An ongoing testament to the importance of photography in contemporary art, SP-Arte/Foto is the perfect complement to its sister event, SP-Arte. And if you had the pleasure of visiting the art fair, which took place in April, take it from us: a trip to SP-Arte/Foto is an equally rewarding experience, and on a more compact, manageable scale at that.
Unlike SP-Arte, which attracts an elite pack of international galleries, the four-day SP-Foto, as it's more commonly known, is all about Brazilian galleries this year. And though many of the galleries feature cosmopolitan rosters of photographers, for many visitors, the fair is an annual chance to take the measure of Brazil’s art photography scene – not to mention a chance to soak up some of the best of Brazil-centric imagery, featuring the country in all its wanton, profligate beauty.
Tropical heat rises almost visibly from the sultry images by the photographer Luiz Braga at Galeria da Gávea, in the form of a set of portraits taken on Marajó Island, in the Amazon River delta. The images raise the question, with their sumptuous textures in black and white, of how painting can possibly compete with this: with the subjects’ skin glowing into the camera; with the gaze, dreaming into the distance or looking back at us; with the moment, captured in an instant. Braga’s portraits are familiarly, warmly human, and yet done with a vivid artistry and loveliness that life rarely presents in the flesh.
At Luciana Brito’s stand, Thomaz Farkas’s 1960 image showing ordinary Brazilians seeing the Congress building for the first time in their new capital, Brasília, is complemented by a contemporary image of the city that forms part of a selection at Brasília’s A Casa da Luz Vermelha, a newcomer to SP-Arte/Foto. The untitled image, by Anderson Schneider, has all the midcentury-modern air of an episode of Mad Men, not least for the drama inbued in the shot, and yet was taken in 2007, as part of the series ‘Brasília Concreta’.
Abstract masterpieces by the likes of Geraldo de Barros and Gaspar Gasparian, and complex, photo-montage landscapes by Claudia Jaguaribe give the lie to any notion of photography’s unmediated ‘realness’, while questions like this will be up for discussion at a series of debates held in the auditorium of Shopping JK’s Livraria da Vila bookstore (2nd floor). One of the art year’s most rewarding, approachable events, SP-Arte/Foto is highly recommended: catch it if you can.