The Armory Show 2022: Laís Amaral

M+B is pleased to present a new series of works by Laís Amaral for the 2022 edition of The Armory Show’s Focus section, curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates, the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Laís Amaral makes richly textured paintings and works on paper that are heavily influenced by her ongoing research on the effects of environmental collapse on communities of color in her native Rio. 

This series is the culmination of Amaral’s investigation on the ramifications of climate change on contemporary society and the fragmentation that happens when the human body exists separately from nature. For Amaral, the desertification of Brazil is a powerful metaphor for the blanqueamiento, the “whitening” of its population that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, which continues to have an effect on the country's social, political, economic and cultural landscapes. Water is an instrument of freedom that lies in opposition to the aridity of urban life in Brazil. For Amaral the act of painting is a “leak,” a response to desertification, and a desire to “wet the ways of existing.”
Looking to bridge the relationship between territory and displacement, two regions of Rio de Janeiro that are of particular interest for Amaral are Gamboa and Saúde: a port area known as Little Africa that was an active center for the slave trade in Brazil. As a port area, it also provides a physical and visual representation of the ongoing water crisis. An area once surrounded by the sea, it is now dry, and acts as an entry point to imagine the natural landscapes that might have existed prior to the building of the city. Gamboa also serves as a physical marker for racial disparity, once the center of the slave trade, today it serves as a joyful symbol of resistance. Amaral draws from her lived experience in Gamboa, both the physical geography of the city and her interpretation of it, to present metaphorical landscapes, ruins, and spirits of the land.
The frictional forces between displacement and (re)hydration allow for the new experience of a place. These works are a testimonial, summoning the viewer to a reading outside our known patterns, to viewing landscapes through the artist’s lens and offering possibilities of experiencing/seeing our own places in other ways.

- Text by Wanessa Yano, Gabriela Campos and Igi Lola Ayedun



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