Tunga

Brazilian artist Tunga has died, aged 64

Tunga, one of Brazil's best known and important contemporary artists, died yesterday afternoon of cancer-related causes. He was 64.

Known for his work about the body and its relationship to its surroundings, his groundbreaking 1984 work Xifópagas Capilares (Siamese Hair Twins) was recreated at Frieze London 2015, while concurrently two of his galleries Franco Noero, Turin, and Luhring Augustine, New York, both showed retrospective presentations of the artist's work.  

To honour Tunga's career we revisit Brazilian curator, writer and Artistic Director of Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Adriano Pedrosa’s, wonderful review from frieze issue 48, of the artist's exhibition, 'Lúcido Nigredo', across Galeria Luisa Strina and Galeria Milan, São Paulo, Brazil in 1999.

1430995465_xifopogas20x25cm.jpg

Tunga, XIFÓPAGAS CAPILARES, 1984, black and white photograph, 25 x 34 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Galleria Franco Noero, Turin and Luhring Augustine, New York 

Tunga, Xifópagas Capilares, 1984, black and white photograph, 25 x 34 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Galleria Franco Noero, Turin and Luhring Augustine, New York 

'Lúcido Nigredo'
Galeria Luisa Strina and Galeria Milan, São Paulo, Brazil

Tunga's work is ultimately ungraspable. No matter how studiously and diligently you try, you can't seize it or hold it firmly and entirely in your hands or mind. The work lures and deceives, slipping through your fingers, falling through the cracks, setting up tricks and traps. It is circular and labyrinthine, visual and literary; it pours, flows, bursts, explodes, hides and reveals itself; digs out new and old meanings, sustains and grounds itself on true and false facts and evidences. Having understood and accepted these a priori conceptual and structural underpinnings, the work demands an approach which traces critical and poetic paths and points of contact and friction. In this respect, it is copious and generous.

The Rio de Janeiro-based artist's last solo show in São Paulo, 'Lúcido Nigredo', took place in two galleries. The title is, not surprisingly, enigmatic. Enigma is a key concept for Tunga, which he employs not in order to hide or disguise meaning, but to create a space where certainty is constantly resisted. The expression Lúcido Nigredo references 'lucid', evokes segredo (the Portuguese word for secret) and negro (the Portuguese word for black); it sounds like a first and last proper name or a strange chemical composition and links the colour and not-colour scheme (black and transparent glass) that dominates both shows.

At Galeria Luisa Strina, eight sculptures made of blown glass goblets, bottles and pieces of magnets and iron were placed on separate pedestals. Tunga arranged the bottles in pairs, sometimes inserting a goblet between them. Magnets and pieces of iron were again arranged inside and around the objects, creating small naturezas-mortas (literally 'dead natures', the Portuguese expression for still life) in permanent tension and friction. The pieces look and feel strange: entangled, precarious. Despite their chromatic reduction, they have a Baroque, alchemic quality and are fascinating to look at - you feel like a kid discovering a fabulous animal or plant, staring at it, wanting to touch it and at the same time afraid of it.

The strangely beautiful is also present at Galeria Milan, where a more ambitious work was installed. Tunga covered the gallery floors with glass, black pieces of iron, crystal, thread, felt, magnets and plastic beads. Precariousness and the Baroque appeared as if the spectator had stepped inside one of Tunga's bottles, enlarged to gallery-size and rendered white-cubish. Here the viewer encountered another of the artist's conceptual interests: danger. Walking on the work, the sheets of glass could shatter and although you're most likely to be protected by shoes and soles, you still felt uneasy. The galleries played with scale, but also with media: Tunga's work travelled between pedestal supported sculptures to installation and performance. In the end, you couldn't help but become part of the work.

Adriano Pedrosa is a curator, writer, editor and Artistic Director of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). 

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018