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The Allegory of Contamination

Art can be seen as an equation with diverse different components, one of them is allegory. Artists can lower some elements of this equation and can bring forward others. Artworks can have always all the elements, what changes from work to work is which element is mainly used. There are works the allegory is reduced to almost nothing and others its matter is quite full of allegoric elements.


Looking to the works of Gustavo von Ha it is possible to think of the woman’s role in search of power and affirmation, the woman taking up guns to rob and get huge amounts of money, the woman wearing a wig laughing onto cigarettes smoke and driving sports cars, but these elements don’t seem to be the true allegory of his work.


When Von Ha showed his mirrored facsimiles drawings of Tarsila do Amaral and Leonilson, using old papers, in June 2012 at Leme Gallery in Sao Paulo, he was discussing about the same matter he speaks now. It wasn’t only about originality or authenticity of the artwork, much less about appropriation, it is about reality and fiction, life and art.


His previews or trailers, the objects (based on mass production of film industry) and posters make allusion to feature films that do not exist yet. They refer to fictional actors, producers and work teams; they are all characters. How to know if one day they won’t exist and why the films shown in theatres look like real productions?


The operation used here is the contamination, the allegory of contamination. Contaminate to change the system from inside. As Duchamp did when he subscribed his artwork “Fontaine” to an art show. Duchamp knew it wouldn’t make sense to submit his work outside the art system. The subversion would have to be submitted to the judgment of a jury, of which he was also part of the board.


At the same time these works talk about other all contaminations; the diseases that affect more the poor people, the commercialization of life and nature. Contaminate to subvert and subvert to build, to destruct to build. This is the tradition of art, it is the task of mourning to which referred Yve-Alain Bois, artists as resuscitators and mourners at the same time:


“I will focus a specific clamor here: the death of the painting and, more specifically, the death of the abstract painting. Its meaning is emphasized by two historic circumstances: the first is that all the history of the abstract painting can be dealt as a desire of its own death; the second is the recent urgency of a neo-abstract group of painters, that have been appointed as official mourners (or should I say resuscitators? In the end we will realize that is the same)”.



Sergio Romagnolo, June 2013


–Yve-Alain Bois, “Painting: the task of mourning”, 2006

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