Old Parr – A Mario Cravo Neto Tribute, Vauluizo Bezerra

The big-headed brown bottle, with its pleasant embossed texture, was the peculiarity of that 12 year old full of Scotland water, his favorite. We would usually meet up when leaving MAM (Modern Art Museum) or Paulo Darzé Galeria, or any other place hosting some event coinciding with our interests. At these times we stopped the car by my building’s garage with the high volume stereo muffled by the closed windows; the air-conditioner at the max instilled the desire for one more sip of the Old Parr’s, resting at the car’s console near the shift box. What began as a ride out of kindness always ended up in amusing talks enticed by a critical exercise on art and brazilian culture, and Bahia in this scenery, on his projects and the desire to further the boundaries of photography as art, the new technologies as amplifiers that could change some of the concepts guiding art at that point in time. We had in common the condition of being artists concerned about new senses we just started to deal with, the new subjectivities perceived each time we approached the turn of the century. Those were our encounters at different circumstances, through the years that piled up, and we dribbled a certain kind of inexorability with the inutility of art and the need to grease life, anointed by the lucidity of our deeds.

Red House, Hey Joe, Purple Haze, VooDoo Child, Fox Lady and more. We especially loved All Along the Watchtower. I said to him: “Hendrix sings this song the same way Dylan sprinkles his long lyrics in that spoken way of singing, which came from country music, with Woodie Guthrie’s presumable blessings. By the way, you remind me of Dylan very much”. Mariozinho then wanted me to explain myself, always with a somewhat malicious and curious smile. I replied yes, even physically, there was an indiscutable resemblance underlined by the body expression, something manifesting impatience, like a grounded lion circling asymmetrically, a walk that kept the memory of an immaterial prison, an insatisfaction with his surrounding anticipating the imminent retrieve from wherever he was that wasn’t his place of work.

Cravo Neto built his own clearings, went to get a kind of relation very distant from the local art practices understanding, guiding his interests towards his two-year stay at United States (1968 a 1970) to study at the Art Student League with the visual artist Jack Krueger as his advisor – one of conceptual art pioneers. At one of these encounters washed down with Old Parr, listening to Miles Davis, Coltrane and others we loved, he described to me the cosmopolitan senses that later on would compose the universality he would print over the specificities of his land. That new yorker period is full of sensorial discoveries very common to artists and intellectuals who worked with counterculture as a way of life extended as a full experience. Some stories fall short in account of some modesty of mine in regard to a certain type of intimacy ciphered into non exchangeable patterns. But from the moment he gets to US he consolidates an art vision interested in sculpture, when he is thus enthroned as an artist, expanding nationally his reach by participating in the XI Bienal de São Paulo with a special room granting him with the Governador do Estado de São Paulo award. After this began his experimental involvement with live plants using terrarium techniques and on to Land Art at the backlands of Bahia and the peripheral area of Salvador until 1974, when he was interrupted by a car accident. His imobility for months gave photography its permanent seat as fate between lap and cast. At first is a studio approach, where he packs all conceptual sculptor knowledge into a conduction with visual notations spreading the intimacy captured by what surrounds him because of the immobility. Then he is the expanded flaneur going to capture the real Bahia in marginal regions, where precarity’s roughness takes over the beauty of an organic place, baroque by excellence, where the writing of an enslaver colonial past merges with new feelings of modernity and its new ways of exclusion. But Cravo Neto highlights a kind of energy that seems to be the only resistance of a people that always seems to reaffirm themselves by their ways of inventing joy, between the ruins of history, and their reinvention by syncretism, captured by his lenses and by his own personal immersion firmed by his commitment with the ministry, is where he best legitimates what’s true about a place and the inseparable men-artist inscription sews up junctions between popular and high cultures, between what’s immaterial and what’s carnal or between religiosity and profanity. In the wake of these translations the self-processing artist is in constant transformation, adapting his way of producing to the updates he thought of as resources and solutions, the technological additions sprinkling new vocabulary, bringing to the surface elucidations of new subjectivities.

Mário Cravo Neto is one of those rare artists who can express themselves in any media, including paintings that few know about. I saw many of his paintings, pointing to an abstract view, bringing at times subtil allusions to figure or landscape. It was just evocative work where his real interest was the rhythm and chromatic density, once more, featured by the baroque presence where his temper is at. There is a series of watercolors set apart by its delicate chromatism – to be considered by the tecnique’s own nature – without interrupting  his relation to all organicity guiding his diverse work to notations distinguished by movement, a hand controlled action balancing gesture with an articulated pictorial thinking.

In decades of friendship, I witnessed the presence of a proficuous artist friend, in productivity and intellect. He was a man who kept, in his intrinsic solitude, the most complete immersion into what he was doing. Maybe this indissolubility between man and artist sacrificed, many times, other factors life required, but not always was possible to reconcile everything. When the inevitable weight demanding balance would act, we could resort to an alterity conversion you can find only in chimerical deeds, meaning nothing more than a delusion we allowed ourselves because we are artists guided by the belief that we were needed and once in a while it was imperative to talk about everything, listen to all that rock, all that jazz, modulated by Old Parr’s ether.

Vauluizo Bezerra, March 2021