Nara Roesler São Paulo is pleased to present Ao que vai nascer : Isaac Julien, Elian Almeida, Virginia de Medeiros, put together by the gallery’s curatorial nucleus under the direction of Luis Pérez-Oramas. This exhibition brings together a collection of distinguished works by British artist Isaac Julien and Brazilian artists Virginia de Medeiros and Elian Almeida. Ao que vai nascer will be open to the public from April 2, as a part of SP-Arte’s official program and will be on view until May 21, 2022.
The exhibition is centered around a selection of photographs from Lessons of the Hour, a celebrated video installation by Isaac Julien. The piece, after being extensively presented in London, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam, will now be exhibited in Brazil for the first time. Lessons of the Hour focuses on African-American Frederick Douglass, a key figure in American Abolitionism during the 19th century. These stunning and carefully staged portraits recreate and re-fictionalize the story around one of the most photographed personalities of 19th century America. Julien’s living portraits serve as monumental works that bring to light the urgency of Douglass’s abolitionist legacy, which is summarized in his famous 1894 speech, Lessons of the Hour.
Alongside Isaac Julien and his exemplary portraits, the exhibition includes works from Elian Almeida and Virginia de Medeiros, two Brazilian artists whose works serve to further reflect on portraiture through the discussion of racial, social, and historical issues.
Elian Almeida, a young artist from Rio de Janeiro, presents the first act of O ouro afunda no mar, madeira fica por cima (The gold sinks into the sea, the wood stays on top). The project, divided into three parts, focuses on the trafficking of African people to the Americas. Born in Rio de Janeiro, at Cais do Valongo, Brazil’s main point of arrival for ships from Africa, Almeida works to highlight the idea of birth; both individual and collective, real and metaphorical, and to reflect and expand on the historical and media narratives of the subject, shedding light on violent aspects of the story that have been deliberately toned down or erased from mainstream narratives.
The iconic series, Fábula do Olhar (Fable of the Gaze), by Virginia de Medeiros adds another layer of meaning to the exhibition by looking at the broader social significance of the portrait and more specifically, individual yearning through image. The works are the result of the artist’s encounters with people experiencing homelessness. Medeiros collaborates with her subjects by recording their stories and images, documenting lives that society tends to render invisible. In addition to racial and social issues, Medeiros’ work discusses the portrait itself: the active desire to see and project one’s own image in the world as a way to claim the amplitude of our shared human dignity, the unceasing place for all that will be born.
Ao que vai nascer captures the power of individual gestures by Julien, Almeida, and Medeiros to create a collective portrait that encompasses, with the deserved respect, individuals and communities that experience racial and social discrimination. Above all, the exhibition aims to present our desire to see and project our own image in the world, as a way to claim the integrity of our human dignity.