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Inventory: another kinf of art

MAC USP - 2016/ 2017

The illusion of gesture

Inventory; other art

MAC USP 2016/2017

“Although the gesture can be exemplary without aiming for such loudly spectacular effects, it is inseparable from an intention to appear or show, whereby the idea of spectacle is already introduced, albeit discreetly”.

Jean Galard

Gustavo von Ha's works allude to the myth of a heroic artistic gesture. A mark on the support left by the artist-creator who would thus found something new and original. This time, to discuss notions such as copying, simulation and appropriation, Von Ha chooses the visuality of gestural painting – non-geometric, non-figurative, also known as abstract expressionist, abstract-lyrical or informalist.Inventory; Another art is made up of a selection of images that the artist knows how to provoke our sensitivity, seduce us through color and gesture, and it is this apprehension of ours that he intends to destabilize.

The abstract-expressive poetics of the second post-war era generally pursued spontaneity as a bridge to the subjective and irrational, often borrowing surrealist automatic writing to guide the artist's gesture. In the North American environment, each artist – the so-called “action painters”, in the words of critic Harold Rosenberg – should have their own easily recognizable “style” and large canvases were seen as an “arena” for recording the power of the affirmative gesture, which characterized the artist’s presence in the work. “What should appear on the screen was not an image, but an event”, said Rosenberg.

In the European situation, in turn, the “incommunicability of form” was discussed – called other art because it was thought to escape tradition –, at a time of crisis in the face of post-war reality. The informalist was identified with his work, as if it attested to how much he was crossed by the existential conflicts of that moment – therein lay the originality of his production (especially in Jean Fautrier and Alberto Burri, whose critical fortune repeatedly highlights the war experience of both how she formally “translated” herself into her works).


Von Ha comments on this painting inscribed in a troubled period in the history of art, indicating how originality is something impossible in a history made up of references and allusions. He will appropriate, for example, Jackson Pollock's paintings which, in themselves, bring together these references in a synthesis that brings together learning from cubism (the palette of analytical cubism), Mexican muralism and historical painting (in dimensions), performance (in throwing and dripping), of surrealism (borrowing André Masson's all over). In another sense, Von Ha will also absorb the European notion of pictorial matter as a substance on which sensations are imprinted and how the record of the hand, which is a trace, is seen as memory, as exemplified by Fautrier's works.


The artist does not recreate works. It produces possible images. But the matrices for these simulations are not chosen randomly – they select what is interesting to appropriate. This is not just an appropriation of visuality, but also of the procedures used by the main names in abstract-expressive painting – as the video shows. Thus, there is a dimension of performance that runs through the production process: the works presented here reveal only part of what they actually are. The results present the study of procedures, materials and performances, inventorying for us the manual on how to do it.


In particular, the material paintings, made from a thoughtless accumulation of paint, are the result of scraping “constructive” canvases, copies made by von Ha of Volpi, Hercules Barsotti, among others. Therefore, his gesture is not one that creates, but one that undoes the clear form, with rigid contours, metamorphosing it into contemporary informalism. If the constructive and the formless, poetics located in the same historical period, concerned different ideologies, currently, they have lost these characteristics, becoming clichés or, at least, fiction.


Von Ha manages these visualities and procedures that inhabit our imaginary museum, but are only there latent. It is as if, through quotations and allusions, the artist accessed these images that we cannot locate. In this way, he ends up revealing the pervasive power of these poetics as visuality, especially for our common artistic formation based, to a large extent, on reproductions. In AndréMalraux's view, reproduced art is fictitious – in chromatic terms, dimensions, the three-dimensional to two-dimensional relationship.


The artist reminds us of the fate of these heroic gestures as parody – whether staged by themselves, as in Georges Mathieu's performance, or pointed out by artists of the same period who were aware of the emptying of meaning resulting from an excessive exploitation of the image of the conflicted artist. with reality sold by galleries and variety magazines, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Yves Klein.


In the current context, Von Ha warns about the contemporary mythification of the artist and art from the position of a forger, one who operates within the scope of reproductions and historical fillings. He points to the cliché that still prevails today as imitation, simulation and entertainment , once the transgressive characteristic of the gesture has been lost. We remain in this place without contours, between the seduction of painting and our need for an author and an original, for a truth of expression that guarantees the permanence of the aura of the work of art.

Ana Avelar



Gustavo von Ha and the dismantled painting
Inventory; other art
MAC USP 2016/2017

The recent work of São Paulo native Gustavo von Ha reveals his newest facet in approaching the problem of authorship and authenticity in art, while at the same time playing with his greatest paradigm: painting. With Inventory: other art, the artist presents a set of works, taking as a model the modernist painting of the 1950s and 1960s, which were characterized by gesture, that is, by the artist's expressive marks on the surface of the canvas.

Thus, von Ha pretends to be Jackson Pollock or Yves Klein, flanking his contemporary versions of these artists with paintings completely filled with paint, forming an almost sculptural object. The latter are produced by the erasure of the artist's gesture, as they result from the scraping of an existing painting, deposited on a new canvas. The painting is, therefore, literally dismantled to create these canvases.

But painting is also dismantled in its heroic character, of affirmation of the artistic personality and individuality of the artist, not only because it is born from imitation – and calls into question the idea of the unique, authentic and individual gesture –, but because it does not if you want painting properly, since the set refers to iconic paintings recombined and reinvented, and which, on the other hand, are no longer recognizable.

​MAC USP has drawings that von Ha created from copies of drawings by Tarsila do Amaral, a film and a fake trailer, produced by the also fictitious Heist Filmes. His exhibition that we present now constitutes the new chapter of his confrontation with the narrative of modern art and the art system that it engendered, thus challenging its institutionalization and its crystallization into a single version. When referring to abstract expressionism and other gestural currents of the 1950s and 1960s, von Ha points to these being less privileged aspects in our art history, illuminating other works and artists in our own collection – such as “Tragic Head”. , by KarelAppel, on display in the permanent exhibition of the Museum's collection, in the 7th. To walk.

Ana Magalhães
MAC USP curator



Quixote by Gustavo von Ha

​When, 103 years ago, Marcel Duchamp, alone in his studio in Paris, on Rue Saint-Hippolyte[1], built an object made up of a wooden bench and an inverted bicycle front wheel, he had no idea of the scope that his object would have in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Two years later he called this category of objects ready-made.

​What became important about this object was the possibility of creating a work not from shapeless raw material, but using ready-made objects. Within this operation are more complex issues such as the option for presentation instead of representation, the denial of allegory in the work of art with its possibility of conceptual autonomy and the very discussion of the democratization and socialization of creation in art. All of these questions are worthy of development and deepening, not only in the plastic arts but in all expressive arts and in the very way we live today, with the capacity to transform a world already given and constructed with the given and constructed world itself.

​In literature, some works made use of this Duchanpinian operation, among them we can mention the short story Pierre Menard, Autor do Quixote[2] by Jorge Luis Borges, initially published in the magazine Sur in 1939. In this short story Borges shows an author who, already with a rich CV richly demonstrated in the first part of the text, he wants to write a peculiar book, chapters IX and XXXVIII of the first part and a fragment of chapter XXII of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. But “he didn’t want to compose another Quixote – which would have been easy – but Quixote. It is useless to add that he never took into account a mechanical transcription of the original; did not propose to copy it. His admirable ambition was to produce pages that coincide – word for word and line for line – with those of Miguel de Cervantes”[3]. The narrator does not objectively explain how Menard would execute such an undertaking, and when he tries, he puts another knot in the tangle, the “initial method he devised was relatively simple. Knowing Spanish well, recovering the Catholic faith, fighting against the Moors or the Turks, forgetting the history of Europe between the years 1602 and 1918, being Miguel de Cervantes”[4].

​Gustavo von Ha, like Menard, wants to make the same painting, color by color, line by line, that Alfredo Volpi and Hércules Barsotti did. But, like Menard, he doesn't want to simply copy them and, more than Menard, he wants to transport them from one screen to another, physically. In Von Ha's case, the transposition process generates an entropy that only increases the more he works, generating a result that is very different visually from the original, but perhaps more true because it contains exactly the same paint from one canvas to the other. The first is a facsimile and the second is the same painting with the same paint, but in different places.
Other works by Von Ha are paintings of Pollock trying to be Pollock, but a new Pollock; In this case, there is no physical transposition but the desire to rewrite the same painting or make new paintings. ​In addition to the pictorial works, there is a vast fictional documentation of this homonymous artist or Von Ha himself. There are posters, catalogues, newspaper clippings about a deceased or still living artist with the same name as Von Ha. Just like Menard's CV in the first part of the story, here we also see one anchor in reality and another in fiction.

​The exact transposition of one painting to another, like the identical writing of another novel, seems an impossible task, or only possible in the field of art. Just like in Quixote's battles against monsters, artists can make the impossible possible, even if in some moments what we see is an old man with a basin on his head pretending to be a knight with a helmet. Von Ha is that old man.

Sergio Romagnolo
September 2016

[1]Tomkins, Calvin. Duchamp, a biography, CosacNaify, São Paulo, 2004, p. 153.

[2] Borges, Jorge Luis. Fições (1944), Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 2012, pag. 34

[3] _ Borges, 2012, p. 38

[4] _ Borges, 2012, p. 39



Gustavo von Ha: paradoxes of imitation

​The Inventory exhibition; arte outro, at MAC-USP (former headquarters of Detran), is curated by Ana Avelar and is on display until February 5, 2017. 37 works are presented as the finishing point of the imitative paradoxes, created by Gustavo Von Ha, who questions a series of artistic conventions, through themselves, to establish relationships between true and false in the contemporary arts system.

If Michelangelo or Picasso presented their own early career drawings to the public of their respective times, it is likely that such objects would be understood as learning exercises. This ancient artistic convention had a dual function of attesting the apprentice's ability and teaching techniques. The copy thus fulfilled a double pedagogical role. Today, however, when Gustavo Von Ha presents his paintings at the Inventário exhibition; Another art, at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo (MAC-USP), the result of imitations of well-known canvases by Alfredo Volpi and Jackson Pollock, tensions and draws the visitor's attention to the question of authorship and originality.

​Whether they are very thick material paintings, whose colors are reminiscent of Van Gogh (although the artist says that the starting point is works by Alfredo Volpi), or drippings (which imitate Jackson Pollock's gestures), both types of paintings presented in the exhibition have much of a specular paradox. Displaced from their own origin, they are relearned in gesture by the artist who will say: “yes, they are copies. But copies authorized by the artists’ families, after long negotiations”, in an interview given to students on the Art: history, criticism and curation course. Paradoxical, because he is not the author of the idea, although he produced them manually one by one. Paradoxical, because the spectator can recognize someone else's gesture, even if it was produced by Von Ha. The central paradox lies in the acceptance of imitation as an original gesture. And, speculate, because the reflection is very different from the original impulse. It is a displacement of the modernist heritage to the present day to ironize how “value” is constituted in the arts system. And paradoxically, the artist states: “I intend to sell the images to institutions, because I don't want them to end up in a collector's room who will take them as original”.

​Copying as an artistic convention is not random, as is the selection of artists and works, of course. All of Von Ha's choices, himself, seem to have iconic value, or to question the icon's place. If this work began with an interest in the gestures of Tarsila do Amaral and José Leonilson, it is through the wide circulation of images, outside the artistic field, that the investigation actually begins. “I started by Googling the best-known images of Tarsila in 2007.” This starting point reveals what Duchamp had already identified in the 1962 text “The Creative Act”, that the spectator's gaze and the circulation of the image alter the meaning of the work. Such displacement seems to be the center of Von Ha's interest. Technique and gestures only serve as ridiculous mannerisms or as a material fact, even if they are not actually such, that is, as a trigger. In fact, they serve as an argument for a new investigation roadmap, it is not for nothing that the term “inventory” identifies ongoing extensive research, whose exhibits are partial examples of this process.

​This work of imitation over almost a decade also made the artist realize that when he imitates the gestures of other artists, a by-product or another product, a performance, arises, that is, a device for activating questioning, “without it necessarily being a parody. In fact, it is on the threshold of what the artist himself did,” he says. “The intention is not to approach forgery, although I have had contact with some to study the process of other artists.”, he adds. The performative aspect became clear when, after producing numerous audiovisual works, such as the one in the exhibition, to justify the existence of an orthonym. In the exhibition, Gustavo Von Ha is a persona of Gustavo Von Ha, a persona that he produced as Volpi or as Pollock. The “neutral” surface of these paintings that tend towards the abstract are recoveries to enjoy the way in which the art system enthrones the celebrity artist, since these surfaces can accommodate almost any content. The artist realizes the artificiality of “spontaneous” situations, especially when he produces the photo in which he imitates Pollock’s famous photo from Time magazine, which took “ten hours and two minutes to make”. In the first frame in which Von Ha, the orthonym, appears as Pollock, only the gesture is present; in the second, however, the production is present, implying the lighting and the setting.

In the video at the end of the exhibition, critics, curators and other artists talk about the persona created by Von Ha, the orthonym. Among them are Paulo Pasta, Tadeu Chiarelli. In one of the passages, the critic embodied by Bárbara Paz reproduces the first paragraph of the article “Modernist Painting” (1960) by Clement Greenberg, speaking about the specificity of the medium, the quality of the colors, etc., as if it were yesterday; in another, a critic asserts with the value of absolute truth the saying: “The color.. the color comes from everything made of paint!”. What if the most unsuspecting spectator goes around repeating the insults of this joke as a universal truth? It is likely that much of Clement Greenberg's criticism was made in this way, creating value for a State propaganda tool. Thierry du Duve is there, in the article “Kant after Duchamp” (1998), to show that it is necessary to read carefully the details of traditional criticism, which at that time was at the service of the CIA. On the other hand, this place is also part of the spectral space of the paradox proposed by Von Ha, himself, since the ordinary relationships established with objects are abandoned to the detriment of critical discourse. Most of those who attend exhibitions simply repeat their dictates without changes, without surprises, without paying attention to the objects themselves, but with a view to specialized criticism, as true equals truth.

​For Gustavo Von Ha's work to be established, approval and authorization from the authorities are necessary. So, Tadeu Chiarelli establishes a theoretical line from which he could have started, a bourgeois origin, recognizable by all those who know even the slightest about the history of art, impressionism. This affiliation not only provides support but also authorizes a completely decontextualized work, set with studio objects (pigments, color test, sponge, Farberger egg, used brushes, books, etc.) and exhibition posters that create a certain strangeness, given the dating offered. If the dates of the video and posters do not match the known chronology, it is with Paulo Pasta's speech, which opens and closes the statements in the exhibition film, that meanings begin to be constructed, that absurdities become more explicit, or as Von Ha himself says, “it is necessary to give clues to the spectator to understand that it is a game”. When Pasta says that Von Ha, the orthonym, “was strange and out of place”, this displacement is not justified. By the simple fact that the issue of muralism, tachism, action paiting are not posed in an analytical way, but in impressionistic terms, the “joke” that is taking place becomes clear.

​On the one hand, it is likely that Von Ha's painting, the orthonym, will not excite those interested in visual arts as much, since the origin of his questions and the questioning that can be unpleasant as an end are known. On the other hand, with a little patience, after decanting the initial impressions, questions regarding authorship and originality may arise when observing aspects of the original paintings by the great masters. This gesture produced in an attempt to achieve changes and displacements of meanings makes us rethink Von Ha's systematic work, himself, in another way of reading, namely, that neither the great masters knew so clearly about their effects, nor the paintings by Von Ha are simply imitation. They are, in fact, a procedure that wants to place today's works with a historical past in a kind of philosophical dialogue, questioning whether the arts system puts the spotlight on those who produce a poetics in which ordinary relationships can be restored, under the anomaly of a discourse foreign to oneself. In other words, it is important to know whether the viewer considers the object he observes or whether only the discourse about the object, even when removed from him, and whether the circulation of images gives a new format to the meanings expressed in them. In this case, the means is massage that enhances the artists' self-esteem by catapulting part of the interest among those interested: museums, collectors and critics. A marketing game.

​It doesn't seem to matter whether it's true or false, the fact is that the device created by Von Ha himself is the result of a procedure, whose product is, ultimately, a performance, which shows that what the artist produces is his own work, just as Michelangelo and Picasso did, but under new direction, at another time.

André Aureliano Fernandes
André Fernandes studied literature (USP) and art (PUCSP).
He is a poet, editor and critic. He has two books of poems Deriva (Hedra, 2007) and Dwell (Hedra, 2010).

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