is an example of her competence in large-scale engravings, which migrate from flatness to verticality on the walls in constructions that articulate simplicity of froms with the monumentality of the image. The exhibition will also show some Epigramas, objects in copper, aluminium or brass, which she began to create at the beginning of the 1980s and continues to this date, in which the clay receives incisions brought from the universe of woodcutting just before going into the foundry. Also pieces such as the series Love Layers, sculptural works in metal conceived in 2007, with marked sexual connotation and a delicate balance, weaving personal memories in a public place. The exhibition is completed with a video by the acclaimed Brazilian video artist Walter Silveira that evokes an assortment of works by Maria Bonomi in public places in the city of São Paulo.
In 2008, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, the São Paulo State Picture Gallery, was honoured to pay homage to this great artist with the exhibition Maria Bonomi: Gravura Peregrina, an extensive panorama of her five decades of work and dedication to the arts. The curator of that exhibition, a renowned historian of Brazilian art, Ana Maria Belluzzo, points out that “Maria touches truly beautiful things, transforming them into bearers of a meaning sketched around the experience that she herself lived through. The action is the bearer of sense, not the world.” It is, thus, with great pleasure and immense expectation that we now see her construction of senses cross the ocean in order to pursue her journeys of enchantment and seduction.
Marcelo Mattos Araújo
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Rendering homage to Maria Bonomi may appear, at first sight, redundant or even contradictory. Few visual artists have aUained the current levei of media exposure she enjoys, there even being a television dramatic miniseries with a character named and paUerned after her. She has been a keen observer of, and a key player in Brazil's cultural history over the last fifty years, having produced one of the most numerous and noteworthy sets of artworks in public spaces in the city of São Paulo. She has earned distinction as the artist who has participated the most times in the Bienal de São Paulo, having moreover won numerous national and international awards in the fields of the visual arts and scenography.
On the other hand, there doesn't exist any personality more aloof from the formalities, more distant from the officialisms, more against the established order than Maria Bonomi, an eternal teenager who with unflagging energy and creativity reinvents herself at each moment, producing a constantly migrating oeuvre with a cartography that spans from the experiences of metropolises like São Paulo and New York to those of Chinese culture and Amazonian nature, committed to nothing except experimentation as an ethical worldview.
However, as the museum is charged with the task of constructing the artistic memory, the exhibition Maria Bonomi. Gravura Peregrina [Maria Bonomi. Peregrine Printmaking] is indeed an homage to an oeuvre pulsing with vitality and desire, aiming to assign this oeuvre to its rightful and merited place in history, within the best tradition of Brazilian art.
For this honorable and challenging task - given that the complexity of Maria Bonomi's work hinders any linear reasoning or unidirectional reflection - we have relied on the indispensable collaboration of Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo, Haron Cohen and Walter Silveira in the show's curatorship and design, and the development of the video-installations, respectively. Without their competence and dedication, this undertaking could not have achieved any degree of success. The production of the exhibition also relied on the precious contribution of Maria Helena Peres Oliveira. To these four go our greatest and warmest thanks.
Last but not least, we must acknowledge our gratitude to Maria herself for allowing us this opportunity to collaborate in the preservation of an oeuvre which places us, at each moment, before the fascinating course of human nature.
Marcelo Mattos Araujo
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Maria Bonomi. Peregrine Printmaking
Every exhibition is a construction on various levels.
It is an open field of observation for the public, which is invited to think in light of the artworks.
The production of this hardworking artist, Maria Bonomi, who has been creating art for more than fifty years now, does not fit any linear script or simple narrative. First of all, because the logic of artistic production cannot be confused with the functional flow of the visitors through the exhibition space. Nor does it conform to the chronological and biographical order of an artist’s career.
Works of art result from the densification of experience. And the time of their elaboration involves transformations, superimposings, and fresh approaches to old problems based on new perspectives, reversions to previous outlooks, and advances. Only by transforming the museum into a laboratory can we catch sight of the freedom with which Maria Bonomi plays with and handles her work, her outer and inner life.
For Maria it is always time to play. Symbolic games wherein landscapes constructed by the gaze encounter inner places. Interplays of the senses brought about at the moment of providing the outlines of the form, at the moment of its printing. It is the time of moving, of shifting, of changing position, displacing, transposing the technique of printmaking to other materials and supports. A time of playing with and sabotaging the rules of the game.
Just as Maria plays with the printing matrix, she plays with words. The titles she chooses do not prescribe the artworks, they converse with them.
Maria Bonomi carries out important changes of orientation in printmaking’s discursive regime, and this exhibition seeks to shed light on these strategies. The print seen horizontally. The growth of the engraved print and its transposition to the vertical. The artwork thrown into the continuum with the real. The world of the simulacrum. The world of the reproduction. The construction of art continuously under construction.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo, 2008
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
A Xilo, O Isso, Da Xilo, O Aquilo
In Maria Bonomi’s experience, the print’s central content derives, above all, from the introspective moment in which she explores the material. Abstracted from the outer world, experiencing herself, in the act of making/doing.
It is not based on a drawing to be reproduced, but rather on an idea to be explored. With a sketch in mind and a tool in her hand, she confronts the material. Her great adventure is not to place scratches on the surface, but rather to open gaps of whiteness in an action of removal.
Opening the wood, cutting it, marking it, making grooves in it... it is enough to inflict pain. Often, the gesture itself already bears the expressive content, the energy of the incision, the movement of the hand. Beyond the figures depicted, it presentifies the process, the action of engraving.
Woodcut has precise implications in Bonomi’s artistic path. The outcome is not readily apparent, it requires a candid gesture. It presupposes the double view of who can look at what is here and see what is to come: acting in the here and now, while thinking about the final, printed result.
Traditional printmaking opens a way for the transport of figures and the exploration of transitive images.
Maria Bonomi brings about important changes in orientation within the spatial and discursive regime of the print. The small-scale work of manual graphics, traditionally exhibited horizontally on a table, gave way to the large-scale print, brought into a vertical position on the wall. She did not limit herself to mastering the manual skills involved. She invented tools, she articulated mechanisms of impact.
The size of the matrix grew when Maria began working in the architectural and urban space.
The matrix – a word which alludes to mater [mother] and the maternal womb, the place where something is engendered, created – became more significant in the process, to the point of becoming, itself, the protagonist. Maria dedicated herself to the sculpted matrix, the articulated matrix, preparing the wooden form to modulate the concrete and to construct cadenced surfaces.
Maria’s sensibility was deeply marked by the language of woodcut, whose effects have extended to other ways of printing and forming images. Besides removing grooves in the wood to then transfer them to paper, she manipulates the lithographic stone, masters the metal, experiments with the process of silkscreen. She invents vehicles for the transfer of figures, applying herself to the endless transfer and overlaying of signs. She is able to take advantage of the shapes of natural bodies, of ready-made and found objects, which appear pressed onto moldable material.
She reveals inverted forms, turning them inside out, she shows the indentations, the hollows. On the other side of the printmaker exists the sculptor, who begins with the carving of wood and applies herself to the printing of metal in low relief. Without aiming at the volume, she works on the surface between fullnesses and emptinesses.
Maria Bonomi derives meaning from action. Her work requires special attention to the procedures linking the matrix with the print, the form with the counterform.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
The Postwar Generation
Maria arrived as a child to postwar Brazil, coming from Italy. In the 1950s, when printmaking became an experimental field, she learned to use the engraver’s tools under Livio Abramo. This valuable tutelage included instruction on the economical use of the means of woodcut, in order to express the sincerity of the register pertaining to each of the five basic tools. To wit: the line opened by the burin, the section opened by the knife, the surface removed by the chisel, the signs of the U-shaped burin and of the V-shaped burin. After her training in the masterful use of the woodcut tools, in 1956 Maria’s engraving displayed the geometric order and rigor of cubist practice, treated on the extension of the paper.
In 1957, during a stay in New York, she encountered the vigor of full-fledged abstract expressionism, which was manifested not only in large-format painting, but in North American engraving. The guidance of Western engraver Seong Moy, at Pratt Institute, and the printmaking of Adja Yunkers can summarize her close contact with the new artistic values during that year.
Abstract expressionism would offer her freer, less-controlled gestures, authorizing the language of the unconscious. In prints she made following her experience in New York, one notes a new light, with the effect of obfuscating and not revealing clearly. The labyrinth/landscape arises and we observe, in the name of a print from 1958, the use of the word “entangled.” Who, besides Pollock, could have effected this influence? The new fabric imagined by the artist consists of a complex interplay of facts and objects, meanings and ambiguities. And certain procedures in the printmaking process of Adolph Gottlieb caught her attention.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
Modern Architecture and Urban Space
The alliance between Bonomi and the modern architects arose through the use of reinforced concrete and the growing taste for apparent structure. It was as though the lines of the wooden construction frameworks already suggested the forms of the modeled concrete, as though the interplay of grooves and incisions in low relief had been naturally adopted by Maria. Throughout the architectural experiments, various solutions were found directly at the work site and not on the drawing board. She sought structural solutions for the walls. She interfered in the form and on the surface of the buildings, producing accidents, incisions and grooves on continuous extensions, animating, rupturing or instilling rhythms among the planes. Her contribution went far beyond the traditional illustrative panel that was previously installed over the architecture.
The image constructed on the building’s façade presupposes the passerby or observer in movement, and can be seen by everyone. Her work attained the public space and was multiplied by the number of passersby – in a correlation that the artist likes to establish with the size of the print run.
Bonomi’s works in grooved concrete stem from a complex spatial involvement, in which she explores positions of the viewer and plays with the orientations of the gaze. The aerial view of the rice paddies of Bengüet, in the Philippines, would appear inscribed in an extensive sculpture fringing the balcony around the spacious lobby of the Maksoud Plaza Hotel (1979), in São Paulo.
At the limit, she broke down the regular and orthogonal logic of the modernist forms. The artist broke the alignment of the planes and the continuity of the wall surrounding the garden of the Tufy Mamede Assy residence (1982) in São Paulo, to obtain the organic envelope of Parede Despetalada.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
The images come from far away. Extracted from the universe, their existence around the artist imbues them with meaning.
In her handling of the engraving, Maria produces images endowed with active characteristics. If man landed on the moon, in the 1960s, why not imagine the Acoplamento [Docking] of the spacecraft in outer space by means of the tangible contact between matrices, which land on the paper?
Increasingly, Maria was to go directly to the things, without an intermediate instance, as could be perceived previously in artworks sustained by the idea of the city or by the idea of political action. It is evident that she wishes to touch the things, the things per se, making them bearers of a meaning based on the artist’s own life experience.
The action, not the world, is the bearer of the meaning.
After the trip she took to China in 1974, her work evinced Oriental graphics as she confirmed her interest in the reduction of the media of language and in writing with ideograms. Como se fossem palavras [As Though They Were Words] (1975) is a graphic work elaborated in haiku style, in an interplay of combined matrices. The same matrices, in a different arrangement at each printing, without a register, yield a unique result.
New transformations spring from spatial interplays, based on the page/musical score of Oriental writing. Maria’s updating of the musical scores takes place through the displacement and overprinting of small matrices with diverse outlines, allowing for countless prints. Thus, the signs of oriental writing dance on the sheet of paper and create the version Tropicália (1994).
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
Artifice and Simulacrum
The reproduced and repeated image has the effect of obscuring the representation of reality.
When freed from its role as a tool for multiplying images, the matrix itself became another piece in series. The old woodblocks appeared molded in plastic resin, with a certain dose of humor, giving rise to artifices and simulacrums.
Maria Bonomi’s simulations sprang from the inversion of terms, with the generic name Solombras – borrowed from the vocabulary of Cecília Meireles. The pieces took on new prerogatives, taken as a support of light and destined for legitimate decorative use, in keeping with the 1970s trend that affirmed the aesthetic status of plastic and the industrial object.
Woodcut by incision reappeared in Maria’s work in the pattern of Pedra Robat [The Robat Stone] (1974). However, one can observe that in this case the inscriptions made in the wood evoke the forms and procedures of stonecutting. The work derives from the strong impression left by a jade stone seen in Beijing. The huge sculpted stone possessed the accumulated work of various generations of stonecutters.
Epigramas [Epigrams] are brief satirical poems that appear in the form of small objects cast in copper, aluminum and tin, starting in 1984. The metallic pieces denote the lexicons brought over from the repertoire of engraving in metal, inscribed by way of the gestures grooved into the clay molds that precede the casting of the metal.
As this was a period marked by the hybridization of the technical processes of artistic reproduction, by the freeing up and mixing of language resources, and by cultural blending, it is not surprising that the view of nature was able to exercise a reconstituting effect on the artist.
UNDER THE IMPACT OF AMAZONIAN NATURE
The experiences she obtained and the notes she took during her trip in 1973 were slowly distilled.
The dramatic tone conferred to her prints of Amazonia was owing in no small part to the fascination provoked by the inaccessible place, since the trip took place when the Brazilian government opened the controversial Trans-Amazonian Highway, built through the middle of the virgin forest, starting or ending at the banks of the Xingu River and kicking off the colonization of the huge green reserve.
In the Amazonian series: the solemn immensity of the measureless world.
The magnitude of the landscape provokes introspection, and the feeling of nature is allied with inner experiences. Maria’s work involves compacted organic material, formed by the action of physical forces. The forms are emblematic of the corrosive power of nature. She also produced Cabis, evoking the crestfallen men of the forest region.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
The artwork 7 horizontes [7 Horizons] emphasizes the direct display of the accumulated and sub-articulated material. Only substances and states previous to human interference, arranged in continuity with the real.
These resources accumulated in successive horizontal surfaces resemble strata and cross-sections of the landscape. They are like a set of soil substrata, with meanings that unfold among environmental and political aspects and immediately sensible values.
The resources of the universe take on symbolic value and are mobilized in the context of the artist’s experience as she recognizes them as raw materials for her work. She uses sand, gravel and other materials as pigments appropriated in fragments and transparencies, textures and rhythms. And – why not? – glimpsed in the beds of pebbles used for printing plates in print shops.
It is Maria who discusses the symbolic meaning of each element.
Ana Maria de Moraes Belluzzo
Maria Bonomi: Peregrine Printmaking
Maria Bonomi, or printmaking like a woman
It was about twelve years ago that I met Maria Bonomi; for nearly twelve years now I have closely followed her career and, above all, her unflagging passion for printmaking, especially relief engraving. Incredibly, despite their power, both have retained their simplicity, these being characteristics of the artist ever since her origins.
Maria Bonomi is a generous woman not only in her day-to-day life, but also in her art. An art that she conducts with enthusiasm and joy, exploring all the registers of woodcut (and lithography) with constantly renewed experimentation. Always expanding the possibilities offered by this field of creation, she oscillates continuously between prints delicately orchestrated by chromatic spectrums (her matrixes being reprinted in different directions and with different colors on the same print block) and a cultural proposal she imparts to her matrixes which she displays in public spaces in a variety of monumental productions.
It is essential to remember that this desire of Maria Bonomi’s to expand the traditional limits of printmaking is the expression of her wish to create links with the society that surrounds her, and to communicate with the people that compose it. With this aim, as a channel of shared expression, Maria Bonomi set herself a challenge: propose to the users of the São Paulo subway system that they become creators of this 73-meter-long concrete matrix, incorporating into its making a wide range of personal objects furnished to the artist by the users of Luz Subway Station.
Maria Bonomi’s visual-arts approach is composed of multiple facets: by means of her permanent contact with the material that she attacks and grinds away in an essentially organic and sensorial gesture, her matrixes give rise to rhythms that vibrate sensually and profoundly as an echo of graphic joy; and to this lyric approach the artist has moreover coupled a civic and humanitarian dimension that has found its clear expression in various creations of public art.
Catherine de Braekeleer, May 2008
Director of the Centro de Gravura e de Imagem Impressa [Center for Printmaking and the Printed Image]
She has taken print-making out of office spaces and imbued it with a presence compatible with and integrated to the scale of modern and contemporary architecture - a sort of counterpart to the billboard.
Her works constitute large impressions of geometric forms in tension, juxtaposed as tracks, as conductors of energy and drives, as vibrating mechanisms or mechanisms in motion. This is an oeuvre that articulates intelligence and sensibility. It reconciles the crudeness and the direct communication of great blocks of cut and tinted wood with the delicate impression of elaborate color combinations on rice paper - a fragile, feminine support which evoked the oriental graphic tradition. Maria Bonomi's prints represent a moment of radical affirmation of these medium in contemporary art, a breaking of boundaries, for they carry East and West within them, masculine and feminine, balance and unbalance.
Ivo Mesquita, 2005.
PINACOTECA: 100 Anos: Destaques do Acervo.
São Paulo, Prêmio, 2005.
It is no longer possible to think of making a work in the quiet of your own room and give it to a collector, for instance, who will just look at it. l have suddenly grown very close to certain people who are seeking the dream of coexistence. l do not believe that the development of art occurs in any way other than through public art. l believe it is the only way. Public art, collective art. Of course you cannot take a work from the studio, put it in the middle of a square and say it is public art. It isn't, because it wasn't conceived for that place.
We can no longer continue to contemplate our navels, especially not in Brazil, where we coexist with tragedy. Let us not pretend that we are an elite, educated audience, painting its watercolors and experiencing its glorious memories of the week of 22. It just isn't possible.
I shared that space on three levels. And then I entered the memory of the Estacao da Luz and one hundred years’ worth of lost objects. I had access to the archives and I represented them in the panel. Thousands of people worked with me, engraved those objects. There are dentures, frogs, roots, wheelchairs bridal veils, you name it. A world — all of it recovered and symbolized. The next step in the work that guided the Epopéia Paulista [Sao Paulo Epic] will lake place ln a house that stands in front of the Tom Jobim music school, a house that was once a large, three-story whorehouse and will become a studio housing ten artists a year, live from the interior and ﬁve from the city of Sao Paulo, who will do visual work on the immediate environment of that location. It is important that they live together there. It ls important that people be attracted to something that cannot he found everywhere - the extraordinary.
Nowadays, art must be political. And it is a politics of art. And we must not be late. The whole world is doing this — it has grown aware of the debt. We cannot exclude people from their own sensibility or deny them means of finding themselves [or one another] on another level. Even if they choose other things, they must be given the opportunity. It's like having access to health, to hygiene, to literacy.
I know of events that cost more than a library, or more than a public art work both of which are things that truly bring about transformation. The concept of events consumes a great deal or money in a poor country where we should be doing things that we do not manage to do. In my opinion, we ought to have less events and more cultural facts. Funds should be allocated to things that stay, to efforts for making things happen physically and permanently. To leave the cultural-ephemeral for the cultural-substantial a situation that might even include the ephemeral, but not the ephemeral alone. I am terribly afraid of ephemeral culture, which seems to something of a trend in Brasilia today. Let us put on great festivals. And what then? What next? Why not, then, have more long-running shows and more theaters? Why is there no funding for libraries, orchestras and long seasons of popular concerts? Where can we talk about these things? ...Over the internet? Where shall i be heard? Such tremendous contradictions are hard to digest. There is is Brazil that has turned its back on Brazil. And it is the cultural Brazil. We know It in our bones. As individuals we have the ability to move beyond what are doing if the institutions were doing their part.
Maria Bonomi, 2005.
SKIN OF THE CITY
Bodies are cities and cities are bodies. A possible reading of this body transposed onto lines of red sand, upon an asphalt surface, with sheets of clay that gather the marks of history and everyday life as faithfully as possible: sheets of clay that are disseminated on the body upon which marks are engraved like some transaction between the interiority and exteriority. Along with photographic and verbal capture, they make up this urban score that unfolds - as it passes - through streets, houses and neighborhoods. That text deals with memory, not the competition of great battles but of small daily metamorphoses: water meter lids, soda can pop tops embedded in asphalt, the Venetian mosaics of New Venice or even sewer drains. I followed the process by which Brazilian artist Maria Bonomi recreated her contact with this city she loves and welcomed in the Clay Biennials.
Weaving the many threads of these feelings, Maracaibo left marks on her that she wanted to print with materials, that were both typical and readily available. By resorting to her senses, along with artists from her working crew, she was able to smell, touch, and feel skin and textures through the use of touch, the most immediate sense.
Maria confessed to me that the contact between bodies and cities cannot be completely defined by words or figuration or realism. The many threads that make up the sensitive network of lines accommodate themselves to the mesh of current or original figures. Figures that must be looked at from the highest ground (as in Nazca) with geometries that are reminiscent of pre-Hispanic abstractions, that meld in subterranean asphalt passages the odor of which tinge the environment, like that of the city itself, making us see all this beyond what is contained within our urban contemporaneousness.
Victor Fuenmayor, 2004.
FUENMAYOR, Victor. “Piel de la Ciudad”.
In: V Edición Barro de América. Maracaibo,
Centro de Arte de Maracaibo Lía Bermudez, dic. 2004.
However, she is not attracted by the speed of lithographic execution; she transfers the nervous gestures of action painting to the woodcut with totally original results. The black stain of the matrix on paper and the white stains of the incisions on the matrix, which at times have the freedom of a drip painting, create complex yet controlled structures. The next period begins in 1963, with the Situações [Situations] and culminates in the Paris and Munich exhibitions of 1967; smooth wooden slats used as matrixes, by juxtaposition, brilliant colors, the prints gain the wall, competing with the visual impact of paintings. The new scale is deﬁnitely acknowledged; it devours that of the poster and the intention of an art for the multitude becomes implicit. This does not occur out of mere ideological demand
but by virtue of a coherent evolution, over the course of a decade that represents a trajectory uncommon in the recent art of this country.
The panels in concrete are born from that: Maria Bonomi ﬁnds in them a point of fusion between her “public prints" and brutalist architecture - a fusion already intuited by Artigas, who put a Bonomi print on the ramp to the FAU-USP building.
Apparent concrete becoming the support for a new type of print, accentuates its sculptural nature. Print-making reaches the limit of its unfolding in space. It is an important chapter in the relationship between art and urbanism in São Paulo.
Lorenzo Mammi, 2004.
MAMMI, Lorenzo. Maria Bonomi.
São Paulo, Centro Universitário Maria Antônia,
29 abr./13 jun. 2004.
PRINT-MAKING AS POLITICAL ACTIVITY
One need only look at the works of Maria Bonomi currently on exhibition at the Tetraz show in order to be certain that Brazilian engraving contains the paths that lead us to a forgotten identity.
They are four medium-sized works along panels or photographs and accumulations [piles?] of beaten earth, symbolizing everything from the disarray of progress to man's negligence towards Mother Nature. At one point, the spectator is even encouraged to thrust a knife into one of the mounds. Murder or resurrection, it does not matter: the link between the most rational of beings and his habitat must be immediately
The sinuous quality of Maria Bonomi's works immediately establishes a dialogue with various schools of Brazilian print-making over the course of decades. It therefore allows for the recollection of its ascendancy and the identity spaces inscribed within its grooves and silences.
Both the works on exhibition at the Tetraz and those which make up her fine and vast oeuvre, the works of Maria Bonomi always bear the emblem of her ascendancy and her commitment to volume, rhythm and —why not?— narrative — are redolent of the finest Brazilian print-making.
The way she centers objects or subjects in her compositions; the surroundings she uses as supports: abrupt cuts, as in shot sequences; plus the silences or densities that are part of the narrative - these components generate a work at once contemporary and rich in dialogue with the tradition.
The Tetraz works abound in smiles and in the construction of kinetic planes. They contain references to a rural universe and its knife and blade imagery, even as it plays with the reﬂections and rhythms suggested by the theme.
Outstanding print-maker that she, Bonomi does not abandon that which moves the support and has proven to be both indignant and politically committed, in her own sophisticated way- a mindset that has long since vanished from Brazilian painting - currently almost always reflecting a truly aseptic view of the world.
Miguel de Almeida, 2003
ALMEIDA, Miguel de. “A Gravura como Ação Política”.
Gazeta Mercantil, São Paulo, 15, 16, 17 ago. 2003.
FRUSTRATION FOR LEONARDO DA VINCI ANDECSTASY FOR MARIA BONOMl
Despite the distance between periods as diverse as those of the Renaissance and contemporary art, certain technological, operational and artistic challenges remain the same.
Born in 1452, Italian Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest geniuses in the entire history of mankind. At the age of 46, under the protection of Sforza, the Duke of Milan, he deemed the occasion auspicious tor sculpting a horse that would be the pride of an entire dynasty and - the monumentally challenging molded sculpture of clay overlaid onto an iron structure, pressed through a plaster mold into bronze.
Traditionally, the horse's matchless physical strength and the beauty of the animal at a gallop have symbolized transportation (of man and news), sportsmanship and even automobiles.
Yet history was cruel to the illustrious da Vinci, for the French destroyed the bust of the horse after they invaded Milan in 1499.
Leonardo later painted his most famous works, including The Adoration of the Magi, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. However, accounts of the day point out that, from the day his equestrian statue was destroyed, the artist's expression became a somber one. Not even the welcome given him by the French court, as one of its most recent proteges, was able to do away with his melancholy and he died in the arms of King Francis I of France at the age of 67.
Maria Bonomi, on the contrary, started her artistic career over again at the age of 67 with the physical vigor of a twenty-year-old woman and the intellectual and creative maturity of her true age. Currently celebrating 55 years of hot artistic career, dating from the first award she received In 1947, the artist produces an intriguing modality of Public Art, one which may be defined, in the history of Brazilian Art, as new, unexpected and unknown within this segment of work that relates the art object with the graphic arts and three-dimensional expression.
A Few months ago, Maria Bonomi received a challenging invitation from one of the most dynamic Brazilian companies in the economic-ﬁnancial register and information sector - they wanted her to transform the "Ginete" trophy (20,0 x 16,0 x 4,0 cm), originally commissioned in 1994 by that same institution which now makes her the invitation as an award for financial system leaders. The proposition is to transform the small Ginete into a colossal work, whose new dimensions are four meters and forty centimeters in height, three meters fifty centimeters length and ten centimeters width. Actually, for a sculpture, these measurements would not be so extravagant, out for the work as created by the artist, yes.
The Ginete brings horse and horsemen well accommodated within an abstract figuration that composes the external identiﬁcation of these two elements in a wild gallop. From this perspective, the work in question is a sculpture; however, the common deﬁnition of full relief is that of a three-dimensional work that may be observed from any point of view.
Maria Bonomi Ginete was not designed to be viewed from all perspectives, only from the front and the back for, seen from the sides, it resembles a crumpled leaf or misshapen plastic and the forms lose definition, the volume sometimes times increasing to a maximum measurement of 1,10m, at other times to the thickness of a mere 15cm. A discrepancy that challenges any imagination, for one sees the front and back of the horse and the horseman yet, it seen from a side view, they disappear in a ﬂash. They are just an excuse for the use of their forms and external contours which, in this particular creation, are small groups of prints.
As for the engravings in clay, there is the violence at the tools in a flux of energy outside normal patterns because Maria Bonomi works with an expressive power as if she were telling us that every minute will be the last and we must take advantage of time, speed and the density of the forms of everyday life. This dynamics which is characteristic of her led the work in clay to be executed in a month and a half (weekends included) of almost non-stop labor. All this energy worried Antonio de Nobrega Filho who procured a safer scaffold and tied the artist to the marquee, despite her protests, Maria Bonomi worked so intensely that, when she finished, her entire body was covered with bruises and scratches.
The tools she uses go beyond the traditional repertory of sculpture and wood cut engraving. New work instruments were created exclusively for the Ginete and, with the help of specialized toolmakers, she constructed a veritable "arsenal" made up of computer pieces (the same ready-made procedure of the old Heróika print of the 1970's), stonecutters' tools with specially invented indentations, wooden cylinders (which produce an effect similar to that of wood block printed on paper with a u-gouge) and -- most bizarre and intriguing of all -- the use of rods carved at their extremities with a woodcut to provide texture and scoop out the clay. How exactly did she avail herself oi a wood block matrix to produce a new print‘? A procedure of lhis kind is revolutionary because it is a meta-creation, in other words, a creation of the creation. From this point on, might it be discrepant to institute he term a print of a print?
It is difficult to describe a work edified by some many disparate tools, instruments and objects used in formal compositional constructions, deconstructions and reconstructions which form a digital network digital and give sense and meaning to the whole.
What other contemporary artist has this know-how and similar attitudes?
Art History has in this artist parameters which should be studied most attentively.
The belief that a work of art can both highly pleasing and playful was demystified in the execution of the work in question, which should have been accomplished in a few months and stirred and mobilized the minds and bodies of a team of 31 individuals, not counting the artist herself.
Architect Rodrigo Velasco did the preliminary calculations for the foundation so that, in the first hangar [shed?] Otaviano Vila Nova Lima might weld the iron structure so that it would support the clay. The artist idealized and requested the confection of tools that were executed and adapted by José Foltran and Jairo Battaglia. The latter individual animated [?] and articulated the men who prepared the clay, including Wilson dos Santos Ribeiro, José Nilton Pereira dos Santos Filho and the helpful Manuel Jose de Oliveira who, once Maria's work was done, prepared the plaster and the plaster molds with Marco Antonio Pedrassa and Leandro Ribeiro da Silva, who did the ﬁnal cleaning. Antonio de Nóbraga Filho was the catalyst who interacted with the artist and accompanied the entire process from the "clay-Ginete" to the "plaster-Ginete" and the “aluminum-Ginete".
The "plaster-Ginete" (which is the mold transposed aluminum) had to be transported to a large, traditional foundry located in the city of Piracicaba in the interior of Sao Paulo. Because this operation was so delicate, transportation required some twenty trips by the diligent Olimpio Femandes.
At the foundry, the next procedure involved an 8mm thick silicone treatment at the 22 plaster mold made layer by layer with the patient brushstrokes of Luiz Eduardo dos Santos and Benedito Elias Martins. The following stage was the silicone pressed into sand molds (which resembled the shells used in the ﬁlm Cocoon) with compressed air, molded by Pedro Cesar Vitti, Fabio Augusto Forti and Luiz Eduardo dos Santos, and made to withstand the heat of melted aluminum. In the foundry, the battalion of men running around with their heavy buckets of "white gold" (the aluminum) towards the "cocoons" and the pouring of the silvery lava evoked a science nation film in which only the costumes and tense, expressions of the sweaty workers brought us back to reality. The brave “men of ﬁre“ included Adalberto Luis Vicola, Alexandre Lulz dos Santos, Ezequiel da Silva Nascimento, Fabio Augusto Forti, Halul Thales Lucas, Jose Elias do Amaral, Luiz Eduardo dos Santos, Luiz Alberto dos Santos, Luiz Ronaldo Pinto, Pedro Cesar Vitti and Vanderlei A. Mariano Corrêa. After the"cocoons" were destroyed, each piece of the "aluminum-Ginete" was born from them. welded and structured internally by Moises Francisco and Paulo Cesar F. Borges.
At this point, the piece weighed a ton and a half and required fifteen men for lifting; it was the first time that the Ginete stood on its own. Everyone feared that it might fall over; ropes were loosened bit by bit and misgivings soon replaced by looks of satisfaction as horse and horseman stood imposingly and perfectly balanced; only the artist seemed tense and uneasy.
Could it have been the monumental weight or the work which took her by surprise at that moment or was it the shock of seeing the product of her imagination materialized in the metal engravings?
Finally, because welded aluminum is quite delicate and always leaves some after-effect or imperfection (erasure of textures), Maria Bonomi and Antonio do Nóbrega Filho supervised the reconstitution of Nivacir Aparecido Paiva and Josue Pedreira Feitosa reajustes, in the last passage, there was a polish by Luiz Aparecido Rigo, Paulo Cesar F. Borges, Reginaldo Aparecido Pedro and Anderson Aparecido C. de Oliveira; following which there was a new hand polish and the metal was given a protective bath by Ezequiel da Silva Nascimento, Adelson Lopes da Silva and Luiz Eduardo dos Santos.
The horse possesses the optical effect of kinetics, the real movement provoked not only by the perspective from each angle (Renaissance tradition) but, because of the textures and engraved grooves which, despite the grouping, fight amongst themselves to direct the spectator's gaze in many different directions. In this optical "seesaw", even when one is standing before the work one has the labyrinthine sensation of movement.
Because it was always more concerned with making painting and graphic design imitate movement by using distortions obtained through a play of different dimensions, colors, traditional perspective and, in most works, the use of geometry, the principles of the much-expired Kinetic Art of the twentieth century never quite arrived at this stage of development. Other varieties or Kinetic Art have used machines, motors and wind to move paintings, prints, sculptures and objects (mobiles) and allow the public to participate in the works by handling them.
Maria Bonomi is a medium unto herself, to wit an agent of her own media which (in this case) is virtual, kinetic, three-dimensional and graphic, and communicates by flash prints grouped together onto a sculptural support.
The horse's gallop is a great as the leap made by Maria Bonomi and the artistic rituals of her own design.
The "Ginete" carries within it the soul or Brazilians who pull together to do their best so that the country can progress despite countless uncertainties.
Marcela Matos Nhedo, 2002.
THE IMMATERIALITY OR MATERIALITYOF ENGRAVING
Our point of view is that prior to and beyond all boundaries there is a “graphic philosophy" that organizes the graphic "idea" and already contains the elements that will conﬁgure the image, whether it be two-dimensional, electronic, plane, progressive, subliminal, etc.
This “previous” graphic philosophy is totally ﬂexible and encompassing and incorporates the most varied mediums, whether traditional or contemporary - fixed, movable or volatile images that will always possess a graphic nature. This is what we have explicitly noticed in our survey of the evolution of work presented at the most important triennials and biennials in the field (Prague, Ljubljana, Krakow, Sapporo, Tokyo, etc) when the concept or title of print clearly unfolds and takes on new designs.
Perhaps the indication of a graphic poetics as a way of defining contemporary procedures is more appropriate to the present day. What we are seeking to emphasize is that it is the idea at the generating base which prevails of the media. It is the graphic project and product in and of itself. The idea is the matrix and vice verse.
The tendency towards a strong division between the paths of the search of Contemporary Printmaking and Traditional Printmaking has become palpable, but we can affirm that it is above all because of an intentional resistance through lack of knowledge or preventive insecurity, both on the part of the practitioners and of the enjoyers, than because of a real and true factual antagonism, in reality, the tradition is recreated at each moment because tradition runs through history endlessly, as an accumulation or knowledge and even of necessary precepts that impregnate the entire act of print-making, as well as the foundation for all discourse that supports the language of Prints, in all the essence of expressive processes and systems. Our artistic testimony is true, but theoretically quite delicate because it is base don the last forty years we have been experiencing this perennial mutation of the mediums of print-making.
lt endures in spite of the inﬁnite appearances with which it happens.
It ls incredible to verify that in the schools, from print-making centers specialized in research or in the universities (where advanced studies take place) such, for example, Masashino Art University in Tokyo, Japan, the print-making course lasts four years and an additional two until post-graduation. The teaching of drawing lasts only one year and other techniques take up the remaining years.
Experimental possibilities such as photography and all the electronic, cybernetic trends as well as virtual, tri-dimensional or otherwise as they apply to print-making are studied as a parallel sequence, legitimate expansions of the graphic work. Nowadays inﬁnite possibilities of the graphic field are already accessible in school because of the diversity available through multimedia.
The "work" of the future that subverts all mediums of artistic expression is, was and shall always be present as a practical option in the graphic arts. it should be noted here that, historically, print-making has never been a frivolous or superficial activity because it is qualitatively impossible to practice any of its special manifestations without a strong technical foundation or background. Nor can it exist without a strong creative component that permeates and guarantees the creation of the image that characterizes it.
Therefore, it is that Print-making of the past that always renews itself like a force in expansion.
The Print has not moved in a straight line, but in all directions, fully at ease in conquering the territory of multi-media, where it can be exercised with great passion, with no loss as to its legitimacy, continuing to be characterized by the highly relined gesturality and contents of its particular and personal repertory of ideas. Naturally, all this is supported by an intelligent imagination in which technical knowledge coordinates a creative exercise and the meaning that grows out of it.
Print-making has absorbed the rise of new media and the constant transformation of the world that surrounds us and above all has thematized the dissemination or the great discoveries whether scientiﬁc or technological. The print-makers have placed themselves in the position of veritable reviewers and narrators of conceptual transformations. At their root. The inﬁltration of new meanings inside and outside institutions, new humanistic postures, human and artistic crises, the omnipresence of non-art and art (for what has ceased to be painting, for what has ceased to be sculpture), the profound human need for expression, resulted in Contemporary Engraving. The tate of Print-making is to articulate impulses towards transcendence. True print-makers (one need only do a statistical search through the Triennials of the last nine years) led us to the most varied accomplishments and valuable poetic messages.
Within the theme of “The Quest for Identity of Printed Image within its Boundaries" it would appear to me to be a matter of some urgency lo interrupt the criticisms that have been made of new techniques and new trends as being no longer print-making. All of this leads us to conclude that the printed image transcends its own materiality; it is, ﬁrst and foremost, an idea; autonomous visual cosmology that can exist independently of conditioned, outdated forms, extrapolating their limitations, making and re-making themselves at every step in renewed bodies of poetic messages through pure attunement with the contemporary pulse.
Not by chance but intentionally, here in the city of Kafka we use one of his parables as the basis for our analysis, our "question", our description of what Prints are today. They are a living presence, yet a being who possesses two adversaries, the first one pursues him from behind at his roots and the second blocks his path forward and his future, and this being ﬁghts against both. In fact, what oppresses him from behind is the same force that is projecting him forward and, similarly, the barrier ahead of him is the one that gives him strength to ﬁght what is behind him. Print-making has always changed by prevailing over all of its conceptual and/or technical adversaries through the force of its cannibalistic nature which adds and makes use of all the available means of expression that would guarantee its essential nature. The essential print would be one whose osmotic mental and manual process possesses the ability to adapt and guarantee its survival and infinite reproduction (or multiplication) through "copies" or by those who enjoy them.
We therefore believe in a philosophy of print-making and that this philosophy is what renders any of its procedures legitimate.
Thus, the art of print-making is always "in progress" and in process, whether through computer technology, projection, installations or mixed media; unlimited by technology or materials. It may be deﬁned and developed beyond its means of transmission as a position, an idea, a search, a trend that is not retained in expressive circumstances but which precedes its material realization.
Working in progress, it is previous as the generating impulse of visuality by a permanent expressiveness. The print may he deﬁned as a free thought not through its materially, but because of its residual memory.
We might also extend what schools do, when they objectively propose the ideal of a new "teaching of print-making" to stimulate and develop graphic thinking beyond the mechanics of graphics, developing attitudes that already exist, seeing as how it is they who endure and the times. The act of engraving lost in the sum of recipes and experiments that are only materialized in a work are not print-making proper but, ﬁrst and foremost, a palpable idea in transit.
Throughout the ages, the Print exists has always existed as an idea; it does not need so-called materiality in order to exist, it may be applied or subjacent to any artistic idiom. This immateriality of the print has been its most Constant feature, in all the generations that practiced the graphic expression of ideas. It might even be said that its realization is secondary. Thus it was decodiied by the work of countless scholars and artists who clearly attempt to predict the future of print-making. We might raise the question of what the future philosophy of Print-making holds for it is guaranteed that print-making already supports and feeds 90% of contemporary art, it we consider the idea and process of print-making as a project by its intrinsic nature, therefore something (for a project is always a form of writing) that promotes varied readings, that rules and conﬁgures the work in its previous moment, that may even imagine itself as a drawing but is not exactly a drawing.
The logic of graphics proposes a priori insides and outsides which precede a limiting situation. For example, when the drawing "of the idea" is fed into a computer or a two-dimensional matrix or three-dimensional space, the proposition as product is exterminated.
Drawing is a "moment" of this idea, it is a first stage of the ﬁxation, a circumstantial record the result of which is the print itself.
What, then, can we say or the Print‘s visibility on the pages of the internet (all or parts of which may be reproduced), in projections or reliefs or in installations generated by the proposition and fruition of graphic concepts. Countless artists reflect the philosophical trajectories of print-making.
Whether virtually or solidly, they propose to multiply images through linear readings or in volumes that have been re-shaped or reconstructed.
There would be no point in mentioning any names for that would be limiting.
By this token, the graphic image is accomplished by inﬁnite variants as it reveals contemplation that are always based on an emotion substantiated by a graphic idea.
I believe that the future will bring new mediums, the quality at which shall always be determined by the philosophy of print-making.
What we mean to say is that a graphic philosophy precedes materiality, remaining and expanding. A tapestry achieved by the weaving at thousands of stitches or a send and plaster print of waves on an ocean beach are part of a universe in which the philosophy of printmaking is predominant, the source of which exists e posteriori and not a priori.
There are universal aspects of print-making that are identiﬁed with an expression of achievement, of print-making of thinking that is not material.
It might be said that conflicts between material and idea are the very essence of the Work. The trajectory or the realization is the work, the print, as a consequence. This may sound paradoxical and disturbing but it is true. In any event, to "protect" is to transpose outwards something from within ourselves, so that our very action is already a second "movement", given that the first one is inside our minds. As a result, the print refers to the visible world as perceived by the retina or through the sense of touch, but as a concept, as an Idea, it is totally concluded within our minds. This means that when we work with electronic or other types of media we "hunt" down the mental matrix, so to speak, by using the same residues of image-memory or technical memory that we have already transposed onto a third support as materiality, a materiality only for the retina that may never make it into print or disseminated except through the phenomenon of perception.
Thus, making a print is ﬁrst and foremost having an idea as a graphic idea and possessing graphic values that precede its materiality.
And - who knows? - Someday we may even be able to do without materiality.
Maria Bonomi, 2001.
BONOMI, Maria. A Imaterialidade ou Materialidade
da Gravura. Praga, set. 2001.
The print-maker who, like us, processes the time and space of his graphic ideas, is privileged by the contemporary. The nature of his language has always belonged to the habit of lengthy technical investigations, the acute and disciplined observation of "related" or emergtng media generating quick responses to the constant crisscrossing of information. He s no longer an isolated being who illustrates or reproduces for a majority to inform, he is ahead of things, predicating visual behaviors through his own availability to the unexpected. It is easy to propose new forms of coexistence and familiarity to him without having to divest oneself of one's previous visceral universality. [...] The
print-maker is the artist who nourishes what he wants to say fundamentally with the way of saying it.
[...] For the print-maker, any conﬂicting or multifaceted overview of the contemporary moment (in which mere perception renders every daily phenomenon susceptible to becoming a poetic act or an artistic product) is only a matter of choice or the desire "to be creative" in the medium of one‘s choice. As soon as the technology (or even the "academy") has been mastered, one's education is soild.
No familiarity greater than that of the print-maker to understand what Joseph Beuys called a "broad concept of art" in which both work and author are atomized and the sacredness of artistic territory is thus disassembled, from the support (which becomes inﬁnite) to the way of showing the work, in other words, until the museological reformulation or until it is reformulated by galleries, exhibitions and so on - all this with tremendous vitality and inaugurating uses that are being totally reconditioned by the print.
It is both extremely healthy and discerning to realize that print-making deals simultaneously with opposite situations. From ex-libris to installation, print-making has been expanding its boundaries to myriad different supports. This art without a place has a place, a single artist to create everything that is distinguishable as art, his art, in order to maintain our “ground wire" (and some artists have done just that) we produce a "prescription", a printed image, a recipe for how to repeat this in another piece for another public, in another situation and in another moment, especially when we are experiencing a great mistier of artistic origins and sources. [...] We who feel ever more freely and in a more “contemporary” way, working for the here and now, this work of art that is never repeatable even when it is serial; this is a quality, for it will never be the same, it will always be similar, bringing about the media game of transferring strategies that involve everything from the creative discourse itself to the consumption of the discourse itself.
I could not change my medium even if I wanted to, nor would I consider doing so. Even after 45 uninterrupted years of practice, to abandon print-making for another form of communication sounds catastrophic to me. The saturation of limited routines, the frustration of overused technique or monotonous, converging paths - none of those have ever befallen me. Print-making is a creative process in which invention, realization and execution are continually expanding. I have never thought of recycling trends, I just follow the inﬁnite, secret possibilities implicit at their center.
Verticalize, my friend! Try prolonging the time of the acid bath. Perhaps by drilling through the ground you will be able to extract vibrant, cyclical textures from a vein of coal running through some diagonal subterranean groove... That is engraving - to open domesticated eyes and direct them towards unlimited references to every manner of representation and inquiry. Always print-making.
Maria Bonomi, 2000.
Nothing in print-making is superﬂuous, nothing about it is banal. It is art destined tor the "soul's brain".
Since its beginnings, the uniqueness of the graphic idiom, the singularly expressive irreplaceable quality of its artistic universe has guaranteed its permanence and development. The expansion of its supports and instruments engendered its uninterrupted renewal as serial production and new iconography. What basically prevails is that true printmaking is not characterized merely
through the existence of a matrix or an image but by the presence of a repertory of ideas.
Maria Bonomi, 2000.
BONOMI, Maria (texto). I Bienal Argentina de Gráfica Latinoamericana.
Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional del Grabado,
26 sept. /26 nov. 2000. [Extracted from a text originally publishied in Spainish]
The ornament — a manifestation of composition as rhythm - exposes the artistic emotion in Maria Bonomi. Her research leads her to[large-scale] monumental compositions, in which the grooves are memorably used, and made perennial. For it is not the ﬁgure that matters, it is the rhythmic directions that the grooves construct. She has borrowed Livio Abramo's maxim to the effect that each line left by an instrument is a language; Maria Bonomi develops the rhythmic play of the line-groove as light, pulsating light, constructive light. Her early prints already reflect her interest in the groove and its use; in a Paris bienniel of the 1960s she insisted on exhibiting her prints on a wall, a place traditionally reserved tor paintings, therefore contradicting the common practice of table top exhibition. In questioning use, Maria Bonomi questions the measurements of engraving: nonetheless, the rhythmic geometric composition discusses scale more than it does dimension for, even in those that are printed in small formats, the composition leads this gaze outside the support.
The grooves are the invasion of matter, made palpable by the resistance that the engraver ﬁnds in and wich he overcomes. It is here that the emotion of print-making is best learned: in the grooves, Maria Bonomi declares her emotion at engraving, the matrix being the essential part of the print-maker's work. and the print itself no more than a derivate of the primitive act. The matrix can be made from wood or clay or any other material and, in turn, transferred onto the most varied supports such as paper, aluminum, polyester or concrete. To go from table to wall and from wall to concrete panel implies use, rendered concrete as a socialization of the work, dedicated lo the passerby. Like those of wood block prints, the grooves of the matrixes reproduced in concrete were made for a hotel lobby. With wooden slats and ropes, Maria Bonomi constructs the grooves of the Construção de São Paulo [Construction of Sao Paulo], a relief-print erected in one of the city's underground stations.
Leon Kossovitch e Mayra Laudanna, 2000.
KOSSOVITCH, Leon; LAUDANNA, Mayra. Gravura no Século XX.
In: Gravura. Arte Brasileira do Século XX.
São Paulo, Cosac & Naify/Itaú Cultural, 2000.