Bispo do Rosário at the V&A
Seeking to liberate the spirit of the relationship between the former and future host nations of the Olympic Games, the Victoria and Albert Museum has curated an exhibition of the art of Arthur Bispo do Rosário, one of the most prominent Brazilian artists of the 20th century. As part of the London 2012 Festival, the V&A have dedicated two of its galleries to showcase the works of Bispo do Rosário, featuring a choice selection from an 800-piece strong collection held by the Museu Bispo do Rosário Arte Contemporanea in Rio de Janeiro.
Bispo do Rosário’s works are crafted from discarded and found materials, gathered and recast as art during his 50-year incarceration in a psychiatric hospital in Rio. Admitted to the hospital with schizophrenia in 1938, after numerous visions and hallucinations, Bispo do Rosário was subsequently isolated from Brazil’s art establishment. The result of this – art created free of contemporary influence – is a strikingly unique collection of work, with Bispo do Rosário’s personal influences coming to the fore.
The first gallery is dominated by two large banners created out of hospital bed-sheets, stitched with images formed from discarded threads. These large compositions are essentially schematic depictions of his life, featuring important elements from his life. Bispo do Rosário’s early life in the Brazilian navy is powerfully referenced to by naval vessels in ranked formation, and the hospital complex itself – a fundamental influence on both him and his works – is depicted in full. Two ceremonial jackets also adorn the wall of the first gallery, with their design and style making a heavy reference to Bispo do Rosário’s time as a successful boxer in the Brazilian navy, and the jackets are not unlike a naval uniform itself. Both the banners and the jackets are sewn in the style of Bispo do Rosário’s hometown in north-eastern Brazil, a region with a rich tradition of folk art.
Seeing it as his mission to work and succeed only with what he had, both in materials and imagination, Bispo do Rosário sought to record and remake all that could be found in the land of man, in order to symbolise what he felt should be saved at the Day of Judgement. The inspiration for this symbolism in Bispo do Rosário’s work emanates from a variety of unlikely sources. Miniatures of sporting paraphernalia reflect his ideal of human endeavour, whilst sceptres inspired by the Miss Universe contests of the 70s and 80s liberate his belief of a peaceful, borderless world of aesthetics and feminine beauty. Rustic yet colourful small ships also elucidate upon Bispo do Rosário’s ideals, by paying homage to the patron of sailors and navigators, the Virgin Mary, a figure who he referred to as his mother.
Brazil is well known for its richly eclectic culture, and this is something that can be witnessed in this modestly-sized, yet brilliantly diffuse collection of Bispo do Rosário’s work in the V&A Studio Galleries this summer.
The works of Bispo do Rosário are on display at the V&A Studio Galleries until 28th October. Admission is free.