Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander

Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander

Saint Louis Art Museum

December 2, 2004

Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander
December 10, 2004 – March 20, 2005

Saint Louis Art Museum
One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park
St. Louis, MO 63110

‘Ze Carioca no. 12, O rapto da Donzela [The abduction of the maiden],’ (2002) (Edicao Historica, Ed. Abril) (detail), 2004; acrylic on comic book pages; Collection of Aimee and Robert Lehrman, Washington, D.C.   

Rivane Neuenschwander’s diverse body of work explores intersections between cultures and the ways that our hopes and dreams take material form. “When I prepare an exhibition,” she explains, “I try to create a sort of ‘world’ for the visitor to reflect upon and interact with.”

Aspects of Brazilian culture provide points of departure for Rivane Neuenschwander’s recent work. I Wish Your Wish (first made in 2003) is inspired by the practice of pilgrimage to the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfirm in Sao Salvador. Visitors to this church are given a ribbon, which they tie with three knots, making a wish with the tying of each knot. The ribbon is then tied to the visitor’s wrist. According to tradition, wishes come true when the ribbon falls off the wrist. To make I Wish Your Wish, Neuenschwander asks people what they wish for; she then prints a selection of these wishes onto ribbons. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to select from the ribbons, which may include wishes for “a big flat and studio in the center of a big city,” “peace in the Middle East,” or “a margarita in my favorite bar in Mexico.” The wishes are printed in the language in which they have been given to the artist, including English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

The cartoon character Ze Carioca, a freewheeling parrot created by Walt Disney, provides the source material for Neuenschwander’s newest suite of works. In 1941, Disney visited South America to develop characters that would reinforce American relationships with that region during World War II. The following year, Disney released in Brazil an animated film titled Saludos Amigos (Hello Friends), featuring live action segments of Disney animators traveling in South America, followed by animated sketches starring Disney characters. In one segment, Ze Carioca (whose name translates loosely as “Joe from Rio”) gives Donald Duck a tour of his city. The laid-back Brazilian parrot, whose most common refrain is “don’t worry, Donald,” can be read as an unwelcome stereotype. In a strategy that inverts the addition of text found in I Wish Your Wish, Neuenschwander erases characters and narratives from the Ze Carioca comics. She applies acrylic paint directly onto the original comic book pages, matching the background color of each cell and painting out the cartoon characters. She also fills in the “speech balloons” with white paint, obliterating the dialogue. The pages retain the original colors and compositions of the comics, but with the disappearance of the figures and words, they become abstract paintings. The titles of the works (for example, How to have lunch for free) suggest a story that viewers must imagine for themselves, with the aid of the tone set by the Technicolor backgrounds and the varying shapes of the speech balloons.
Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander is part of a series of exhibitions featuring the work of contemporary artists at the Saint Louis Art Museum. This exhibition was curated by Robin Clark, associate curator of contemporary art, and is on view from December 10, 2004 through March 20, 2005.

Best Buy( generously contributed the use of video equipment for this exhibition.

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Saint Louis Art Museum
December 2, 2004

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