Jac Leirner

1961 | São Paulo, Brazil
Jac Leirner — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Courtesy Galeria Fortes Vilaça, © Photo: Romulo Fialdini

— Galeria Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel

Brasilian sculptor and multimedia artist.

Jac Leirner, one of the most remarkable Brazilian artists of her generation, grew up in São Paulo in a family of collectors. She studied fine arts at the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado from 1979 to 1984, and became a teacher there from 1987 to 1989. Since 1980 her work, which has been the object of many solo and collective exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, such as the Venice and São Paulo Biennales, has relied on the process of accumulating everyday objects. These objects are amassed for long periods of time then organised and assembled into varied spatial configurations – installations, sculptures, and two-dimensional pieces –, reflecting the world in which they were produced and traded, as well as the artist’s attitude towards her collections and the time spent constructing them.

Pulmão (“lung”, 1987) is made out of the packs of cigarettes she smoked for three years; the various elements of the packs – from the plastic wrapper to the tear strip – and two x-rays of the artist’s lungs were used as material for this series created by juxtaposing identical or similar elements: the packs, for example, were folded up, joined together, and strung onto a long rope; the pieces of foiled paper, on the other hand, were sewn together into a fragile and repetitive structure. In the famous series Os Cem (“the hundreds”, 1985-1987), she used thousands of cruzeiro banknotes that she collected as from 1985, and which were devaluated at the time due to hyperinflation. While the specific form of these sculptures and their repetition-based syntax manifest a possible reference to minimalism, other pieces in the series underline a more subjective relationship to money: they show the inscriptions left on the banknotes by their many users, who, in doing so, personalised them. “My only subject here is art history […] and the artists who influenced my thoughts and feelings. I cannot avoid economy when I create works with money, but what interests me most when I make them is Arte Povera and minimalism”, she says. As such, Os Cem prompts a reflection on the notion of value – monetary, symbolic, or emotional – that an object can be invested with and, consequently, the process of attributing this value itself, whether in the economic or artistic field, or in the life of each user.

In the course of her career, Leirner has collected and used a large range of objects relating to her experience in the art world, such as plastic bags from several art institutions in Names (Museums) (1989-1992). During a residency at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford then at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis in 1991, she collected the correspondence of the museums, organised it following various criteria, and assembled it in pieces such as To and From (MoMA Oxford) (1991). The material she uses evokes the information exchange system that the museum relies on to function and, like the banknotes in Os Cem, is characterised by its capacity to circulate between individuals. The same attribute also distinguishes the objects she collects on aeroplanes, such as ashtrays, blankets, and cutlery, which she used in her series ironically entitled Corpus Delicti, part of which was presented at documenta 9 in Kassel. More recent series like Adesivos, in which the artist uses a vast quantity of stickers of all shapes, colours and origins, reveal the persistence of some of the key elements in her production, such as her constant dialogue with Brazilian and international art trends, and the autobiographical and subjective aspect present throughout her work.

Giulia Lamoni

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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