X Museum is delighted to present ‘Antonio Obá: Fables’ , the first solo exhibition in Asia by the acclaimed Brazilian artist Antonio Obá. Running from December 19th, 2021 until April 5th, 2022, the exhibition will showcase a body of works, including oil on canvas, ink on paper and installation, which illuminate the artist’s ongoing exploration of colonial history and identity.
The artwork of Antonio Obá investigates the relationships and contradictions within Brazil’s cultural heritage. Taking ethnic prejudice, religiosity, eroticism, and family memories as clues, Obá’s most recent practice revisits and reflects on landmark events in Brazilian history and culture. It examines colonial implications and addresses the ways in which historical and social factors can both construct and deconstruct personal identity, as well as exploring how individual personas and collective ideologies can transgress the boundaries of time, space and race, thus intricating, interpenetrating and infusing with each other. In the artist’s new body of works, symbolic imagery from the western Judeo-Christian tradition is cross-pollinated with syncretic religious elements nurtured in South America through the history of black slavery, connecting colonial figures and diasporic Afro-descendant cultures in a fusion of reality and fiction. Through a myriad of symbolic references and surreal reconstructions of imagery, Obá translates the complexities of an onerous colonial history into intuitionistic visual statements that unveil the universal wrongs of colonialism from ancient times to the present: the inequality of power and the opacity of politics.
In exploring the tensions between colonial history and personal identity, the body is the central subject for Antonio Obá’s practice; the inquiries into the body pervades the multiple mediums of the artist’s work. From oil on canvas to ink on paper, from installation to performance, Obá treats the body as a gesture of resistance that asserts its existence in the history; he exhibits the evidence of the body, either figurative or subliminal, in a narrative demarcated by rituals and prohibitions, histories and traditions. Obá focuses on the miscegenated, black body — the body that was exploited, abused and overlooked by colonialism. These bodies, which were mere commodities of labour and captives, became bearers of a unique, syncretic identity; enslaved in the colonial past, they served as inheritors of a diasporic culture as they integrated into and became established in the South American continent. Obá’s compositions seek to unveil the way in which the transience of the corporeal is written as a history of hegemony, and how human existence transcends the boundaries of body, memory and history, and ultimately becomes inextinguishable once ignited.
By revisiting memories of the past, Antonio Obá’s work evokes a language that reverberates in the body and transcends the temporal. The title of the exhibition, ‘Fables’ , expresses the artist’s journey of self-referencing and writing: each work in ‘Fables’ serves as a metaphor for a moral statement or reflection, in which history becomes an allegorical reality. Obá’s spotlight on autoethnography as a counteraction to hegemony poetically unravels the contradictions of different subjectivities, connecting the past and the present, by initiating a dialogue and weaving a polyphonic narrative that responds to the essential understanding of inhabiting in a colonised body and inhabiting in a miscegenated, black body. The oeuvre of this exhibition recreates, directly or indirectly, individuals and incidents from the colonial past; like fables, they bring a transcendental, archetypal, symbolic moral perception and emotional resonance in the search for the origins of identity.
About the Artist
Antonio Obá (Ceilândia, 1983) lives and works in Brasília.
Antonio Obá investigates the influence and contradictions within the cultural construction of Brazil, giving rise to an act of resistance and reflection on the idea of national identity. Obá utilizes icons present in Brazilian culture as allusions to racial and political identity, these iconic historical and sometimes religious subjects are explored within his sculpture, painting, installations, and performance.
Antonio Obá’s recent solo exhibitions are held at Mendes Wood DM (Brussels, 2021; São Paulo, 2019; New York, 2018). His works have been included in group exhibitions such as TUYMANS – CAHN – OBA, Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, Paris (2021); Possédé·e·s, MO.CO, Montpellier (2020); 36º Panorama da Arte Brasileira, MAM, São Paulo (2019); Histórias Afro-Atlânticas, MASP / Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2018); Arte Democracia Utopia – quem não luta tá morto, MAR, Rio de Janeiro (2018); Pipa Prize 2017, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro (2017).