Alan Fontes - "National Exposition"

On 7 August, Luciana Caravello Arte Contemporânea will stage the opening of “National Exposition”, by Alan Fontes, containing works that address the transformation of urban space in the city of Rio de Janeiro. These works draw on in-depth research into documents relating to the “Rio de Janeiro National Exposition”, held in 1908 to commemorate the First Centenary of the Opening of the Ports of Brazil and show off the then new federal capital – with its urban planning conducted by Mayor Francisco Pereira Passos and its sanitary system installed by Oswaldo Cruz – to national and foreign dignitaries.

The exhibition will contain nine paintings in oil and encaustic on canvas, and four object-books, in oil and fresco on concrete, in which the artist continues his three-year-old project based on research into the urban space of Rio de Janeiro, filling gaps in a constantly shifting memory. “The research, however, is not documentary in nature but open to the poetic reverie that painting, with all the imprecision of a stain, effectively incarnates”, as the artist put it when he presented the first stage of this research to the Rio de Janeiro CCBB, in 2016, with the support of the CCBB Contemporâneo Prize.

Luciana Caravello Arte Contemporânea will show new works by Alan Fontes divided into three modules. The first contains paintings that depict some of the palaces and pavilions that formed part of the 1908 “National Exposition”, of which only a few photographic records remain. The expressionistic paintings reconstruct the buildings amidst ruins analogous to the ravages of time that wear out documents and obscure memories of the past.

The second module brings together paintings from the “Black Lands” series, which “set the buildings of the time against ocean-like swathes of black, symbolizing the poetic space of memory, where the line between remembering and forgetting is blurred”, Alan Fontes says. Some of these paintings have already been on display this year during New York’s Art Week, in a solo project at the VOLTA fair.

The third module consists of concrete object-books, which serve as supports for small fresco paintings created using images of the 1908 event. “These sculptural objects symbolically relate the paintings to the material weight of which the no longer existing buildings were composed”, the artist remarks.


The National Exposition ran from 28 January to 15 November 1908, in the Urca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Its official purpose was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the decree that opened the country’s ports to friendly nations and to provide an inventory of Brazil’s economic achievements at the time. But the true purpose of the exposition was to show off the then new federal capital – with its new urban planning conducted by Mayor Francisco Pereira Passos and sanitary system installed by Oswaldo Cruz – to dignitaries visiting the city from other parts of the country and overseas.

State governments, the government of the Federal District and commercial, agricultural and industrial associations all took part in the event, in which each state set up pavilions to showcase its principal agricultural, industrial and intellectual achievements. Portugal was the only foreign country to participate in the event.


Alan Fontes (b. Ponte Nova, MG, 1980) lives and works in Belo Horizonte, MG and holds a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts from the Federal University of Minas Gerais. His recent shows include “The Book of the Wind”, at the Emma Thomas Gallery, New York (2016); “Poetics of a Landscape – Memory in Mutation”, at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center, Rio de Janeiro (2016); “On Uncertain Houses”, at the Emma Thomas Gallery, São Paulo (2015); “Deconstructions”, at the Baró Gallery, São Paulo (2014); “Sweet Lands” and “La Foule”, at the Laura Marsiaj Gallery, Rio de Janeiro (2012); and “House”, at the Paço das Artes, São Paulo (2008).

His work has featured in group shows such as “For the Love of the Public I”, at the Rio Museum of Art, Rio de Janeiro (2016); the Pampulha Prize Show, at the Pampulha Museum of Art, Belo Horizonte (2014); and among the winners of the FOCO Bradesco/Art Rio Prize, Rio de Janeiro (2013).

He has been artist in residence at CEIA’s Painting beyond Painting, Belo Horizonte (2006); at the 5th Edition of the Pampulha Prize Program, Belo Horizonte (2013); and at Baró Gallery, São Paulo (2014). His recent accolades include the Pampulha Prize (5th edition (2014); the 1st Foco Bradesco/ArtRio Prize (2013) and the 1st CCBB Contemporâneo Award.