Artist: Emanoel Araújo
Opening reception: Tuesday 12 September, 6pm-8pm
Jack Shainman Gallery is honored to announce the representation of the Estate of Emanoel Araújo and the exhibition Emanoel Araújo. This is not only his debut presentation at the gallery, but also the first major survey of his work in New York since the 1980s.
The late Brazilian artist, curator, and collector had a career that defied categorization; Araújo forged personal and public platforms to express the nuances of Afro-Brazilian life and culture—reenvisioning philosophies of Modern aesthetics, creating space for marginalized artists to exhibit their work, and preserving the material history of his ancestral heritage in a time before Afro-Brazilian voices were championed by regional or international audiences.
Born in 1940 in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, to an Afro-Brazilian goldsmithing family of modest means, Araújo’s adolescence orbited creative output—over the course of his youth working both with the cabinetmaker and woodcarver Eufrásio Vargas and as a graphic designer for his hometown’s Imprensa Oficial (Official Press). After his first solo exhibition in Santo Amaro da Purificação in 1959, he enrolled in the Escola de Belas Artes da Bahia in Salvador. While in school, he studied printmaking—in the vein of his Modern predecessors and contemporaries Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Pape—developing a practice oriented in communal expression and geometric abstraction. From the start, Araújo was concerned with working in graphic and three-dimensional media while diverging from the appropriating abstraction of Colonial European tradition—envisioning Modernism born from a singularly Brazilian context and comprehending abstraction’s ability to ignite political power and social transformation.
Araújo’s work functions on multiple registers, merging the formal language developed in his studies, the unapologetic embrace of his queer, Black, and Brazilian identity, and the intricate ideologies of his life as a curator and collector of Afro-Brazilian artwork and artifacts. With simplified figures, primary structures, and high-contrast palates, his engravings, reliefs, and sculptures are assemblages of reference: a mosaic of his upbringing in the Afro-Brazilian capital, inherited trauma from Brazil’s transatlantic slave trade, patterns from Nigerian and Beninois textiles, and Yoruba symbols of Orisha spirits. Embedded within his work is a creolization, assembling segments from past works and found objects that cut, interfere, refract across the image plane—reflecting the great dimension of Brazil’s layered society; celebrating everyday life beyond the international epicenters of Rio de Janeiro and dismantling systemic racism from within the studio and institution to promote, exhibit, and collect his and fellow Afro-Brazilian artists’ work.
At the core of Araújo’s creative and professional career was an ambition to challenge himself and his country to overcome adversity and imagine a more inclusive society through art rather than contorting to the market or establishment. Over the course of his life, his accomplishments included developing the Pinacoteca de São Paulo into an internationally regarded museum, founding the first artist-established institution in Brazil dedicated to promoting the work of Black artists (Museu Afro Brasil), and amassing an archive of around six-thousand objects and four-thousand documents from the Afro-Brazilian diaspora. Araújo was a visionary, boldly asserting his creative presence in a way that was grandiose, totemic, and vibrant; his life comprises a portrait of a nation and generation, and the infinite complexities within them.