It’s been called another Versailles. Or the Disneyland of the future. It’s Inhotim——-a huge art complex and botanical park in southeastern Brazil. Privately owned, it’s got international art star installations and 12,000 varieties of palm trees. Miguel Rio Branco has his own pavilion there.
Rio Branco is a Brazilian photographer whose work, though stunning, is usually too seamy for me. Among his favorite subjects are prostitutes —————not exactly Disney. He describes the essence of his work this way: “… being in paradise, yet having something absolutely terrible taking place.”
The pavilion shows the range of Rio Branco’s work, imaginatively arranged. As the Daily Telegraph put it, “imagine images of sharks printed on cloths that hang in a fan-generated breeze, so that they seem to move with the grace of underwater currents.”
Here Rio Branco has installed his photographic images together in ways that evoke collage and cinema. ““Since the beginning,” he says, ” I have always relied on interbreeding….
“Painting meeting photography. Drawing meeting collage. Photography meeting cinema. Music meeting poetry. Poetry meeting montage. All these meetings are part of the many crossroads in the search for a comprehension and expression of myself in relation to the world.”
He began in New York, with a month-long photography course. Having studied painting, he cut up these first photographs and collaged them into his paintings. Later, in his native Brazil, he made Super8 films, then worked on commercial movies as photographer. Because of its dramatic quality, his photojournalism caught the eye of the supreme photo agency, Magnum.
Rio Branco has described the montages of photographs at the Inhotim pavilion—some of which are projected—-as “almost film.” Take his series “Blue Tango.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes it this way:
“In this work, the artist depicts two boys engaged in capoeira, a highly stylized form of fighting in Brazil that has been compared to a combination of karate and ballet. Practice fights are pantomimed and accompanied by the lutelike berimba. Most important, the object of the jousting is not only to conquer your opponent but to vanquish him using elaborate tricks and singsong verbal taunts.”
As I said, Donald Duck and Mickey———-not. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, maybe———————but only in a dream.