The fine color gradations that enliven the apparent chromatic uniformity of Adriana Varejao's Ruina de charque-Portugal (Jerked-beef ruin--Portugal) all works 2001, or the delicate mesh that furrows its surface, might seem to evoke the traditions of Minimalist or monochrome painting. It is thus tempting to discuss the Brazilian artist's work in terms of the history of modernism and the possible significance of its survival. A more attentive look, however, shows us that this not a strict exercise in abstract painting but rather the representation of a surfce clad in tiles. The painting, when it becomes a duplicate of the wall (or of the floor, as we see in another work in the series, Ruina de charque--Porto), creates a direct confrontation with the space that houses it and raises architectural issues, becoming something more like an installation.
In her recent exhibitions "Azuleja" (Big tile) in Rio de Janeiro and "Azule" (Big tiles) in São Paulo, Varejão lined gallery walls with canvases that functioned as enlargements of the panels a tiled wall. Their motifs were variations on those of traditional Portuguese tile work, which had considerable architectural and religious importance in the of the colonization of Brazil. In effect artist made anew wall and a new space inside the gallery. The same thing happened here with Parede (Wall), in which eighteen superimposed canvases of varing sizes gave the illusion of a simple dimensional painting on one flat support, thus playing with the function of the in an even more complex manner.
In Jerked-Beef Ruin--Portugal the lined space that Varejão's painting evokes is not a virtual space, neutral, separate the world. It brings to mind concrete situations: a butcher shop, a bar, a kitchen, a bathroom, or a hospital; social space, domestic space, intimate space--space in which the body must be contained protected, just as tiles protect a wall, which in turn defines the structure of a building. The objective would be to keep the body under cover, but Varejao suggests that it is impossible to hide the body. The lateral edge of the painted surfaces takes the of a large mass of meat that overflow limits of the painting, squashed between the front surface of the painting and wall or floor. The work emerges as an immense, monstrous sandwich of meat between two walls, one real, the off painted. The extraordinary presence of this mass of meat is the real point of works, the moment when our astonnishment and our excitement are registered, an intersection of scandal and fascin What is this meat? Where does it com, and from what is it doing here?
"Charque", according to the dictionary, means "a large slab of meat, salted, and sun-dried." Meat is the flesh of a body. Varejão's works, reference to stereotypes representations of the body often takes the form of a deconstruction of colonialist representations of subjugated peoples. In that sense, the meat is also, at a metaphorical level, the flesh of a spec social community: the subjugated populations of colonial and contemporary Brazil, in whose cultural forms bodily expression plays a prominent role (e.g., dance, music, Carnival). The presence of flesh thus becomes the expression of breadth of a history that can no longer be ignored, as well as of the irreducibility of personal experience.
Alexandre Melo, Artforum International