Anna Maria Maiolino is one of the most significant artists working in Brazil today. Born 1942 in Italy, Maiolino’s practice expresses a concern with creative and destructive processes. Working across a wide range of disciplines and mediums – spanning drawing, printmaking, poetry, film, performance, installation and sculpture – Maiolino relentlessly explores notions of subjectivity and self.
Through fragmentation and abstraction, Maiolino’s surfaces are rich with metaphor, alluding to and questioning language, sexuality, desire and the unconscious. The artist’s deeply formative migration from post-war Southern Italy to a politically unstable South America, and her linguistic passage from Italian to Portuguese, engendered an enduring fascination with identity. Maiolino has perfected a dialogue between opposite yet complementary categories in a practice that dissolves dichotomies of inner and outer, self and other. Hers is an art in search of a new language for the liminal realm of daily human existence.
Shadowed by the turmoil and governance of military repression, Maiolino’s early experiments in the 1960s connected her to important movements in Brazilian art history such as New Figuration and New Objectivity. Maiolino took part in the radical reconfiguring of the art object – and thus the art institution and the artist – during this period. Along with Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, and Hélio Oiticica, Maiolino participated in the 1967 exhibition, ‘New Brazilian Objectivity,’ which symbolized a cultural shift in previous constructivist traditions and established a new vision for the production of art in Brazil.
Since the early 1980s Maiolino has worked with malleable materials that, through her handling, come to bear the imprint of unconscious gestures, daily rituals and sensory expressions of being. Her mark-making is based on the repetition of basic actions that are recorded in the material; her forms the result of this laborious processing of raw material, like the basic bodily functions of eating and defecating. Hers is a work of liberation: abstraction is freed from the more repressed and puritanical precepts of Minimalism and brought back into the service of the active, desiring body.