To Flaunt is To Be Alive: Luisa Strina Gallery
"Nobody doubts me without lying to themselves." With this self-authored phrase graffitied on a large mirror, the artist and activist from Rio de Janeiro, Panmela Castro, who has been active in the art world and various struggles for nearly two decades, opens her first solo exhibition in São Paulo.
Her artistic research is difficult to fit into a single category or language, and in this show, she presents the audience with a universe of heterogeneous elements including figurative and abstract paintings, drawings, graffiti on mirrors, bronze sculptures, Instagram print screens, story videos, photographs, neon lights, jewelry, trinkets, interactive propositions, and more. It is an interdisciplinary collection that explores possibilities of understanding what art, life, and survival mean in the current broken world-system that also commodifies bodies, subjectivities, and landscapes.
Throughout her trajectory, Panmela Castro continued to reinvent herself artistically and politically until she reached performance as a method of creation. Today, she develops works that are ultimately the result of lengthy processes where art and life are inseparable. This is the case with the portraits on canvas that we see at the Luisa Strina gallery, originating from experiences with people from different circles, in the journey that led to the exhibition in just eight months, during the pandemic. The exhibition is then divided into five Constellations defined by the artist based on people central to the development of sets where various pieces generated from these experiences are grouped. Each Constellation, in turn, can be understood as a network that connects to another and makes the exhibition ultimately a body formed by multiple voices, materialities, characters, and images.
"To Flaunt is to Be Alive" brings Panmela Castro's radical and restless aesthetic experimentation and the critical impulse of her actions that, in addition to being meticulously thought out, are not devoid of irony, humor, mockery, and space for chance. The title reflects on self-esteem and the triumph of surviving daily in a violent and extractive social system. The exhibition presents itself as a grand narrative of encounters, rituals, and processes of transformation that communicate relationships of trust and chains of care in an unconventional set of media. We thus see the profusion of supports and visualities starring images of different people who inhabit or have inhabited the artist's universe, including the viewer reflected on the mirrored surfaces of various pieces. The message pulsates: we are unique beings, deserving of self-love and respect from others without judgment.
"To Flaunt is to Be Alive" is a show that is, in a way, self-referential, performative in its procedure, and essentially media-driven, inspired by Gangstar, spiritualist, queer, digital, academic, pixação, and other visualities.
Panmela Castro's work, therefore, has many layers of understanding and possibilities for interpretation that are not exhausted by clichés of diversity that can easily be shaped by the market. Her pieces, propositions, and environments incorporate the complex multiplicity of contemporary culture and transform narratives of existence into visual and plastic works that assert and consecrate themselves in the world in a political, original, and passionate manner.