Since opening in Naples in January 2018, Thomas Dane Gallery has aspired to reflect the dynamism of the city and to be a space for collaboration and exchange. This September, the gallery hosts São Paulo’s Mendes Wood DM for Terra Trema—a group show featuring six artists working in Brazil: Paloma Bosquê, Anna Bella Geiger, Sonia Gomes, Patricia Leite, Solange Pessoa, and Leticia Ramos. Given its unique position, Naples becomes a fitting backdrop for the material richness of these artists—whose work includes painting, photography, sculpture, and film. By displacing a language of modernity in favour of sensorial practice, the legacy of Brazilian art is revisited in the framework of Naples.
The title of the exhibition refers to La Terra Trema—Luchino Visconti’s 1948 film loosely adapted from Giovanni Verga’s novel I Malavoglia (1881). Depicting a family of fishermen who live and work in Aci Trezza, Sicily, the film portrays the domestic struggles of social and economic mobility.
Bringing together an intergenerational selection of artists, Terra Trema spans a period from 1968 to 2019, with Bosquê and Leite exhibiting new work. Poetic processes of excavation and accretion—of personal and universal histories—meet an emphasis on materiality, whether geographic, photographic, or pictorial. The exhibition has been arranged in order to enhance experiential viewership, drawing attention to the works’ originality and connections.
Geiger scrutinises cartographic representation and its implicit structural control in works that inevitably reinforce the value of marginal viewpoints. Her films gesture toward transgression, Mapas Elementares No.3 (1976) for instance, becomes a visual poem which alludes to the conditions and myths attributed to cultures of Latin America. Pessoa’s display of soapstone sculptures (2013-2017), resemble large washed-up relics or archaeological artefacts. Her monochromatic oil on canvas works of amphibious, primordial, and anthropomorphic creatures appear as graphic compositions that preserve the formal qualities of her sculptures.
While Pessoa’s works recall early origins and the prehistoric life that populated such eras, Gomes’ precarious textile sculptures blend biographical and historical memory with intuitive materialisation. The singular sculptures of Bosquê focus on material evolution and ephemerality, using diverse materials such as: brass, felt, bronze, coal, gum rosin, beeswax, beef casing, craft paper, and coffee sieves. Bosquê’s incorporation of craft and handwork indexes her sculpture’s relation to the body, while the organic material and geometric forms bridge features of the Brazilian Neo-concrete movement with post-minimalist sensibilities
Ramos and Leite remain attentive to their medium’s respective materiality and historical legacy. For Ramos, principles of photography and its base material elements—light and paper—are used to experiment with methodology. Typically for Ramos, this involves utilising techniques appropriate for documentary photography and manipulating their application for more spectral outcomes. Her film, Não é difícil para um investigador da natureza simular os fenômenos (2018), documents a sequence of eruption simulations. In Leite’s paintings, which include new works on wood made specifically for the exhibition, her minimalist bucolic vignettes utilise a glancing perspective, rendering fleeting, almost naïve, visions from travels or videos; these sources externalise intimate experiences and tactile sensations.
The various sensibilities brought by the artists on show gives way to a compelling display. Terra Trema sheds light over the current production of art in Brazil while complicating any pre-conceptions one might have about what charactersises ‘Brazilian art’.