About Cravo Neto’s Land Art, Bené Fonteles

When I first arrived in Salvador, in 1975, Cravo Neto was immobilized in a bed at his parents house, Lúcia and Cravo Jr., because of a serious accident. He had just finished this photography series with Bahia’s landscape, which he showed me in 1976.

He would use little gas canisters that floated over the lagoon waters at the northern shore or hide it behind the surrounding vegetation. They were fire sculptures whose rapid impermanent element he captured and their dialog with water, people and nature, all of it pierced by the poetry of what’s transient.

I have always been mesmerized by this work and, like Cravo, I am ruled by Aries, a fire sign, a fiery force feeding the Spirit who feeds art, like an everlasting flame carving our souls and minds and shaping our way to feel and be in the world. 

To Cravo Neto the relationship with his home landscape was the center of his joy in making this work, to have a spirit hover over it, wanting to understand nature itself. Not only in an aesthetic way, the effect, but the pleasure of incorporating the fountain’s force, from which incessant, surprising and even magic forms poured.

I always remember, when I look at these pictures that touched me so, the moment when Cravo showed them to me over paper, at his lab in Boca do Rio, asking me about what I felt when I saw. The same enchantment resurfaces everytime I see them, along with the feeling that Cravo Neto wanted to express his poetry, which made him honest about everything that was himself. All of that was more presence than imagery for art’s sake, which he never separated from life itself.

I also feel that the orisha who incarnates fire, Xangô, dances changeably in the pictures, graceful and mighty with its immutable bright Axé to Iansã, Oxum, Obá and other women that are all one with him.

This work has a continuous dialog with his acrylics and fiber sculptures, containing sand, glasses, cactus, feathers and other elements. They seem to make a rite of passage to what he would do after the accident he transformed into art, and flow naturally into the construct of another work in which he would sculpt the human being that provoked, unsettled and fascinated him the most over his old tarps. He gave every sculptural character the mutable spirit of fire, printed in his work on Eternal Now.

Bené Fonteles, March 2021