Galeria Nara Roesler | São Paulo is pleased to present Purity is a Myth: the monochrome in contemporary art: curated by Michael Asbury in the 27th edition of Roesler Hotel. The Roesler Hotel is a project created by the gallery in 2002 that fosters dialogues between the national and international art community by inviting curators and artists to experiment within the gallery space.

Purity is a Myth: The monochrome in contemporary art, showcases over 50 works, by 43 different artists, in diverse media, including installations, photos and paintings. The exhibition proposes a look at the monochrome from multiple perspectives, emphasizing diversity where uniformity is generally assumed. The title stems from a statement made by Hélio Oiticica in one of the cabins (Penetrable PN2) in the Tropicalia environment, exhibited for the first time in 1967 at Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art in the context of the New Brazilian Objectivity show. The exhibition’s historic scope ranges roughly from the late 1950s to date, yet, is not a question of a survey but one of juxtaposing modes of practice and the conceptual potentials of the monochrome.

The persistence of the monochrome today has perhaps more to say about the legacy of conceptual art within contemporary practices than about the death of painting which it seemingly announced. Nevertheless, if contemporary art is post-conceptual art, as many have claimed, recent and current practices that employ the monochrome tend also to problematize such a narrow affiliation. The monochrome, in other words, both defies and enriches the art historical genealogy of conceptual art, since, by its very nature, it invokes concept before form. Its formlessness demands it. If we think of Malevich rather than Duchamp, for example, we recognize another obvious source for conceptual practices and by extension for contemporary art itself.

Today, artists bring such genealogies crashing together in an often ludic disruption of the so-called serious painterly tradition through the conjunction of ready-mades with color, site-specific chromatic interventions, ephemeral objects and even the immateriality of light. The monochrome thus both mocks the seriousness of art historical discourse while still making a powerful point about current theories (or the lack of them) within contemporary art. Like Oiticica’s premises for contemporary art, outlined in his essay ‘General Scheme for the New Objectivity’ (1967), the current exhibition attempts to highlight procedural difference and multiple genealogies of practice where historical precedence, and by extension the contemporary legitimacy that it entails, is usually assumed based on purely aesthetic considerations. Such easy associations must be contested since purity is but a myth.

Artists include: Abraham Palatnik; Alexandre Arrechea; Alexandre Canonico; Angelo Venosa; Antonio Dias; Antonio Manuel; Art & Language; Arthur Lescher; Brígida Baltar; Bruno Dunley; Cao Guimarães e Carolina Cordeiro; Carlito Carvalhosa; Daniel Senise; David Batchelor; Debora Bolsoni; Estela Sokol; Fernanda Gomes; Hélio Oiticica; José Patrício; Julio Le Parc; Keith Coventry; Laura Vinci; Lucia Koch; Lygia Pape; Marcelo Silveira; Marcia Pastore; Marcia Thompson; Marcius Galan; Marco Maggi; Marcos Chaves; Maria Laet; Matheus Rocha Pitta; Melanie Smith e Rafael Ortega; Milton Machado; Moisés Patrício; Paulo Bruscky; Raul Mourão; Rodrigo Andrade; Ronald Duarte; Sergio Sister; Tomie Ohtake; and Yoko Ono.

Michael Asbury is an art critic and curator based in London. He is Reader in the History and Theory of Art at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London (UAL) and founding member of the research centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN). Over the last twenty years he has worked on themes involving modern and contemporary Brazilian art. He has curated a number of exhibitions including: Alfredo Volpi, Anna Maria Maiolino, Antonio Manuel, Cao Guimaraes, Cildo Meireles, Ibere Camargo, Jose Oiticica Filho, Jose Patricio, Neoconcretismo and Rosangela Renno.