The third of five children of Jayme and Anna Sister, who immigrated to Brazil in the 1920s from what is now the Ukraine, Sérgio Sister is born in 1948 in São Paulo, where he currently lives. His artistic training begins with classes in painting and art history at the studio of Ernestina Karman (1915-2004) between 1964 and 1967. During this period, he also attends open courses at the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (Faap) and, in 1966, begins to exercise the activity of journalist, as a reporter in the São Paulo branch of the Rio de Janeiro newspaper Última Hora. He first shows at art salons in the state of São Paulo: the 1965 and 1966 editions of the Salão Paulista de Arte Moderna in the Galeria Prestes Maia, in the city of São Paulo, and the Salão de Arte Contemporânea de Campinas at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Campinas in 1966. In the following year, 1967, he participates in the 9th Bienal de São Paulo with the work Real e fantástico [Real and Fantastic]–although the catalog also lists another of the artist’s paintings in the show, Os mitos e as massas [The Myths and the Masses]; both works, however, disappeared years later. In Sister’s words, Real e fantástico was “a Pop work, with flat, leveled figures,” informed by the look of comic strips and the psychedelic strain of British and North American graphic arts of the mid-1960s.
The Bienal de São Paulo of 1967 would became known as the “Pop Bienal”, especially because of the United States representation, which showed works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and George Segal, among others, in addition to a special room dedicated to painter Edward Hopper. In addition, England brought works by artists such as David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield, who used photography as reference for painting; Italy presented works by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Pino Pascali, whose work the art critic Germano Celant classified as arte povera; and the Brazilian representation, chosen by a jury coordinated by physicist and art critic Mario Schenberg, included Rubens Gerchman, Pedro Escosteguy, Nelson Leirner, Wesley Duke Lee, Carlos Zilio, Antonio Manuel, Marcello Nitsche, Carmela Gross, Carlos Fajardo, Lygia Clark, Geraldo de Barros, Maurício Nogueira Lima, among others.
Also in 1967, Sister participates in the periodic show Jovem Arte Contemporânea [Young Contemporary Art], at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC-USP), and the group show Jovens artistas [Young Artists] at the Museu de Arte Brasileira (MAB-Faap). He meets regularly with a group of artists whose work, at that time, was stimulated by Mario Schenberg. The circle includes the artists José Roberto Aguilar and Silvio Dworecki, musician Jorge Mautner, art critic Nelson Aguilar, among others. At the same time, in journalism, Sister grows closer to the political activism resisting the military regime (1964-1985) and, in 1967, he affiliates with the Partido Comunista Brasileiro-PCB [Brazilian Communist Party]. Soon after, he leaves the organization, together with the dissidence that had formed in the state of São Paulo in favor of more energetic action against the dictatorship, and he joins the Partido Comunista Brasileiro Revolucionário-PCBR [Brazilian Revolutionary Communist Party]. In 1968, he registers in the Social Sciences course of the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo (FFLCH-USP).
On January 17, 1970, Sister is imprisoned outside his home in the west zone of São Paulo by the State Department of Political and Social Order - Deops-SP (2). He spends a month in detention at the headquarters of Deops-SP, in Bom Retiro neighborhood, where he is subjected to torture sessions, and is then transferred to Tiradentes prison, where he is held until August, 1971. During this period, he develops an extensive body of drawings, all very colorful, featuring caricatured traits, political jokes and slogans.
Perhaps the least interesting aspect of the art I made in jail is the artwork itself. Not that we should avoid treating it as such. That would be show too much mercy, because, like most artists who were arrested, [...] I was aiming at a modern and culturally active artistic endeavor; and in that sense, if I look at these works closely, from every side, I sincerely think that they leave much to be desired. [...] Back then I drew everyday, as I had never done before. It served as a kind of chronicle to record what was happening around us. I tried to invent graphic symbols and colors, as signs for electric shocks, the door lock, the beatings [...]. Over time, an exchange of ideas began to occur with Alipio Freire, Carlos Takaoka, and José Wilson [all having visual arts productions]. [...] Only with the arrival of the architects–Sérgio Ferro, Rodrigo Lefèvre, Julio Barone, Carlos Henrique Heck and Sergio Souza Lima–did the artwork begin to pretend a greater connection with the art world. What Ferro, Lefèvre and Heck were doing reinstated for me what really stirred my generation in the 1960s: pop art. And it was there that, for the first time, I heard about gestalt and a certain arte povera. And, of course, that thing called the “crisis of the support.”The prison drawings have been, to date, presented in at least two shows: one at the Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP), called Pequenas insurreições [Small Insurrections], 1985, and another at the Memorial da América Latina, also in São Paulo, titled Caros amigos [Dear Friends], 2008, both featuring works by artists held at Tiradentes prison during the military regime.
After his release from prison, Sister resumes his journalistic activities (until the mid-2000s, successively, at TV Cultura, TV Bandeirantes, Rede Globo, Veja magazine, TV Tupi, and the periodicals Análise, Dinheiro Vivo, Carta Política and Valor Econômico, among others). He completes his degree in Social Sciences in 1974 and, immediately afterwards, begins researching a Master’s degree thesis on “union bureaucracy” in the Department of Political Science of FFLCH-USP, without completing it.
Sister goes back to painting regularly in the late 1970s. Until the middle of the following decade, he produces works characterized by irregular geometric shapes, some with figurative remnants that suggest fragments of profiles of human heads. During this period, the artist begins to investigate the reflectivity of metallic inks and pigments–“as a way to reflect the external world inside the picture”–an element that would henceforth become one of the hallmarks of his work.
In 1983, Sérgio Sister has his first solo exhibition at the Paulo Figueiredo Art Gallery, in São Paulo. In this show, he presents paintings of literary inspiration, whose titles refer to J. W. Goethe’s version of the Faust myth and Sigmund Freud’s clinical report about the “Schreber case.” Then, after a trip to New York that he considers important for his development–especially due to the kind of contact that he has with works by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns, Walter De Maria and Robert Ryman–the artist prepares, between 1985 and 1986, his second exhibition, also at Paulo Figueiredo. The exhibition brochure, entitled Expressão construída [Constructed Expression], contains a text by the art critic Rodrigo Naves, who considered that Italian painter Giorgio Morandi had much to “offer” to contemporary painting, with his “aesthetic decisiveness” and “moral firmness,” qualities that the author identified in Sister’s painting:
His paintings are not concerned with major formal transgressions. Instead, what characterizes them is an effort to make expression more difficult, in order to bond it to the labor expended in executing the canvases. In fact, these have a problematic presence, distinct from the directness that had lately been one of the hallmarks of contemporary production. The exceedingly discreet appearance of these works is strictly proportional to a plot crafted with the obsessiveness of one who does not want to conclude. Or, rather, cannot. Because this is not about embodying an idea or a project that requires a minimum of sensitive presence in order to be better understood. Rather, what we find here is an excess of labor for a result that is deliberately negligible in effects; a facility that refuses to simply accomplish but questions itself at every movement. Therefore, it would be naive to perceive in these a celebration of handicraft, or a vague protest against the summary nature of contemporary art.A radical distillation of the elements of his painting leads Sister to investigate, since 1987, the brushstroke (and everything that can be obtained from it in terms of brightness and surface) as the only structuring element of the picture. Out go the color contrasts, and the angular or curved shapes that characterize the earlier production, giving rise to the first monochrome paintings of this body of work, among them a series of black horizontal canvases and square pictures measuring 33 x 33 cm. Thus the work begins to focus on subtle differentiations used for shaping the plane, transformed, now, into a chromatically uniform and thickly layered field. Such differences are determined by the direction and length of the brushstrokes, in short, by the distribution of matter upon the support. According to the artist, it is at this point that his work begins to achieve a more distinctive appearance.
In a text published in Guia das Artes [Arts Guide] in 1988, art critic Sônia Salzstein notes the importance that matter acquires in this work of Sérgio Sister. And, by also analyzing the work of Paulo Pasta, Nuno Ramos, Fábio Miguez and Marco Giannotti, the author reflects on the relationship between expression and action in the painting of the time, particularly in São Paulo. Regarding Sister’s painting, she writes:
In some of his small paintings, Sérgio Sister’s almost painstaking black brushstrokes seem to conceal, with persistence and a measure of coolness, the kinds of interiors that somehow subsisted in the works he showed at the Galeria Paulo Figueiredo in 1986 [...]. In the artist’s recent paintings, black annihilates the residual skin of the figure/ground order, but not–it must be noted–to promote the emergence of materiality. Because these works have achieved a ground zero of representation and, also, of matter. If there is a preoccupation that painting be the unprejudiced modulation of a subjectivity, this only emerges to the exact measure of the delimitation of the pictorial field. This subjectivity manifests itself as a certain refined and almost laconic lyricism with which the pictorial material impregnates itself. And the support is not present simply to be qualified by subjectivity; it reacts, appears restless, and refuses to settle with a possible truth of the matter. Therefore, sometimes the canvases are too small to contain the methodical intensity of the gesture, while others are inappropriately large for a gesture so calculated and measured.This work of Sister to which Sônia Salzstein refers is first seen in public in a solo exhibition at Galeria Millan, in São Paulo, in 1988. The works in the show share vibrations of matter and luminosity obtained by alternating smooth and rough areas according to the brushstrokes. Thus, the observer’s point of view becomes variable, since sideways observation of the canvases, for example, can reveal nuances both in the picture’s reflectivity and texture. In a text written for the exhibition brochure, art critic Lorenzo Mammì comments:
To make the brushstroke movements attain maximum possible presence, Sister uses an aluminum powder pigment mixed with oils, waxes or grounds. Thus treated, the pigment retains the metallic sparkle, though weakened–not a constant reflection that repels the eye, forcing it to linger on the picture’s surface, but a vague luminosity that invites deeper discovery of other reflexes, others plays of light and shadow. The material used by the artist seems to perform an impossible reconciliation of opposites: to absorb and reflect light simultaneously.In the late 1980s, Sister grows close to an informal circle of artists, consisting of Célia Euvaldo, Fábio Miguez, José Spaniol, Laura Vinci, Marco Giannotti, Nuno Ramos, Paulo Monteiro, Paulo Pasta and Renata Tassinari. In 1989, he participates in group shows and has solo exhibitions at Galeria Macunaíma, of the Fundação Nacional de Arte-Funarte [National Arts Foundation], in Rio de Janeiro, and the Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP)–institutions that, during this period, played an important role in stimulating contemporary art production in Brazil. In his one-person show at CCSP, Sister presented drawings with a calligraphic aspect, made in that same year. To produce them, the artist folded the paper horizontally on the edge of a table and applied the brush, dipped in black acrylic paint, using mechanical gestures along the entire extension. The operation was repeated up and down, as if tracing a musical staff, parallel lines that combined the mechanical nature of the gestures with a certain misalignment of contact between brush hairs and sheet. At the Galeria Macunaíma one-person show, the artist shows a selection of 33 x 33 cm paintings. Art critic Agnaldo Farias publishes a review of the Rio de Janeiro exhibition in the magazine Guia das Artes:
The present series, consisting almost entirely of small paintings, of the smallest measures approximately 30 x 30 cm, expands and intensifies an issue already present in works from three years ago. In the latter there was a meticulous clash between a sketched figuration, already very close to abstraction, and monochromatic fields that percolated from its cracks. [...] But, to clarify, this was not a problem of figuration, or even a discussion about color, but rather the patient and morose work of the brushstroke upon the impossibility of expression, carried out as much by the veiling that can silence it as by the use of a fragile syntax that disarticulates itself by the swelling of its intervals.1990-1999
In 1990, the artist has a one-person show at Galeria Millan, showing paintings from the 33 x 33 series, and participates in the works-on-paper edition of the Panorama da Arte Atual Brasileira [Panorama of Current Brazilian Art] of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP) with the drawings previously described–later given the nickname “manuscripts.” Two years later, Sister has an exhibition at the Morumbi Chapel, in São Paulo, featuring six monochrome paintings-Verde capela [Chapel Green], Vermelho capela [Chapel Red], etc.-, all in larger than usual dimensions (from 100 x 180 cm to 170 x 180 cm). As in the smaller pieces, these works are structured by luminous vibrations produced by the brushstrokes, except, this time, with expansive gestures, to achieve a texture that, in Sister’s words, “would maintain a dialogue with the adobe walls of the chapel itself.”
Also in 1992, Sérgio Sister organizes, with other São Paulo artists, a group show at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ). The show is named 13 artistas paulistas [13 Artists from São Paulo] and includes, in addition to Sister, Célia Euvaldo, Cláudio Mubarac, Esther Grinspum, Fábio Miguez, Laura Vinci, Marco Giannotti, Paulo Monteiro, Nuno Ramos, Paulo Pasta, Renata Tassinari, Rodrigo Andrade and Rodrigo de Castro. That same year, Sister participates in the Panorama do Desenho Brasileiro [Panorama of Brazilian Drawing] at MAM-SP, this time with works featuring collage of paper on paper with oil paint. If, until this point, paint had been, above all, matter for Sérgio Sister, from 1993 onwards it becomes, above all, color. Thereafter, the artist uses spatula and trowel to subtract the accumulations of ink and pigment, previously recurrent in the work, gradually decreasing the roughness of his surfaces. At the same time, he delineates areas or forms (square, rectangle etc.) that establish themselves through tonal differences, while leaving the brushstrokes apparent. Therefore, in Sister’s opinion, this constitutes a “turnaround” moment in the work: the painting becomes decidedly frontal, the surface lays aside the subtle recesses of matter, and the colors gain in intensity–also the result of mixing paint with mica powder, increasing the brightness of the results of the process.
Part of this practice emerged during a workshop organized by the Goethe-Institut in Alagoas, in the summer of 1993, bringing together Brazilian and German artists–among them, Rolf Behm, Cristina Canale, Rogério Gomes, Gerda Lepke, Osmar Pinheiro, Hubertus Reichert and Adriana Varejão. The results were subsequently shown at the Galeria Millan, in São Paulo, and at the Galeria Casa da Imagem, in Curitiba. In the brochure accompanying the exhibition, art critic Alberto Tassinari draws attention to the luminous effects of these works:
Sérgio Sister’s paintings seem to harbor light. Opaque, sometimes milky, they are, paradoxically, luminous paintings. Although painted always with a dominant color, they speak not so much of color, but of, if one may put it this way, a repose of light. There, retained, between the grooves and vibrations that structure the picture, light seems to find in color more its environment than its translation. There, light remains, more than it illuminates.Between 1994 and 1995, Sérgio Sister continues his series of monochrome paintings, but with rather pronounced tonal divisions. The variations in the intensity of each color no longer happen on a diffuse plane, as before, but through the demarcation of regions on the surface of the painting. It is with works of this kind that the artist participates in the exhibition Morandi no Brazil [Morandi in Brazil], organized by the Fine Arts Division of the Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP) in 1995 and composed of works by the Italian artist and Brazilians Amilcar de Castro, Eduardo Sued, Iberê Camargo, Milton Dacosta, Paulo Pasta and Tunga. The catalog of this exhibition contains texts by Célia Euvaldo, Paulo Monteiro and Lorenzo Mammì, for whom what is “Morandian” about Sérgio Sister is the “moral dignity of the gesture.”
Also in 1995, Sister has a one-person exhibition at Galeria Millan. In the essay published in the exhibition catalog, Rodrigo Naves emphasizes qualities newly conquered by the artist’s work:
Sérgio Sister is, yes, a somewhat enragé modernist who insists on seeing painting as an autonomous process, averse to contamination by reality and its limitations. I even believe that this positioning came to give him an excessive sense of security that hindered, for a while, the development of his painting. Currently, the same emphasis given to the elements intrinsic to the medium–plane, color, light–is taking his work in another direction. The autonomy of the elements–the promise of an activity that regulates itself–is obtained by a labor and a corporeality that, by their very nature, relativize that intention. And, simultaneously, consideration given to the circumstances of execution of these shapes and colors ensures the singularity and strength of his painting. And it is, above all, the clash between the various regions of the pictures that makes this process visible, when a small and denser blue rectangle puts itself on an equal footing with a greater expanse of the same color. Some ten years ago a contained and obstinate gesturality maintained the hope of ridding light and color from their worldly commitments, even if at the expense of light and color themselves. The black surfaces were a neutral territory where everything could find its origin. Today, on the contrary, it is their impurities that can ensure their particularity.After outlining these square or rectangular areas on monochrome surfaces, Sérgio Sister begins to exercise the pairing and the transition between different colors in a single picture. In 1996, a series of paintings with vertical stripes emerges, sometimes with a lowered palette of grays and blues, sometimes with contrasting warm and cool colors. The artist writes about this phase of his production in a text published in the brochure accompanying an exhibition at the Galeria Marilia Razuk held that year:
Why am I adding other colors to the same space? And, moreover: why am I now structuring the colors through stripes, when this has been, and still is, widely used in contemporary paintings by artists such as Barnett Newman and Brice Marden and, among us, Eduardo Sued and Cássio Michalany?This approximation between distinct colors on a surface, while preserving the autonomy of each of them, leads the artist to experiment with a none-too conventional support for painting: fruit boxes, the kind made of wood, used for packing and shipping. Sister begins to apply paint flatly–something hitherto atypical of his work–to the slats of these boxes; and for each slat there was a different color. The distance between these wooden slats, the shadows they produce when they are hung on the wall, the play between the color bands and the empty spaces–all regulated the thinking behind the production. These early, “rough-hewn boxes were never shown. But from them came Ripas [Strips], works always formed by pairs of wooden strips, vertical and parallel, separated from each other by a few centimeters and, in most cases, articulated by a small section, also made of wood, on the upper end, used ultimately to hang the structure on the wall. Each of these strips is wrapped in canvas, on which the artist applies paint, always smoothly and uniformly.
Ripas were presented for the first time in an edition of the Arco art fair in Madrid, in 1997, in the Galeria Casa da Imagem stand. When invited the following year to participate in the exhibition program of the Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP), Sister proposes a show consisting only of works made with wood between 1997 and 1998. In the program brochure, Sister explains why, at the beginning of this production, he chose to associate light and dark tones in each pair of strips:
To improve the flow between the concrete space of the wall and the strips, I resorted to a trick: I nearly always used a color that had some kinship with the shadow projected by the strips and, also, with the white wall itself. Thus, the eye could run more fluidly between the painted volumes and the rest, thereby establishing a cooperative game between the colors, and between them and the surrounding space. Clearly I also prompted a peacemaking manoeuver between the work, the wall and its shadows. But I think the result is a coexistence of solidarity, with more differentiation and complexity. Isn’t that more or less what we want?Invited to participate in the 1999 edition of the periodic exhibition Panorama da Arte Brasileira [Panorama of Brazilian Art] at MAM-SP, Sister shows two long vertical paintings: one formed by several horizontal bands of color, with visible brushstrokes, suggesting short gestures in various directions, in shades of black, blue and gray; and another with its surface divided into three areas, two filled by white at the top and the bottom, and the third by a bluish-gray in the middle, using carefully flat and homogeneous brushstrokes. The MAM-SP show was organized around issues that curator and art historian Tadeu Chiarelli identified in six works belonging to the collection of that museum. The works by Sister were presented in a nucleus that revolved around the painting Mastros [Masts], 1977, by Alfredo Volpi. In the exhibition catalog, Chiarelli comments:
The works of Sérgio Sister seem to be, at first sight [...], exegesis and expansion of the possibilities of modern postulates of painting at the present time. It is as if they regulate the subtle optical kinetics of Volpi’s painting, determining to occupy pictorial space through a deaf and introspective tonalism that unsettles–through the dutiful discretion of the shape of the support–the often acute rhythm achieved by Volpi’s poetics.2000-2013
In 2000, the artist organizes, for the first time, an exhibition of his work covering an ample time span, bringing together, at the Museu de Arte de Ribeirão Preto (Marp), in the state of São Paulo, works produced from the late 1980s until then. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings and wooden strips. The small catalog that accompanies the exhibition reviews the artist’s trajectory, listing the shows in which these works were shown.
In the same year, Sister has a solo exhibition at Galeria São Paulo, showing paintings in which metallic colors predominate, due to the use of larger amounts of aluminum powder and mica mixed with industrial paints and pigments. In these pictures, the division of the surface is increasingly marked and, for each area, the artist applies distinct colors, giving distinct directions and rhythms to the brushstrokes. In counterpoint to the suggestion of weight imparted by those “leadened” colors, there is a certain lightness in the application of matter on the support, be it canvas or paper.
Researchers from the universities of Pisa and Palermo recently found, in the basement of the Cathedral of Florence, skeletal remains that could be those of Giotto di Bondone, the great Italian painter [...]. In the material examined there were residues of arsenic, lead, aluminum, manganese, zinc and copper, in quantities beyond normal for someone unused to manipulating pigments.In 2002, Alberto Tassinari complies the book Sérgio Sister, published under the imprint of the Casa da Imagem art gallery. The volume carries a new essay by Tassinari, reproduces works made between 1986 and 2001, and brings together previously published texts on the work, written by Naves, Mammì, Tassinari and Sister himself.
In the Brazilian Representation of the 25th Bienal de São Paulo of 2002, curated by Agnaldo Farias–under the general direction of Alfons Hug–, Sister presents a group of large paintings featuring diffuse luminosity. The division of areas into bands and rectangles is now more precise than ever. There are pictures with a palette confined to silvers and bronzes, as well as others where intense chromatic fields prevail, for example, in orange. The handiwork, in turn, is lithe, refined, with little matter. Incidentally, the horizontal marks that cross the paintings from end to end are obtained by laying the paint with a spatula in sweeping and controlled gestures. The artist Tatiana Blass publishes in 2003, in the journal Novos Estudos, an essay about the works in this series:
In these most recent paintings, it seems to me that this hazy texture has been gaining more and more clarity. But it should be asked: is this mode of differentiation, without sharp contrasts, an attempt to achieve a peacemaking relationship, or is this equivalent competence of all areas of the canvas an appeal for competitiveness? I believe that the two movements are not exclusive, but it seems to me more compelling to assume that these relationships are established with the aim of partnership rather than rivalry.Sister’s desire to “liberate” painting in space, something that was already manifest in Ripas, finds expression in an exhibition held, in 2003, at the 10.20 x 3.60 gallery, a defunct exhibition space in the neighborhood of Santa Cecília, in São Paulo, run by artists belonging to the group Olho Seco [Dry Eye]–whose members included Ana Paula Oliveira, Felipe Cohen, Rafael Campos Rocha, Renata Lucas, Tatiana Ferraz, Wagner Malta Tavares and Wagner Morales. There, Sister also presents, besides Ripas, works consisting of wooden beams enveloped with canvas and each one painted with a single color, casually placed on the floor and leaning against the wall. Subsequently, the artist’s paintings on canvas return to exploring the interaction between pale and shimmering areas.
In the same year, in an exhibition with artists Fábio Miguez and Rodrigo Castro at the Celma Albuquerque Galeria de Arte, in Belo Horizonte, Sister presents works not previously exhibited and produced between 2001 and 2003. In the exhibition catalog, art critic Tiago Mesquita compares these recent works with the artist’s previous production:
It is difficult to perceive a unity existing prior to the work, it is contested and provisional. In the end, form affirms nothing with stridency. It maintains a precarious balance, with a light touch, one of the significant advances of his painting at the time [early 1990s].In 2004, Sister brings together a large number of paintings and drawings for a one-person show at Galeria Millan, in São Paulo. In these paintings, the artist develops the investigation that generated the works shown at the Bienal of 2002. As for the drawings, he initiates the Guerreiros [Warriors] series, in which it is common to find contrasts between the luminosity of aluminum and mica and the thick, strong colors derived from oil paint tubes.
In the same year, Sister creates a series of drawings to illustrate the book O Senhor do bom nome – e outros mitos judaicos [Master of the Good Name–And Other Jewish Myths], by Ilan Brenman, published by Cosac Naify. For these works, generally, the artist resorts to the symbolism of Judaism, such as the seven-branched candelabrum, using, again, oil paint on paper with silver and gold as the prevailing colors. Another feature of these illustrations is the oil halo around the painted forms, resulting from the absorption of ink by paper–something which, moreover, appears in most of the artist’s drawings. In 2006, Sister shows a significant number of works on paper in a one-person show at the Centro Universitário Maria Antonia, in São Paulo. And, the following year, a similar exhibition, also composed of paintings on paper, travels to Rio de Janeiro, where it is shown at the Paço Imperial.
In 2007, Agnaldo Farias organizes, at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo, the exhibition Pinturas face a face [Paintings Face to Face] with works by Cristina Canale and Sérgio Sister, each in a separate room, like individual one-person shows. For the first time, Sister presents the Pontaletes [Props], each formed by a group of aluminum and wooden bars, generally shown standing on the ground, leaning against the wall, and stacked, forming what look like backstops, goalposts and corners. Some of these bars are covered with canvas and painted, while others show the original surfaces of the materials. In these works, balance, contiguity, floor occupation and the angle of the bars relative to the wall are all decisive for the setup, and for obtaining a configuration both compact and detached. In a critique published in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, Rodrigo Naves writes the following about the Pontaletes:
Sérgio Sister puts us directly in touch with this dimension of painting, the transposition of different and unexpected regions. However, we must characterize this movement with some precision. This is not just another exercise in the deconstruction of painting, something done by the dozen in recent decades: retaining only the frames of tradition and revealing, beyond them, the real world that painting would have always sought in vain to represent. If his works remind us of frames, they remind us even more of other signposts that make us think of passage and transition: porticos, goalposts, backstops. What motivates these works is precisely the setting up of an expectation, the expectation of crossing a threshold. [...]In a one-person show at the Galeria Nara Roesler, in São Paulo, in 2008, Sister brings together a single Pontalete with paintings mounted on monochromatic modules–some of these modules were hung directly on the wall, separated by a few centimeters, to form a painting, or were articulated from the top with a small aluminum bar, similar to the Ripas. Rounding out the exhibition, there is a series of paintings in different shades of white and silver and, in opposition, a picture with shades of black contrasted with blue and magenta. In an essay published in the exhibition catalog, art critic Paulo Venâncio Filho analyzes this grouping in light of the recent Brazilian art history:
The use of aluminum is a “discovery.” The bold leap had to happen precisely on this surface, antithetical to sensitization, a vulgar, second-class metal. Anodyne, incapable of saturation or depth illusion, naturally blurred and also reflective, metallic paint creates a unique visual atmosphere, such that, unless I am mistaken, there is something on the surface of the canvases that is comparable, in effect, to novel materials employed by current architecture. Immediately it brings to mind perhaps the most emblematic of them all: the titanium sheathing of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao, and also several other recent projects where the combination of new materials and new formal possibilities began to draw attention back to architectural surfaces, increasingly active and visually determinant in terms of the total project, when they are not that totality itself.At the invitation of the Galeria Silvia Cintra of Rio de Janeiro, Sister chooses artists Bruno Dunley and Lucas Arruda to participate, with him, in a group show entitled Superfície atividade [Surface Activity], held in 2009. In the exhibition, each artist presents a small series of paintings, and Sister exhibits canvases subdivided into contiguous rectangles, using a dark palette.
In the same year, the artist begins again to make works using wooden boxes, somewhat like those fruit boxes with which he worked in the mid-1990s, except this time with the support made to order: measuring approximately 38 x 23 cm, with bands of various widths, monochromatic and distributed in spatial intervals, creating, when hung on the wall, three levels of depth–foreground, sides, and back. Thus, the combinatorial diversity involves color as much as the structure of these reliefs. Soon after, some Caixas [Boxes] are shown in the group exhibition Ponto de equilíbrio [Point of Balance], curated by Agnaldo Farias and Jacopo Crivelli at Instituto Tomie Ohtake in 2010. The following year, three solo exhibitions are made up of dozens of these pieces; displayed alongside paintings on paper and Pontaletes at the Nara Roesler and Lemos de Sá galleries, the latter in Nova Lima, Minas Gerais, and next to paintings on paper only at the Josée Bienvenu Gallery, in New York. In the brochure of the São Paulo show, titled Entre tanto [However], the English art critic Isobel Whitelegg addresses the artist’s three-dimensional work:
The initial movement from Caixa to Ripa is akin to breaking a familiar object into ever more general parts, or the relative fixity of a familiar phrase into the individual words that together hold a meaning. If the crate is a product that, while put to various uses, is specific; the batten [ripa] begins by returning that structure to the generic vocabulary of the wood yard. Battens, posts, slats, and beams are products with a non-proprietary poetics–“intermediary goods”–incomplete products absorbed, almost disappearing, into the production of others. A wooden post serves no predetermined end; it exists in order to allow construction to take place, raw material adapted as tool for the organization of empty space, used to hold up, mark out, separate, attach. The post’s reason for being has an abstract quality, akin to the unplaceable purpose of painting, drawing, and architecture. [...] While Sister, as painter, maintains allegiance to the demands of color, the questions for which the Caixinha, Ripa and Pontalete provide answers recall the primordial task of architecture–the human work of employing physical materials to organize empty space, the art of making something appear in the place of nothing. For Lacan, the emptiness at the heart of architectural endeavor was homologous to the beyond that is relative to every law of human utility, a gap also rehearsed in the tradition of ceasing work on the seventh day of every week–dividing our time into productiveness and its suspension according to a divine commandment, a given project for living. The contemporary, however, is a time devoid of inherited regulations, it is constituted by doubt, hesitation and indecision, ungoverned by the certain and directed movement of any projection. Ours is a time with a future ever newly planned, a past permanently re-written.Between late 2012 and early 2013, Sérgio Sister continues his research into solutions for relief painting with a series of boxes larger than the previous (53 x 30 x 15cm), now formed by strips of different heights and widths, arranged in three levels of depth: front, middle and back of the wooden structure. Thus, the relationships between color bands, empty spaces and shadows also take place in an internal and divisible space – and not coincidentally the artist calls these pieces Third Plane Boxes. Yet to be exhibited, these works are reproduced for the first time in this catalog.
1 - Part of the information gathered here comes from an interview with Sérgio Sister, conducted by researchers Taísa Palhares and José Augusto Ribeiro, and artist Paulo Monteiro, on December 18, 2012, at Estação Pinacoteca.
2 - Organ created in 1924 by the Brazilian government, used mainly during the Estado Novo (1937-1945) period, and by the military dictatorship, to control and repress political and social movements opposed to the regime in power.
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