The highly insightful and provocative imagery of contemporary Brazilian master Gersony Silva represents a stunning, intriguing, and poetic art, which is often self-referential, highly evocative, and frequently focuses on various parts of her body (e.g., knees, feet, elbows, joints, toes, folds, bends, curves and other corporeal components). She pursues this uncompromising analysis of her body via various “cinematic” sequences of images that rely on unique perspectives, distortions, perceptions, symmetrical mirroring(s), repetitions, manipulation(s) and adaptations. Her straightforward and monumental abstract designs hint at motion, choreographed movement, and dance. Yet, as all great art, she has a well-spring of allusions to art history that are ingeniously evident throughout, proving Pablo Picasso’s maxim that, “Mediocre artists borrow; but, great artists steal!”
Among the contemporary artists that are significant to her, we find Georgia O'Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Rebecca Horn and Anish Kapoor. This brief critique will examine each of these art historical allusions, as well as Silva’s unique relationship to Ana Mendieta. For example, the exquisite and inviting overlays of bending and folding flower-petals in O’Keeffe’s various “Flower” images reemerge in the sensual bends and folds inhabiting Silva’s signature monumental monochromatic dark blue installation-pieces, as well as manifesting in the Brazilian’s assorted conceptual body-oriented photographic series’ figural-elements, which from time to time suggest Alfred Stieglitz’s famous 1930s photographic-analysis (series) of every part of his wife’s (O’Keeffe’s) body.
Also, of equal significance (to Silva) are Bourgeois’s courageous erotically-charged sculptures representing abstracted (organic-surreal) humanoid or mutated genitalia-forms or genitalia-beings, which allude to the Brazilian’s conceptual-photographic manipulations of her own body-parts (e.g., knees, feet, elbows, joints, toes, folds, bends, curves and other components). The use of light and shadow in Silva’s installations have a direct relationship to the dramatic lighting effects spotlighting captivating performances and installations by Rebecca Horn. Like Silva, the German-born artist Horn is a master of properly lit astounding performances and installations. Permeating Silva’s work is a profound concern for color (chromatic hue); shimmering and high-key surface-effects, utilizing design precision (meticulousness); these above-mentioned elite or “classic” qualities are equally pervasive in the works of Anish Kapoor, the Anglo-Indian contemporary sculptor and installation-artist.
Due to Silva’ fascination with her own anatomy, her flesh, and her own distinct physiology, several astute art critics and art historians refer to her as the “Ana Mendieta of Brazil.” Like the acclaimed Cuban Performance-artist and Body-artist (who died tragically in 1985), Silva’s art documents, (through a variety of more-or-less performance-esque method(s)) the function(s) of each part of her body, which she specifically portrays, circumspectly investigating each organic element as a constituent part of a vital living organism with a unique history and essential life, thereby comprising or deriving from a indispensable being known as “Gersony Silva.” Via these cinematic documentary series that reflect her sublime self awareness and self actualization, she carefully illuminates and/or describes the way that each aesthetically diagnosed part of her inimitable living organism function(s).
Unlike the hyper-expressionistic oeuvre of Mendieta, Silva’s gorgeous, classical, elegant and “muse-filled” imagery is far less raw, gory, or as agonizing as the extremely chthonic feminist performance pieces that Mendieta’s duende conjured-up. Despite this one significant difference, both Mendieta and Silva manifest four essential art historical similarities, which are: 1). a general reliance on their own body as the subject of their art, as well as 2). creating works that exude a sublime self-awareness and self actualization, revealing 3). a shamanic need to create animistic rituals that invoke greater health and well-being for themselves and the world. Lastly, both artists bravely 4). challenge monotonous and entrenched “merely” Minimalist aesthetic movements of the late-1960s and 1970s, which included such mind-numbing artists as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, etc., etcetera.
Dr. JOSÉ ROBERTO
Coordinator of Art History, New Jersey City University