José Damasceno
Brazil, 1968
In the late 1980s, José Damasceno began studying architecture at the University of Santa Ursula in Rio de Janeiro. His early work as a visual artist was recognised when he was awarded the Prêmio Cidade at the 14th Salão de Arte de Ribeirão Preto in São Paulo (1989) and the purchase prize at the 13th Salão Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Funarte (1993). His first solo exhibition was held in 1993 at the Galeria Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto in Rio de Janeiro. Two years later he took part in the Panorama da Arte Brasileira at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, confirming his status as one of the most important Brazilian artists of his generation and continuing the legacy of the masters who emerged in the 1960s, such as Waltercio Caldas, Cildo Meireles, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and Tunga. His sculptural work—from oddly striking readymades to pieces in which he makes disconcerting use of materials—takes the form of installations. For Damasceno, spaces are not passive and installations are a way of activating their potential in relation to the public. The pieces he creates to achieve this are always discreet and never monumental. Primer motín, produced in 2008 for a solo exhibition at the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, consists of multiple chess pieces gathered together on the museum walls as if taking part in a public demonstration. The work is a good example of the surrealist imaginary and sense of humour (with political overtones) that characterises his output. Most notably, his work has been shown in the main exhibition held in the Arsenale at the 2005 Venice Biennale, in the Brazilian Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, at the São Paulo Biennial (2002), and at the Mercosul Biennial (2003).
Manuel Segade