Adriana Varejão (Brazilian b. 1964)
signed, inscribed, titled and dated `Adriana Varejao ''Cristo'' 1988 oleo/tela' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
70 ⅞ x 86 ⅝ in. (180 x 220 cm.)
Painted in 1988.
Galería Thomas Cohn, Rio de Janeiro
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 28 May 1998, lot 72
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Viva Brasil Viva: Konst Fran Brasilien, April-June 1991, no. 69.
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Lot Essay

An early painting from Adriana Varejão’s Baroque series, Cristo foreshadows the now defining characteristics of the artist’s work—dense, viscous brushstrokes grapple with Brazil’s Colonial past while simultaneously engaging with art historical discourses on the hierarchy of the figurative, decorative and abstract. Christ’s body at left both evokes the fraught history of Christianity brought to the Americas by European conquest and inserts the work into a dialogue with the storied canon of religious painting in western art.

As in the best of Varejão’s work, there is an intensely visceral quality to Cristo. The heavily worked canvas undulates with swells of thick impasto countered by incisions and lacerations that cut deep into the pigment. A kind of violence is enacted on the canvas that metaphorically suggests the suffering of Christ, an idea underscored by the dripping skeins of paint that manifest the blood of Christ. To this unorthodox crucifixion, Varejão has added swirling tendrils in pastel hues that cover half of the composition and compete with Christ as the point of focus. These elaborate patterned floral motifs recall the ornate decorative work in Brazil’s Baroque churches that Varejão has often cited as inspiration for her painting. Vigorous and raw, Cristo also seems a reflection on the process of painting itself, which Varejão, young and on the cusp of international acclaim at the time, was no doubt carefully considering.

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