GERALDO DE BARROS
GERALDO DE BARROS
FEB 22 - JUN 19 2022
Geraldo de Barros (1923–1998), was a Brazilian painter, photographer and designer, and a founding member of the Brazilian Concrete art movement. De Barros initially trained as an economist, but in the mid-1940s, while still employed at Banco do Brasil, he began studying art. He first made a name for himself as a photographer with the abstract series entitled Fotoforma, which he showed in 1951 at the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art. The unconventional nature of this work won him a scholarship that enabled him to study and travel in Europe. There he met Max Bill and François Morellet, with whom he maintained close ties. De Barros was particularly interested in Gestalt theory and the geometry of Concrete art. When he returned to Brazil he founded the Grupo Ruptura, along with Waldemar Cordeiro and Luis Sacilotto, among others. The group’s aim was to align Brazilian art with the modernization movement then sweeping the country. In 1956 de Barros took part in the first International Exhibition of Concrete Art in Sao Paulo, and in 1960 his work was included in the international Konkrete Kunst exhibition organized in Zurich by Max Bill. Meanwhile, in 1954, his interest in the applied arts led him to found Unilabor, a utopian cooperative devoted to the construction of modern furniture. MAMCO’s exhibition retraced this trajectory, taking as its point of departure de Barros’s return to concrete art at the end of the 1970s when, abandoning the use of brushes and canvas, he took up new materials such as Formica.
For the occasion of the opening of the Spring exhibition at MAMCO Geneve, Side Gallery produced a short film illustrating the restoration of a masterpiece by Gerlado de Barros. This unique bookcase was one of six important furniture pieces produced by Gerlado de Barros and Unilabor that was exhibited at the show. Founded by Gerlado de Barros in 1954, Unilabor became a mechanism of modernization from below, producing furniture based on his constructive references with function outside of cognitive perception. Unilabor was unity in work and a unity through work. A self-managed factory run by the workers, it was a system of production that aimed to unify not only form and function, but also a living community and production processes. The discreet beauty of Unilabor furniture pieces is certainly informed by this balance of forces. In its context, Unilabor in fact quickly became a social model. It was a working environment that was perceived as healthy.
The bookcase that was shown at the exhibition was produced by Unilabor in 1955 and commissioned for the family home of one of its members, the bookcase is made of jacaranda wood with brass details. The bookcase model is adaptable and capable of infinite configurations. The versatility and assembly possibilities allow for a multitude of utilisation purposes, the kind of ingenuity most representative of the production philosophy of Unilabor. Side Gallery acquired the bookcase and oversaw its seamless surface restoration. The approach was aimed at respecting the history and integrity of the piece, while also producing an enduring masterpiece. With relatively minor loss or need for extensive rebuilding - the scope of the restoration involved conservation cleaning, painting, removing scratches, and repairing some damage to the veneer. The bookcase had suffered natural age-related wear and tear; likely exacerbated by climatic conditions. The veneer was therefore detached from the solid jacaranda wood, some missing pieces were replaced with small samples of jacaranda, this replacement was patinated for a seamless match with the existing veneer. While smaller chips to the veneer were restored with the use of a special resin. These sections of veneer were then relaid in the traditional way and once reaffirmed the bookcase was polished to replicate the original finish. With an in-depth knowledge of the works of Geraldo de Barros and significant restoration expertise, the bookcase was revived as perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of Brazilian design, or at least one that makes full use of the beauty of Jacaranda wood.