Two important catalytic and disruptive historical events lie at the heart of this exhibition, which is also Kudo’s personal homage to the multifaceted Uruguayan artist Joaquim Torres Garcia. In both these events, the distance between time past—which is already inaccessible, but still, in some way, very present—and the memory of it—its more diffuse register—functions in the end as a powerful vehicle of their potential, their strength, their intensity. It is they that are shaped into this epitome of landscape, in which their strongest and most resonant echo, at work both in the actions and the work of James Kudo, resides and from which it flows.
One early morning in July 1978, a fire engulfed the entire collection of the Rio de Janeiro MAM, destroying 80 paintings by the Uruguayan artist Torres Garcia. Always a strong influence on Kudo’s work, in this, his third solo show at a Rio gallery he both pays homage to this prolific artist and makes reference to this tragic event, with which his life and work are always associated. Here, there is also a strong echo of another event that actively haunts and influences the most personal memories of the São Paulo artist. In 1990, the old city of Novo Oriente, built by Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century, was flooded by the waters of the Três Irmãos hydroelectric dam. The house the artist’s grandfather built and where he lived until nine years of age, a fertile source of remembered experiences, was demolished and the surrounding area submerged. And the form here may be no less important: since, in the one case fire totally consumed the works of the Uruguayan artist, while in the other the whole past reality survives and remains, insome way more alive, strengthened and highlighted, in the poetic and diffuse suspension of the deep waters that literally cover it all.
This dichotomy of appearance/essence, memory/reality, artifice/nature is one of the fundamental axes of the work of James Kudo: a kind of painting pretending to be collage, which imitates nature to the point of producing its own formica—an imitation of wood—making use sometimes of light background and suspended elements, at others of natural colors and decorative patterns fixed in more highly charged environments. The pieces dance, full of irony and symbolism, decorative and dream-like, plastic and figurative: at once stagnant and active, frozen and pulsing, closed in their own time an in subtle relation to the other, the diverse, the different.
The capacity for integration and shared experience of these landscapes—in which the elements are combined in a powerful symbolism but are also clearly organic and alive, suspended and animated—the very dissimilarity of origins and nature, strike us as a delicate hymn to a multiple welcoming horizontality. Here the present and the remembered, space and time, the natural and the artificial all enrich and complement one another, creating an egalitarian and complex metaphor of equanimity, the symbolic place of all interiority, all manifestations, all exteriority.
And the powerful light of all this subjective interpretation gives a new sense to the brief words of the artist: “I still paint landscapes…”