Sidney Amaral Photo: João Liberato
In today's Brazil, in the midst of so many political, historical and economic upheavals, it is urgent to talk about representativeness, diversity and historical review. We see ourselves in a moment of transformation, in which it is necessary to rethink the paths of our culture and our identity, in order to build a fairer future. In this context, the work of São Paulo native Sidney Amaral is present with an incomparable force, proposing, in a striking and poetic way, a look at the paths, labyrinths and detours of Brazilian History in search of our own image, however uncomfortable it may be. On this trail, it is impossible to avoid facing the legacy of slavery and the ills of the black people in the country. However, it is important to remember that the artist's work is not restricted to these aspects: his work also deals with poetry, delicacy and the transcendence of everyday life, reminding us that the exercise of sensitivity is a way of connecting with the world.
Born in the city of São Paulo in 1973, Sidney Amaral graduated in Fine Arts from the Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation (FAAP) in 1998. He also studied academic painting and photography at the Museu Brasileiro da Escultura (Brazilian Museum of Sculpture), where he was a student of Ana Maria Tavares. He has participated in exhibitions at the Bienal de Valencia (2007), at the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia, during the 30th anniversary of Itaú Cultural, as well as other collective and individual shows at the Museu Afro Brasil, MASP and Instituto Tomie Ohtake.
Among his first productions, he works primarily in the creation of sculptures that represent everyday objects forged in noble materials such as marble, bronze and porcelain, displaced from their original contexts and being poetically re-signified by opposing banality and delicacy, simplicity and nobility, ephemerality and permanence. The series Balões em Suspensão (Suspended Balloons), 2009, for example, creates tensions between the lightness of the figures and the weight of the material, between the delicate polishing of the balloon's surfaces and the coarse chainsaw chain that sustains them.
Therefore, the thematic universe of his pictorial work distances almost diametrically from this poetic lightness, by diving into a harsh and raw reality, dealing with social, historical and political issues that concern the place of black people in Brazilian society. These are realistic drawings, acrylics and watercolors in which he reveals extreme technical mastery in the use of chromatic compositions, lines, volume and lighting.
Self-representation is constant in Sidney Amaral's work. By taking himself as the theme or character of many of his paintings and watercolors, he not only attests his experience as an individual, but brings to light his condition as a black man, father, husband and public school teacher, thus dealing with the privations and anxieties of a group historically marginalized and has been target of prejudice and oppression. By choosing to place his own image – the image of his body – as the field in which these issues are tensioned and rubbed against, he unveils the weight that history – and whatever that is historically constructed – exerts on individuals in their daily lives. By taking himself as a subject, he reflects on the social place of Afro-descendants in contemporary Brazilian society.
The dialogue of his work with the history of Brazil and the constructions of the image of black people in this context is also evident in the choice of lithography and watercolor as his main techniques, as well as in the pictorial realism of his lines. These materials and characteristics refer to the visual records that revealed the life and conditions of slaves made by traveling artists such as Eckhout (1610 – 1665) and Debret (1768 – 1848) in Brazil. Amaral updates that iconography by placing himself, as a black man, in the place of the observer and the observed, now giving voice to the oppressed subject. His work recalls and denounces how recent and still terribly oppressive the developments of the Brazilian slavery period and the wounds that this cruel regime opened in the constitution of black mens and black women's identities in Brazil.
Sidney Amaral died in May 2017, aged 44. The exhibition Sidney Amaral: a mirror over history reminds us that his work still resists, urging us to think about Brazil and its social issues. In a culture in which, in recent historical times, black people were represented only as a labor force, subjected and humiliated as a slave and, later, in a folkloric or pejorative way, a production like Sidney do Amaral, which portrays blacks as individuals mobilized against this oppressive determination, it is fundamental to understanding and revising Brazil´s recent history.
Sidney Amaral: one mirror over History Curatorship: Luciara Ribeiro From July, 30th to September, 24th, 2022.