Born in Scalea, Calabria, Italy

One of the most important artists of her generation working in Brazil, Maiolino has always sought to connect art and life—to give structure to primordial experiences of language, self, and the body. Her work breaks down the limits of objects and medium and address issues of subjectivity and the idea that language is constantly remaking itself. The ongoing, unfinished nature of her practice flows out of a dialogue between opposite yet complementary categories that dissolve the dichotomies of inner and outer, self and other, void and matter, ancestral and contemporary.

Maiolino’s drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, engravings, films, videos, installations, and performances often emphasize the immanence of the act over the concept of a permanent object. Her early artistic experiments connect her to key moments of Brazilian art history: the New Figuration movement, neo-Concretism, and New Brazilian Objectivity. Later, she was associated with the neo-Avant-garde in Europe (particularly in Italy) and Minimalism and Conceptualism in the United States.

Born in Calabria, Italy, in 1942, Maiolino immigrated with her family to South America in 1954, living first in Venezuela then moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1960. The instability and displacement inherent in her personal history has permeated the methods of her art. Her work is linked to ideas of fertility and physical and spiritual sustenance and draws upon narratives related to the self, language, and labor as well as metaphors from the feminine imagery in daily life. These narratives connect endless chains of people, gestures, and processes. They refer, through the actions of the body and its repeated gestures, to the making and remaking of the self in the encounter with others and the creation and experience of the art object.

During the 1960s, Maiolino was part of the New Figuration movement. In 1967, she took part in the exhibition New Brazilian Objectivity, organized by H
ιlio Oiticica. Her works from these years, primarily prints and paintings, are a form of resistance to the military regime in Brazil as well as a reaction against the country’s growing urban inequalities. They are also a meditation on the condition of women within a patriarchal society. Some of these pieces evoke the popular practice of string literature (literatura de cordel), a woodblock printing tradition of Brazil’s northeast that depicts poetic narrations of everyday themes of life in the city.

In 1968, Maiolino moved to New York and shifted away from representation toward Minimalism and Conceptualism. Returning to Brazil during the early 1970s, she began to experiment with drawing and objects made of paper, exploring spatial, corporeal, and existential issues that connect her work to the neo-Concrete practices of the period. Mental Maps (1971-74), Constructed Projects (1972), Print Objects (1971-72), Drawing Objects (1971-76), and her series Book Objects (1971-76) are some of the works from these years. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s she created installations, Super 8 films, paintings, drawings, washes, and projects that encouraged a performative interaction between the audience and the art object.

In 1989 Maiolino moved to Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires and began to work with clay. Since then she has continued to explore this basic material, relying on traditional labor-intensive processes such as modeling, mold making, and casting. Maiolino emphasizes the repetition of gesture as a fundamental unit of artistic action through a series of installations involving hand-produced sculpture-objects. Produced in succession, each of these objects bears the mark of the artist’s hands. The clay registers memories of actions and also alludes to the emancipatory potential of the subject to remake him- or herself in the experience of the object. These pieces resonate with the spectators’ own experience, the repeated, often unconscious, actions of their everyday labors. In Many (1991-1995), for example, the artist’s gestures are multiplied in the intense accumulation and production of small, simple forms–clay fashioned into balls or cylinders–that, in being shaped and reshaped, suggest the first utterance of language, functions of the body, hands kneading dough, the unfolding of time and memory, the self-renewing continuity of life.

About the Artist
Born in Italy and a Brazilian citizen since 1968, Anna Maria Maiolino studied in The Escuela Nacional Cristobal Rojas (Caracas), in the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (Rio de Janeiro) and in the International Pratt Graphics Center (New York). She has participated in exhibitions such as Tropic
αlia: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005), Entre Outros/Territories of Immanence: A Retrospective (2005) at the Pinacoteca do Estado, Sγo Paulo, The Object Scuptur (2002) at the Henry Moore Institute, Virgin Territory: Women, Gender, and History in Contemporary Brazilian Art (2001) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington , D.C., Vida Afora/A Life Line at the Drawing Center, New York (2001), N Vezes Um/N Times One (2001), installation and projection of Super 8 films and videos in the Art in General, New York, Beyond Perceptions:The Sixties Experiment (2000) at the Independent Curators International, New York, Re-Aligning Vision: Current Alternatives in South American Drawing (1997) first held in Museo del Barrio, New York, Inside the Visible (1995) first held at the Kanaal Art Foundation in Kortrijk, Belgium and at the ICA, Boston, and America - Bride of the Sun. 500 Years of Latin America and the Low Countries (1992) at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.

In 2002, Anna Maria Maiolino Vida Afora/A Life Line (The Drawing Center’s Press) was published covering the artist’s 45 years of production.


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