The Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles (born 1948) is widely recognised as one of the leaders in the international development of Conceptual art. This exhibition is the first extensive presentation of the artist’s work in the UK. Revealing how he is particularly fascinated by scale, the works range from an object in the form of a small ring to an installation covering 225 square metres. Tate has also brought together eight of Meireles’s iconic, immersive installations, six of which have never been seen in the UK before.
Meireles has made some of the most philosophically brilliant, politically telling and aesthetically seductive works in recent art. Since the late 1960s he has created sculptures and installations which involve an element of participation. His deep interest in the relationship between the sensorial and the cerebral, the body and the mind, is now seen as one of the defining characteristics of the post-war Brazilian avant-garde, out of which Meireles emerged with his early works at the end of the 1960s. He has remained loyal to these origins, and to a political and ethical viewpoint formed outside the so-called cultures of plenty.
Among the highlights are eight large-scale installations. These include Through (Através) 1983-9, a labyrinth of barriers which the viewer is invited to navigate and at the heart of which shines a vast ball of crumpled cellophane, Clear Sphinx. Another is Red Shift (Desvio para o Vermelho) 1967-84, which has been loaned from Collection Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea in Brazil. Comprising three rooms, the audience is invited into an all-red apartment filled entirely with red objects and the led through a darkened corridor to a room with a pool of red liquid on the floor and a sink running with red water. Babel 2001, a gigantic tower of more than 800 radios, all tuned at low volume, forms a startling yet complex contemporary take on the mythical tower of the world’s languages. The exhibition ends with Volatile(Volatile) 1980-94/2008, a multi-sensory environment through which visitors are invited to walk, which plays with our response to danger, real or imagined.
Early work in the exhibition includes Meireles’s Geographical Mutations (Mutações Geográficas) and Physical Art (Arte Física) pieces 1969, reflections about distance and borders in relation to the vast land of Brazil.His Condensations (Condensado) series also features, small works that demonstrate that the potency of an art work is not restricted to its size. The artist further explores space and scale in his drawing series on graph paper, Virtual Spaces: Corners (Espaços Virtuais: Cantos) 1967-8. Meireles’s celebrated Insertions into Ideological Circuits 1970, by which he devised a method to disseminate messages of protest under the military dictatorship in Brazil, and his Zero Dollar/Zero Cruzeiro project 1978-84 and 1974-78, are also exhibited together with smaller-scale philosophical objects dealing with questions of perception such as Dark Light 1982.
The exhibition is curated by writer and curator, Guy Brett and Vicente Todolí, Director Tate Modern, with Amy Dickson, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. The exhibition will travel to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona 11 February – 26 April 2009, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 7 June – 27 September 2009, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 22 November 2009 – 7 February 2010 and the Art Gallery of Ontario 27 March – 27 June 2010.
A film about the life and work of Cildo Meireles, produced by Tate Media in association with Arts Council England and ITV Productions, has been directed by BAFTA award winning film maker, Gerald Fox. The film will be screened on The South Bank Show at 10.35 on Sunday 26 October.