Rubens Gerchman (1942 - 2008)


Lithograph on paper
height: 50cm
width: 35cm

Donated by Paula Terra Neale 1994


Participating in exhibitions that have become paradigmatic of artistic production in Brazil in the mid to late 1960s, Gerchman's painting drew on mass-produced culture as disseminated via the Brazilian popular press. Football players and fans, beauty contest line-ups and mug shots can each be found within the artist's repertoire of this period: an obsession with the portrayal of the 'common people' that both acknowledges and stands in contrast with the early modernists, whose imagery also invoked the 'typical' Brazilian. Subjects such as Di Cavalcanti's Mulatas, Portinari's Mestiço or Segall's boys in plantations are thus urbanised and simplified through Gerchman's strong graphic emphasis.

Aside from the juxtaposition of art historical reference and trash-culture, Gerchman achieves a subtle balance between the imagery of mass reproduction and his own bold expressive gesture. Throughout the painterly strand of this artist's diverse output, images of crowds appear frequently. The origins of the set of prints held by ESCALA can be traced back to seminal works of the 1960s such as O Futebol, Flamengo Campeão and A Cidade (1965); in their crowd scenes, the degree of stylisation is heightened, leading to the extreme graphic economy seen in these later prints.

Towards the end of the sixties, with concrete poetry as a probable influence, Gerchman's work began to deal with words: their meaning and their graphic qualities. The numbers and mathematical signs that serve as elements of these faces (eyes, mouths) may be related to this interest and are recurrent in his paintings of the 1990s such as a Reunião em C.I.. In the 1980s Gerchman produced various metallic sculptures using a similar stylised vocabulary, one of which - a large outdoor panel - was created in collaboration with factory workers in Volta Redonda, Rio de Janeiro State. These were composed of a number of faces in profile, with similar graphic conventions to these prints.

Michael Asbury, 2008

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