26.09.2018 — 10.11.2018

Since 1995, Sergio Vega has been working on an interdisciplinary art project called El Paraíso en el Nuevo Mundo, which is inspired by a book of the same title written in 1650 by Antonio de León Pinelo. Drawing on the burgeoning discipline of Natural History, Pinelo had set out to scientifically prove that the Garden of Eden was in South America. Embracing this idea, Vega has made several research trips to the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, detailing his adventures in a travel diary and later using this material to create a series of photographs, videos, dioramas and installations that explore how colonial discourses have been constructed in relation to the specific mythology of Paradise.

The works RocioSantaCruz is showcasing at the BGW 2018 – photographs, videos, installations and texts derived from the artist’s diary – constitute a reflection on the ambivalence of South American modernism – its excessive, baroque and paradisiacal dimension, which contrasts starkly with the minimalist purity of European modernism. Because of its strange exoticness, Vega coined the concept of “tropical modernism”, which also conveys the strident ideological implications and the power of the dominant political class as expressed in its architecture. The story of Genesis, colonialism, ideology and the sublime all become enmeshed in a fascinating reinterpretation of symbols and languages that offer a new angle on the controversial events that have marked South American history.

In the exhibition we will show photographs of domestic spaces and typical neighbourhoods with superimposed abstract geometric compositions; a series of collages in which objects and photos have been added to texts and pictures taken from books thereby creating surprising associations, and the video installation Genesis according to Parrots (La teoría del papagayo), which provides the testimonies of several parrots who witnessed the events that took place in the Garden of Eden. This installation consists of five screens showing the same 20-minute video at different intervals. It is an edition of three and the first is in the permanent collection of the Kiasma Museum in Helsinki. We will also show Modernismo Chamánico (Catedral, Ananá, Bossa Nova), 2016 (an earlier version was exhibited at the Museu de Arte do Rio in 2013). On a wall painted the same tone of bright yellow found in the Brazilian flag, Bossa Nova album covers share the space with black and white photographs of modernist architecture and detailed shots of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia, whose characteristic hyperboloid design was the work of the modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer. Nearby, a three-dimensional model of the building rotates continuously on an old record player.

The gallery thus becomes a unique installation where images, sounds, photography, architecture and nature organically integrate in a tropical modernist environment inspired by the legacies of Edward Steichen and Hélio Oiticica.

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