Hettig, Frank-Alexander, Artforum International
Invoking memory and desire, the paintings and installations of young Brazilian artist Adriana Varejao reassemble tired historical narratives to produce fresh ones. In many of her early works, Varejao drew inspiration from Delft and Portuguese tiles, with their blue figures and ornaments, and her new work continues to incorporate this motif. At first glance, this recent exhibition, entitled "The Banquet," seemed to include mosaics of cracked and chipped antique tiles, but on closer inspection these proved to be painted images.
Varejao's works reference the colonial history of Brazil, and they often deploy a Baroque style and a craquele effect to underscore the historical allusion. In Entrance Figure, 1995-96, Varejao pieced together a figure from fake antique tiles, whose shoes and clothing (parts of a uniform) suggest a man, while the hand and hair look like those of a woman. The face was composed of white painted tiles, and the figure's outline was built up of various parts so that its identity was ultimately impossible to determine. In Eye Witness Y, X, 1996 - two oval paintings that seem to have been lifted from an old portrait gallery - Varejao portrayed herself, as Indian-Brazilian and Chinese-Brazilian. Where the eyes should have been in each of these portraits, one found instead a gaping, hollowed-out wound; a pair of gouged-out eyes, with small photographs mounted on each, lay on a glass table. The photographs depicted two people sitting on the chairs, one offering the other a cup of poisoned tea. This murder scene could be examined only with the aid of a magnifying glass.
In the work entitled Meat in the Franz Post Way, 1996, fragments had also been torn out of a painting, but here the pieces were glued onto plates that had been made in the style of antique china, which were arranged like slices of pie around it. …