Maxwell Alexandre’s debut at the Palais de Tokyo takes into account the dynamics of power in art spaces

In addition to the disorienting space partitions, the hanging paintings mix real visitors with pictorial representations of various types of museum visitors, from school groups and couples to individuals and security guards. These personalities view and interact with painted pastiches or silhouettes of famous works of art, many of which are recognizable contemporary art icons as ‘s cruel A thousand years (1990), ‘s Descent into Limbo (1992), or one of ‘s reduced Concetto spaziale works. Most, however, appear as anonymous rectangles of beige paper inserted into painted depictions of ornate Baroque frames. The particular type of paper used is called papel sorry and conveys an important double meaning: in Portuguese, sorry means “brown” and is a term still used today by the Brazilian census to refer to Brazilians of “mixed race”, a remnant of the country’s complex colonial caste system.

Alexander’s work is inspired by his upbringing in Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela, located in a southern suburb of Rio de Janeiro. In these more recent works he uses the multiple meanings of papel pardo to address contemporary debates about identity and representation, giving his work a specifically militant political orientation. Indeed, although the works of “New Power” make heavy allusions to the history of art, it is indeed about Who look at art. The painted representations of visitors are all faceless, black and blond. As such, they seem to represent an entirely mixed world, although hierarchies and power dynamics still seem to persist. Indeed, the guardians of the house of Alexander imaginary museum are dressed like Brazil’s militarized state police, reducing the narrow margin of authority held by museum custodians over visitors to more repressive and broader state authority.

Luz W. German