SEPT 21 2021 - SEPT 27 2021
Showcasing the works of Geraldo de Barros, one of the most prominent representatives of Brazilian’s Modernism, Side Gallery's booth at the 2021 edition of Design Miami/Basel, focused on Unilabor (1954–1961) - the collective that was the leading furniture design brand in Sao Paulo. Unilabor was recognised for its social characteristics and considered one of the most important projects in the history of modern Brazilian design. It was simultaneously a utopian project embedded with the aesthetic ideals and values of Barros and reunited artists, workers and intellectuals within a new factory model that aimed to unify not only form and function but also production processes. Barros’ vision underpinned the ingenuity of Unilabor and was the driving force that led to the production of some of the most iconic Brazilian designs. The exhibition ̈Cooperativismo e Construção ̈ was curated by Side Gallery's director Luis Sendino with the collaboration of Fabiana de Barros, daughter of Geraldo de Barros. It displayed a selection of works in several mediums, including furniture and photographs, some of which are from the De Barros estate and others from private collections. Most of the works were previously displayed at the Opelvillen Rüsselsheim Museum in Frankfurt in 2019, which was the first retrospective in Europe of Geraldo de Barros. Through a structured selection process and with access to archives, the collection of works presented during Design Miami/Basel constitute the largest exhibition of Geraldo de Barros in the world. His works are characterised by elegant frames, structures, and elements allowing versatility and assembly possibilities that offer a multitude of utilisation purposes. This inherent possibility for varied configurations ensured rationalisation of production processes and uniqueness for each of the respective pieces. The aim of Geraldo de Barros went beyond stylistic status, he was strongly motivated by exploring new ways of creating and experimenting through materials and techniques. Those clean lines, sobriety, and elegance weaved into functionality and innovations, combining new materials such as iron and jacaranda, which would become distinctive of Geraldo de Barros.
Barros would naturally include the warmth of tropical woods in his work. Jacaranda de Bahia, or Brazilian rosewood, is a noble tropical wood from the forests of Brazil - the country of tropical wood par excellence. Its robustness, distinguished appearance and softness made it a much sought-after material, initially for making musical instruments, and eventually for designing furniture. Its refined arrangement of movements of water, with alternating regions of darker and lighter wood, give it a distinct personality, with colours and tones, unique to jacaranda. These aesthetic qualities, with beautiful purple-brown and black veins, made the wood a staple for designers and furniture makers of 20th Century Brazil. Geraldo de Barros’ aesthetic influences derived from European avant-garde culture, from De Stijl and Bauhaus to Gestalt psychology, Barros would favour the softness of this wood to create his furniture. From then on, as a lover of the precious species of wood of his country, Geraldo de Barros designed some of the most beautiful furniture of his country in rosewood.
The bookcase exhibited during Design Miami/ Basel was the ostensible masterpiece of the booth. 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 reaffixed 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.
Side Gallery’s booth also consisted of several of the photographic works of Geraldo de Barros made between 1949 and 1954. The photographs included experimental subjects that mix classic photographic procedures with creative visual experiments. Geraldo de Barros’s artistic trajectory put him at the forefront of experimental photography, and in 1951 he held the Fotoformas exhibition at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. In the Fotoforma photographs, Barros employed photography as a process of construction. With photographs of construction materials as his building blocks. Barros rebuilt urban space by layering his negatives with artistic interventions, drawing attention to the tenuousness of São Paulo’s urban structure. The experimental form of Barros’ works, as well as his interest in vernacular spaces, created a place for marginalised narratives to enter the dialogue of Brazilian modernisation. Barros’ varied technical approaches broadened the scope of Brazilian modern photography, incorporating visual and theoretical references.