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Pedro Moraleida Bernardes

Venue: KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Pedro Moraleida Bernardes

Born 1977 in Belo Horizonte, BR – died 1999 in Belo Horizonte

Pedro Moraleida Bernardes’ major series of works Faça Você Mesmo Sua Capela Sistina [Make Your Own Sistine Chapel, 1997/98] includes a work on paper titled after Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Liebe ist kälter als der Tod [Love is Colder than Death, 1969]. The film plot revolves around Frank, a hoodlum who refuses to accept an offer he cannot afford to turn down, and ends up becoming a target for a crime syndicate. This reference could perhaps be construed as reflecting the artist’s sense of himself as an outsider at odds with the art world and the work of his peers. Fellow students at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in the 1990s recall Moraleida Bernardes’ jarring dedication to scatological figuration and visceral plasticity at a time when the academy was overrun by rarefied conceptual gestures.

During his brief life, cut short by his suicide in 1999, Moraleida Bernardes produced a prolific body of work, comprising painting, sculpture, texts, and musical scores. Strongly influenced by Arthur Bispo do Rosário and Antonin Artaud, Moraleida Bernardes’ canon tends to revolve around isolated figures besieged by menacing lizard- or insect-like creatures in biblical scenes. Mimicking religious iconography, the artist reworked Neo-Expressionism’s mix of the sacred and the debased, and its grammar of angst, bawdiness, and disinhibition. Intimate with the work of Artaud, who wrote, “There where it smells of shit, it smells of being,” Moraleida Bernardes understood the scatological as the escathon, the ultimate end of all histories. Epic and abject, sex acts abound; they do not seem pleasurable but violent and mutilating. Friedrich Nietzsche, another important reference for Moraleida Bernardes, understood nihilism as, fundamentally, a problem of valuation: the devaluing of the highest values, God, moral law, civilization, progress. The question Moraleida Bernardes scrawls onto a drawing: “Quem e o quê devemos louvar” [Whom and what should we praise] could perhaps be understood as a structuring question, guiding a danse macabre between seekership, life, and denigrated values.

Ana Teixeira Pinto

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