Vicente do Rego Monteiro


Nem Tabu, nem Totem (Not Taboo, Not Totem)

03.06 – 29.07 / 2017

The painter and poet from Pernambuco  Vicente do Rego Monteiro was a unique artist whose unstable personality influenced his work and also his relationships with peers and intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century. This endless uneasiness made him remembered and forgotten, present yet absent. The exhibition "Vicente do Rego Monteiro - Nem Tabu, nem Totem" (Not Taboo, Not Totem) at the Almeida & Dale Gallery from 03 June provides the São Paulo public with a sample of works featuring the highlights of this fascinating figure, often overlooked, despite having been a precursor of the ideas of the Semana de 22 (Week of 22).


The exhibition, under the curatorship of Denise Mattar,  brings together 38 of the artist´s work covering different periods grouped by language analogy, highlighting the exceptional nature of the artist. The collection focuses on his visual art output of 1920-1940, charting works from the "Lendas Amazônicas” (Amazonian Legends) series, a handful of Art Deco works, the brief surrealist influence, still-life in perspective, besides his interest in sacred art.


A participant in Semana 22, Rego Monteiro was well ahead of the Brazilian modernists. In the early 1920s, his theme involved the indigenous legends and the sacred.  From this period, the exhibition at the São Paulo gallery displays the watercolors A rede do amor culpado (Bailado na Lua)(Dance in the Moon), Composição indígena (Indigenous Composition) and Sem título (Untitled), which in 1921 were part of a show held at the Trianon Theater – well-received by critics at the time.


"Vicente do Rego Monteiro wanted to be a sculptor, but it was as a painter that he impregnated his work with intense tactile expression, He produced a surprising vanguard indianism, but was never an ‘anthropologist´. He took a wholly original direction in painting, mixing Art Deco and Marajoara ceramics, infused with Christian religiosity”, noted Denise Mattar.

The curator explains that the verse used to denominate the show is taken from a sonnet, Meu Poema (My Poem), penned by Rego Monteiro. “The title of the show accurately expresses the artist´s disconcerting personality which, throughout his life, involved long periods alternating between the Seine and the Capibaribe, between visual arts and poetry, between creation and editing”, says the curator.


In the mid-1920s, while living in Paris, Rego Monteiro developed an entirely personal technique incorporating formal stylizations of Art deco in a mythical, mystical and metaphysical atmosphere, and became part of the important  L’Effort Moderne group. The work produced during this period is considered the painter´s finest phase. His paintings from this era gained acclaim for their sculptural nature. The oils on canvas Fuga para o Egito (Flight to Egypt) and Atirador de arco (Bow Archer) number among some of these works from this time.


In the latter half of the decade, Rego Monteiro married the Frenchwomen Marcelle Louis Villard, who inherited the estate of her first husband. Enthralled by this new-found economic fortune, the artist began living a frenetic life. Some of his works from this period show a surrealist influence, such as the Arlequim e o Bandolim (Harlequin and Mandolin)  and Moderna degolação de São João Batista (Modern Beheading of  Saint John the Baptist).

In 1928, Rego Monteiro was invited by Oswald de Andrade to join the Antropófago (Cannibalism) movement. The artist not only turned down the invitation, but also felt insulted by it, considering himself a pioneer of Cannibalism – a point of debate among critics to this day. According to literary critic Jorge Schwartz for example, the fact that Rego Monteiro had been a pioneer in the introduction of vanguard indianism did not make him a “cannibal”, in the molds formulated by the São Paulo poet at the end of the decade.


“The Oswaldian movement cannot be dissociated from a revolutionary and utopian idea. Rego Monteiro´s indianism does not surpass the esthetic or decorative boundaries which mark his extraordinary work”, stated the author in Fervor das Vanguardas.

Following the New York stock market crash in October 1929, Paris art life was affected and Rego Monteiro experienced a decade of low artistic output. In 1933, he returned to Brazil and shortly after ran a monarchist nationalist magazine Fronteiras, for which he wrote articles and produced a series of illustrations and photographs. The conservative stance of the publication contributed to his isolation. An example of this was the idea of a public burning of the book Casa Grande e Senzala authored by his childhood friend Gilberto Freyre. 


In 1942, Rego Monteiro revisited in his painting, some Northeastern themes which he had drawn the previous decade. The painting O vendedor de esteiras (Rush mat Salesman) dates from this time. During the same time period, the artist produced a series of still-life paintings featuring Natureza morta and Tulipas (Still life and Tulips). Also during this period, he painted some works based on the figurative principles of the 1920s, such as Mulher com violoncelo (Woman with violoncello).


 in 1947, after his return to Paris, the artist set up La Presse à Brass a private publishing house which symbolized his dedication to French poetry and culture. Over this 10-year period, Rego Monteiro authored and published 13 books, but only a few titles on visual arts. In 1960, he received one of France´s most coveted literary awards, the Prix Guillaume Apollinaire.


Rego Monteiro returned to Brazil in the mid-1950s and thereafter remained intensely dedicated to painting. In the 1960s, he revisited the regionalist themes and still-life work produced back in the 1940s.


In 1970, Rego Monteiro took part in the 8th edition of the Resumo JB exhibition, a highly prestigious event at the time, which selected the most outstanding artists of the year. While making preparations for his trip to Rio and the opening of the show, he had a heart attack and died on 05 June in Recife.


“Confirming the incoherence that permeated Vicente do Rego Monteiro´s entire life, it was precisely when his work declined that he gained the recognition he had sought.  Rego Monteiro was a fascinating and incoherent personality – not taboo, not totem”, affirmed Denise Mattar.


The exhibition also includes six works depicting Fedora and Joaquim by Rego Monteiro, Vicente´s siblings, oft cited in biographies of the artist, but rarely shown in exhibitions outside Recife. Fedora was the first Brazilian woman to take part in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. The artist had a constant output, always scrutinized by the French critics, until her return to Recife and marriage to the politician and journalist Aníbal Fernandes. Dedicated to the family thereafter, she only resumed painting 13 years later, diligently producing works until her death in 1975.


Joaquim do Rego Monteiro produced interesting work rooted in cubism featuring informal simultaneities. The works on display at the exhibition are from the beginning of his career and show the inside and outside of the atelier where he and Vicente started out on Rue Gros in Paris in 1923. The artist died before his time in 1935.


The exhibition "Vicente do Rego Monteiro – Not Taboo, Not Totem" is part of an institutional initiative of the Almeida & Dale Gallery seeking to revive great talents of Brazilian art, as in previous shows featuring José Antônio da Silva, Eliseu Visconti, Raimundo Cela, Ernesto de Fiori, Di Cavalcanti, Ismael Nery, Willys de Castro, Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Alfredo Volpi and Aldo Bonadei.

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