Coming on the heels of its ‘Lina Bo Bardi + Roberto Burle Marx’ exhibition earlier this year, New York design gallery R & Company has opened an impressive new show, ‘Brazil Modern’ that includes those two earlier subjects — Bo Bardi and Burle Marx — along with a long roster of other Brazilian greats: Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues, Joaquim Tenreiro, and Martin Eisler.
The exhibition, curated by R & Company principal Zesty Meyers, presents furniture, textiles, and archival material ranging from the 1940s to 2012. ‘I could have done an exhibition with five objects—and that could have been great — but I wanted to capture the energy of Brazil,’ Meyers says, underscoring the show’s diversity. Walls painted in different shades of blue reference Brazil’s trademark sky and water.
Though the gallery has remarkable holdings in the cannon of modern design — including Joe Colombo, Wendell Castle, and Greta Magnusson-Grossman — it has distinguished itself over the years by bringing lesser-known designers not only into the market, but also, through its commitment to research, into greater public awareness. ‘Brazil Modern’ is one of the by-products of that enterprising and research-intensive approach. Many of the works have never before been publicly exhibited, and many were acquired in a fine tooth-comb way by the gallery principals travelling to Brazil over many years.
Owing to the country’s recent political history as a military dictatorship, most design work had to stay within the country, leaving behind a vast trove of mid-century artefacts largely unknown outside Brazil. ‘Most people still don’t have export licenses,’ says Meyers.
The exhibition anticipates the publication of a new book, Brazil Modern, authored by Aric Chen (with an introduction by Meyers), due out in March 2016 from Monacelli Press. Many of the objects included in the gallery show will be more fully analysed in the book. For Meyers, the history of 20th century design is still in draft phase. ‘Brazil is the last great discovery of mid-century design.’