são felipe_bahia_1953. lives and works in salvador_bahia
Almandrade’s work invokes constructivism, minimalism, lettrism and conceptualism, through the Concrete Poetry movement and especially through Poem/Process. His production materializes into pieces that articulates forms of literary-artistic expressions present in the visual poems – published and exhibited from the 1970s onwards, in which he found in the diversity of mediums the possibility of expanding the language – to paintings and sculptural pieces on larger scales, which are more recent. In the words of Décio Pignatari, a friend of Almandrade’s: “The poetic language differs from the language that we use in daily communication. Each poet explores the language in search of an unexpected event, a singular experience.”
Antonio Luiz Morais de Andrade, whose pseudonym is Almandrade, is a visual artist, an architect with a master’s degree in urban design, a poet and a professor of art theory in art workshops at Bahia’s Museum of Modern Art (MAM) and Palacete das Artes. He participated in various collectives shows, among them: three editions of the Bienal de São Paulo (1973, 1975 and 1981), 2nd Salão Paulista, 1st Exposição Internacional de Esculturas Efêmeras, 1st Salão Baiano and 2nd Salão Nacional. He received an honorable mention at the 1st Salão Estudantil, in 1972. He took part in collective exhibitions of visual poems, multimedia and installation projects in Brazil and abroad.
His works are present in collections of important institutions, among them: Bahia’s MAM, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Museu de Arte do Rio de Janeiro, Pinacoteca Municipal de São Paulo, Museu Afro Brasil, Museu Nacional de Brasília, Museu da Cidade, Museu de Arte do Rio Grande do Sul, MAC do Rio Grande do Sul, Museu de Arte Moderna Aloisio Magalhães, Museu de Arte Abraham Palatnik, Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Feira de Santana, São Paulo’s MAM and Fundação Vera Chaves Barcelos (RS), among other private and public collections.
The contemporary Brazilian art was partly consolidated by some auspicious paths that led to a politically and aesthetically special place for our cultural production: the resistance of a sort of visual poetry that also spread over to popular songs and plastic works, the consolidation of a constructive and concrete tradition in mid-20th century and the experience of the avant-garde modern architecture that provided the world with a new look at material heritage, construction, and urbanization.
The vast, light, and precise literary and artistic production of Almandrade (São Felipe, BA, 1953) is the fruit of such amalgamation of paths. Therefore, it is not up to us to classify it. However, identifying some historical, geopolitical, and aesthetic anchors that helped building a poetic neighborhood for his performance is worthwhile. On the one hand, we may associate him with the prominent names of our neo-concrete and conceptual art and our concrete and visual poetry; on the other hand, there are also extended meanings and neighborhoods with names that came from other parts of Brazil, away from the primacy of the Rio-São Paulo art scene. When we thread our way through those references, we see possible approximations with the work of notables, such as Sérvulo Esmeraldo, from Ceará; Montez Magno, Daniel Santiago, and Paulo Bruscky, from Pernambuco; Raul Córdula, from Paraíba; and even the Wlademir Dias-Pino, Neide Sá and Álvaro de Sá, from Rio; in addition to Ridyas and Regina Silveira, from São Paulo.
In general, these approximations are due to the identification of geometries and visual poems that stem from an experimental practice carried out bidimensionally on paper or canvas surfaces. Consequently, there is also the spatial progression of his artistic practice towards three-dimensionality, in which cutting and folding, shape and color act and activate the semantic field of sculpture. In this path towards the built space, in its most varied scales, it is impossible not to associate his production with Rio’s neo-concretism from the late 1950s, or even with Escola Brasil, which thrived in São Paulo in the 1970s. The approximation to this poetic repertoire of history of art and poetry in the country slashes and demarcates a symbolic place for Almandrade, beyond the avant-garde context of Salvador (BA).
Such an overview makes it possible to identify a crucial moment of Brazilian culture in which the artist gave his first steps: the years of lead (1968-1974) of the civil-military Brazilian dictatorship. It was in this period of darkness that his silent art was gestated, offering, not without humor, possible analogies to affective and political life. However, the work of Almandrade, in its entirety, should not be perceived as a consequence of only the chronological time, through a linear succession of works, each piece excelling the previous one and so on. In his 50-year-long career, there is a coherent conceptual and plastic outline that guides his daily production: permanent experimentation which triangulates as shapes of traces, letters and matter.
In the exhibition, for example, the arc of time of the selected artworks, from 1973 to 2021, allows us to note a persistence of thought and formal clarity, and thus we can travel light, loosely, through the time of this work, uncompelled to respond to what the milieu glorifies from time to time. This, perhaps, has a relation with the metaphysical reasoning within the artist’s works, in which its signs take on a new meaning, as the objects and canvases are observed and perceived by those who activate them, bringing his art into the conjugation of the present.
A key for reading them that seems relevant to me is the proximity to the conceptual and graphic language of architecture, a kind of existence that unveils spaces. It is a translation that I would like to call “quasi-architecture”: a poetic deed that seems to touch on the reasons for architecture itself as theory and praxis, an architectural quasi-existence. Such a perception comes to us when we observe the graphic resources of representation, the compositions and, consequently, the spatial suggestions that are traced there.
Many of the drawings and paintings emulate a top view, a low flight over an imagined area. They are like architectural blueprints that make up a structure – something that is, at the same time, space represented and written poem. The compositional dance of the letters as they form words and the graphic arrangement of ink or acrylic lines promote this exclusive symbolic place of the work of art. They are places capable of approaching dialogic situations that come from the represented architecture: the inside and the outside, the private and the public, light and shadow, closed and open, etc.
Among the concepts that the critic tradition identified about the work of this artist from Bahia is the idea of “abstract nudism” – coined by the writer and artist Décio Pignatari –, which seems to fit like a glove. If the work is a poem or an object, if it is a piece of sculpture or architecture, we don’t know. Yet, as remarked by the critic, we notice the existence of works composed “accordingly to textbook definitions, but misleadingly meant and simplistic, for they are metaphysical”.
Thus, through the works arranged in the gallery space, the poetic and architectural enigma of Almandrade is qualified, which grants us in its multiple compositions the existence of “geometric meteorites of thought”.
Diego Matos, between January and February of 2023.
 The citations in the last two paragraphs provide the teaching of Décio Pignatari (1927-2012), tituled “A persistência do nudismo abstrato: os objetos franciscanamente contundentes de Almandrade” (2006).
I thought about elementariness, casualness, geometric alphabet, but ended up opting for the idea of the abstract nudism, to try to characterize Almandrade’s attitude and posture before his creations and sign creatures that hesitate between the bi and tridimensional, in two and three colors, in two or three textures.
The parsimony of these objects, striking in a Franciscan way, designed, composed according to a script primer, but deceitfully meaningful and simplistic, since metaphysic.
They create a significant field that seems to repel inset instructions, even when they include some metaphoric element, in memorian Dadaism.
Geometrical meteorites of the thought, precise tachycardia of a very clear vision whose totality was obfuscated, evidence and minimal impression of an artistic-mental event; occurred in the ecological panorama of the 20 wraith of undeniable metaphysical order, divine essence and shape (as Baudelaire would say) of the naked bird of poetry and its discomposed loves.
A Proun (El Lissitsky) nudism in the tropics, metonymic recollection of paradise, graceful non-dwelling constructions-installations, almost Duchamps-like, Van Doeslike samples of an artistic former Eden, where the probable irony contained is not more than a half-smile.
These beings correct and rigorously naked, the eye completely picks them, as pocket suitable objects. And there’s music in them, but it’s not even chamber music, it’s cell, niche and small box: they’re microtonal, mini ideograms solid to Scelsi.
Almandrade excels in the miniatures of his creatures, whose nudity implies muteness, limpid cleaning of the artistic eye, already tired of the fantastic history of Art of this endless century, of this infinite millennium.
Simplifying the shapes and geometrizing life seems to be Almandrade’s wish, one of the most representative artists of Bahia’s contextual art at the moment. His investigations point to the epistemology of constructiveness, where the shapes generate knowledge, architecture of signs or power of experimentation.
The apprehension of the space is an instance and also an education, they demonstrate intentionality and substantiate logical, geometrical determinations, representations and imagery in the encounter line/space. He believes that a work is constituted by the relationship of these elements with space and the observer.
The theoretical constructions in plastic arts are structured in fields increasingly essential to man and our world. Associating the power of art to new technological resources is surely following the trail of Rauschenberg’s giant experience, which seems to have frozen plastic creativity in the present characterized by the absence of style of an era like ours, incapable of redefining the artistic phenomena.
Almandrade takes on an important structuring role in his environment, revealing himself as an artist of outstanding integrity and admirably defined personality. Painter, sculptor, architect, master in urban design, emerging also as a pure poet and a thinker as wholesome as his line poetic.
Extremely technical artist and of strong expressive vigor, his sensitiveness developed with passion his metaphysical linear drawing, purist, that, truly, is nothing else but the synthesis of line and idea, as solid as the structuring of his sculpture, whose severity is capable of causing impact.
The difficult and tasteful seduction of the signs is what the fascinating proposal of Almandrade offers through line and space, tension and shape in search for the sculptural object. Intelligibility of the space and technical sensitiveness are his tonic. Instinctive and technical, his deep concept of space is of the most impressive lightness.
Architecture of silence, we might say. The power of the contrast between black and white may be seen as a reference to Klee, an allusion to the immense value that the great Swiss artist attributed to such opposition. Almandrade’s work makes us think about the sensitive urgency of the photographer, prisoner or mere witness of his own subjectivity.