14 June - 2 August 2014

Standing before a broom


I came across Zezão’s art inadvertently. Before hearing about the artist, before discovering that the arabesques painted blue throughout the city walls were an art (as the artist calls them: "my art"), without the slightest idea that one day our destinies would cross. This fact on its own already deserves consideration. In one way or another, it attests to the strength of a production which reached the public without the mediation of the art circuit.


I saw his art, a turquoise drawing with darker contours, a sort of stylization of his signature, a trait resembling of a sort of handwriting in which the letters - separate, sharp, clear - do not exist, coming out of potholes, manholes, and portrayed on walls throughout the city. Always the same, yet always different. More than just recording a visit ("so and so was here"), they always drew attention to the spaces in which they settled. At least to me, the message was clear: the occupation by Zezão of spaces such as sewers, undergrounds, forgotten spaces - or left to be only to gain value in the speculative process (which today has come to be widely discussed by social movements) was an extremely intelligent and poignant operation. It showed that there was an anonymous voice speaking its own language, whether it was spray painting or graffiti, it would not be silenced. It would tell all users: pedestrians, users of public transportation, car owners, that the city was a space for common use.


To do this through a drawing that contoured the manhole covers and spilled out of them, so as to say that inside there lurked a lot more than meets the eye, that the invisible and abandoned city spaces could be fertile ground, is something which has always seemed to me as an aesthetic and political act. Not until later did discussions arise on whether or not this was art. Immense discussions, since what was at stake was the very concept of art, which - being historically formed - is always changing and may not be fully grasped in the present.


For some time Zezão has been grappling with transposing his art to enclosed spaces: museums, galleries and cultural centers. He describes his exhibitions in galleries as fine art (perhaps as opposed to what he does in the streets: street art). During my visit to his studio, he stood before me, with one foot in front and one behind, explaining that lives between those two worlds. Not a comfortable position. But I believe it is the position of all those who participate in the system of the arts today: to accept the business aspect without sacrificing the fundamentals which mobilize our work.


The fine art side of Zezão follows its own path. In that same visit I came across a work that caught my attention. It was something that I - with eyes trained in art classes in University, in a few visits to museums and in readings of theoretical texts - would call an assemblage. The work was created with materials collected from a dumpster: many old pieces of wood (and aged by the artist: "they must have a finishing touch to them"), urban road signs, old frames and a worn-off broom. These same eyes, trained to look at works of art, saw therein echoes of the book Fool's House, 1962 Jasper Johns. I asked, but Zezão did not know the work of the American artist. "I am self-taught, I stopped going to school in the 5th grade" he replied. Maybe he does not know that, in contemporary art, the artist's signature no longer goes in front of the frames. Perhaps this is precisely why he has been able to make of this design - which stems from his signature - an art. He used to be a courier and lived in a boarding house while I was in college saving up money to see Jasper Johns live. It was a joyful surprise to have found that hanging broom. It was as if his presence would tell me that, however different our paths may be, we would still be able to find each other - there, in front of that long-handled utensil and tangled wires, a sort of gigantic brush, as suggested by Johns, suitable for working in Zezão’s urban sp


Thais Rivitti, June 2014