Indepth Arts News: |
"Alair de Oliveira Gomes, photographs"
2001-03-15 until 2001-05-17
Rather late in life, Alair de Oliveira Gomes (Rio de Janeiro, 1921-1992) found the ultimate and passionate form of
expression for his research and life, in photography. A philosopher, art critic, and university professor, he received a
Guggenheim grant in 1958 and starting the seventies and eighties, he began to devote himself more specifically to
the development of his photography work, which focused almost exclusively on the beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Murdered at the age of seventy-one, this highly cultured man, a tireless collector of books, pictures, and films,
decided to transform the thousands of pages of his diary into images: Gomes patiently undertook the composition of
an immense erotic tableau of black and white photographs devoted to the beauty and nudity of the male body.
Pictures stolen on the beach or taken with a telephoto zoom lens from the window of his apartment, then
extensively reworked and ordered in sequence according to a rhythm or visual music (Symphony of Erotics Icons,
Sonatinas Four Feet), his photographs plot out a fresco of outstanding visual scale. In it, the athletic bodies of young
men evolve on the sand, unaware or pretending to be unaware of being photographed and, in glorifying it, they
attain their ancient grandeur.
In the dazzling Beach Triptychs, Alair Gomes succeeds in intensely capturing these bodies' aspiration, conscious or
not, to eternal classical beauty. Through the photographer's eye, the image turns little by little into a perfect icon in
which a certain sway of the hips or gesture of the hands recalls the bodies of a Michelangelo or Mantegna. By
alternating the powerful representation of bodies sculpted by light with sequential compositions treated with the
lightness of a watercolour, Gomes is able to re-create the subtle tones of an intimate vision of the world captured
through the single and infinite object of his desire.
In incessantly capturing, composing, and working each fragment of this erotic temple erected to the glory of the male
body, the gaze of the photographer ultimately eradicates any ambiguity of mere voyeurism. The visual rhythm
detaches itself from the subjects and the obsession of a collector of images allows for appearance of pure
fascination. In transforming the desire of the body into an absolute desire to see, perhaps Alair de Oliveira Gomes
photographed, on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, nothing other than our own gaze emerging from these images and
sweeping us up into the score of a visual music that plays within us without our knowing it.
Undoubtedly, this group of photographs, now preserved at the National Library of Rio, constitutes one of the
strongest and most original photographic works of the past thirty years.
The Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain presents the very first Alair Gomes exhibition outside of Brazil and the most comprehensive.