Turn a Blind Eye

Paula Borghi

Many of the linguistic expressions refer to the aspects of a place in which they are embedded, mainly due to cultural, social and political nuances that permeate them. These are ways of saying that they behave as regional symptoms, which can hardly be translated into another language, let alone maintain their symbolic and semantic meanings in another language. That is because some of these expressions are nothing more than arrays of words that come into the world in order to speak what until then was ineffable or that could not be said in their own words.

When translated word-for-word into English, the title of the exhibition (“Vista Grossa”) arises as “Thick View”. However, the translation “Turn a Blind Eye” becomes the most sensible and sensitive choice to its expressive meaning. So that, when changing the perspective of the place, the expression “vista grossa” in Brazil can be completely different from “turn a blind eye” in the USA, for example. As much as both convey the same subject, the divergence of comprehension about them is capable of constituting an abyss in what is implied in each culture. It is unquestionable that in any country in the world one can turn a blind eye but that does not mean that it will be done in the same way.

In addition to the subjectivities that constitute regional aspects, it is worth mentioning time as a determinant for the understanding of certain expressions. For example, turning a blind eye to something in the same place these days is completely different than it was ten years ago. Turning a blind eye in different places and temporalities makes its understanding different. Just as in physics, time and space act together in the world and in its reading.

In line with this perception, it is worth mentioning that the entire exhibition was designed and created during one of the most critical periods that humankind has suffered in recent times. Turn a Blind Eye, through the lens of Edgar Racy, addresses a sensitive understanding of the world, in which eating is the primary need of human existence. Starting from the act of eating as a daily struggle – a struggle for survival –, the artist emphasizes the theme with a few words: “It is nothing more than hunger.” It is from this point of common friction, which encompasses humankind as a whole, that the exhibition problematizes hunger as a crucial emergency to be fought for the preservation of life.

As well as in the history of humankind, the theme of hunger has also been an active subject in Edgar Racy’s artistic production for a long time. It is paramount to address the issue with more emphasis, especially through a sensitive sense of the world’s urgencies in face of this humanitarian crisis space and time. A crisis that makes the stomach gnaw and ache on account of being empty. Empathy was the onset that touched Racy’s state of mind and made him create the works here presented.

Observing the mapping of the world’s ten hungriest countries in a survey conducted in 2019 and 2020 by the online platform “Focus Economics” (income per capita), Edgar Racy took as a starting point the data collected for the execution of the series Turn a Blind Eye, homonym of his individual exhibition. Congo, Mozambique, Uganda, Tajikistan, Yemen, Haiti, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, in that same order, are the ten countries in which hunger is the main affect that pervades the life of their population; understanding affect as a verb, as a decisive action to live.

Materials related to food and housing, two of the basic needs of human life, such as glass bottles, plates, bricks, tiles and ground coal on worn and patched tarps (usually used for the construction of shelters) embody Racy’s flags. Following the artist’s own aesthetic which combines geometric abstraction and words, wooden letters write the names of each country and the word “hunger” in their official languages. Once again, the reference to language strikes as a regional symptom, given that both the blind eye and hunger vary according to time and space. All humans are capable of feeling hungry but there is no way of comparing what hunger means today in Congo and Belgium, for example.

Thus, if on the one hand there is hunger, on the other hand, there is abundance, and both are codependent within a neoliberal economy. It is about the abundance associated with waste and the glaring markers of social inequality since there is enough food in the world for no one to starve. Could it be said that some countries turn a blind eye to hunger more than others do or that some countries turn a blind eye to hunger when it is not happening in their country?

In order to highlight the extremes of this cruel neoliberal system, Edgar Racy presents the series Via Fondazza with thirteen works made with glass bottles, plates, bricks, tiles and ground coal applied on jute painted with plaster on aluminium plates. Inspired by the still life paintings of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), one of the greatest Italian painters of the 20th century, this series refers to images of bottles, boxes and spheres, with some of the objects extensively painted by the artist. Named after the street where Giorgio Morandi had his house/studio in Bologna, Italy, the series Via Fondazza has its works listed according to the numbers of the houses neighboring the artist’s studio.

With regard to this antagonistic sensation suggested by the exhibition, Edgar Racy mentions: “These are works so distant from each other that you can’t even fathom that a person who is in Congo, let’s say, thinks that one day someone will put that bottle and that glass on a table and make a painting. And that that painting will sell for a higher price than all the houses in a Congolese village combined. So, this counterpoint, this connection that does not exist creates a conversation in my head”. As if there were a line that connects, even through impossibility, the time and space present in Via Fondazza and Turn a Blind Eye.

It is with an attentive eye on the dissolution of the basic rights of human life that this exhibition speaks, above all, of hunger arising from so much social inequality. In light of what is evident in every corner, although many continue to turn a blind eye, the exhibition is a subtle and poetic invitation to bring awareness about the urgencies of the world.

“Pátria Amada?” (Beloved Homeland?): or a song of private exile.
Taisa Palhares

At first glance, Edgar Racy’s “Pátria Amada?” proposes a playful application of the constructive discipline to the observer, where geometric shapes are repeated in small sets of different combinatory sequences, creating the sensation of a game in which the work would have its meaning revealed. However, there is something beguiling about the finesse and subtlety of these small drawings. After a first visual stimulus, in an attentive and close look, one can see the existence of words, freely printed in bas-relief, accompanying each composition. “Amor Eterno” (Eternal Love); “Braço Forte” (Strong Arm); “Brilhou no Céu” (Shined in the Sky); “De Amor” (Of Love); “Dessa Igualdade” (Of This Equality); “Essa Grandeza” (That Greatness); “Idolatrada” (Idolized); “És Tu Brasil” (Art Thou, Brazil); “No Teu Seio” (In Thy Bosom); “Ó Liberdade” (Oh, Liberty); "Nossos Bosques” (Our Groves); "Terra Adorada” (Adored Land), among others, bring the national anthem to mind, deconstructed and reorganized in a new random sequence. These sentence fragments, almost like ruins of a fictitious landscape, immediately produce images through the music they evoke: brief snapshots of a country promise, similar to a long-cherished but dismantled desire.

Therefore, I cannot help envisioning this work as a new song of exile, in which Racy registers, when repeating the banalized words of the national anthem, the feeling of mourning and melancholy for the loss of place; “the beloved homeland” that does not exist anymore. However, the work is not without certain wit. Using the geometric shapes of the Brazilian flag (the rectangle, the rhombus and the circle), Racy creates landscapes through the casual combination of the three reconfigured elements that carry an ambiguity open to, at least,  a future of other possibilities.

Since his previous works, the artist explores their materiality through the reuse of waste materials (plastic, glass, sawdust, shingles, bricks, fabric, and others), which are manipulated until they lose their recognizable aspect to finally serve as material for the construction of paintings, sculptures and almost minimalist drawings. In regard to Racy's current series, he chooses to work with charcoal, leaving no questions about the political implications found in his work. On the one hand, the rich-in-carbon charcoal refers to graphite and black ink used in prints, and as a material that, for a long time, has been present in art history in the production of inscriptions and images 1. On the other hand, as a fuel, the charcoal (coal in this case) is a symbol of the 18th century Industrial Revolution, and peaks today with the stark destruction of the environment. In addition, it is worth remembering that over the last two years, Brazilian forests have been targets of criminal fires, which forged high rates of deforestation. With this in mind, for someone who lives in Brazil today, the color and texture of the charcoal outlines the wood ashes and black smoke clouds that have invaded Brazilian cities in recent years.

With the series “Pátria amada?” (Beloved Homeland?), Edgar Racy restates his ability to synthesize a political sense of art from the precise displacement of materials, forms and relatively prosaic references. Without resorting to great eloquent speeches or attempts at engaged historical analysis, his work responds to the issues of the present through a subtle look, open to the fissures of a world that can still change its course.

  • Note that “rock art” already uses charcoal as artistic material.

On materials and formal singularities in Edgar Racy

Ana Avelar

Edgar Racy handles residues from industrial production as material for his artistic work, touching on a somewhat uncomfortable subject in times of a revision in the pattern of contemporary consumption. Racy employs his gaze, interested in the form to metamorphose the material. In other words, this is an artist who lets go of formal intelligence in order to subvert this same intelligence by using appropriate discarded material.
His understanding of beauty goes through a gaze that displaces and, often, peels the object first, revealing its structure. The final objects are elegant, at times formally complex, curious when we realize where they come from, and their former functionality.  
In the two-dimensional works, the operation is similar: a game arises when we discover the materials that cover the canvas, all remnants of everyday life in urban centers. Our traces of the civilized. Without the exhibit descriptions, it is difficult to see that the canvases are covered with shards of glass bottles, small pieces of newspaper, sawdust, fragments of uniforms and blankets, dishes, tiles, bricks, cigarette butts, reduced until they are de-characterized and acquire a seductive appearance, conferred by color, texture or shape. In some of the two-dimensional works, lean language appears in words that can configure metaphors or give meaning to the material. Portraits and landscapes appear. If the objects converse with modern and contemporary sculpture, the two-dimensional works weave relations with the places of pictorial debate.
Over the years, Racy has remained attentive to the artistic course that he himself proposed, by incessantly collecting these materials and accumulating them at home. In rearranging them, in a subtle and minimalist movement, the artist speaks of our daily activities, of who we are in today’s city. At the same time, they are works that instead of discussing the ephemeral, seek the permanent, talk about the memory that inhabits objects and how much they themselves tell us about the world that surrounds us (and that we create). The ambience of Racy’s show is that of his studio, with pieces arranged so as to emphasize his formal singularity. However, they are more than the power of their visual stimulus, for we perceive that there is something strangely familiar about them.

Agnaldo Farias

Curator and art critic

Edgar Racy works with a material that expresses the eulogy of transparency and frailty: glass. Since the beginning, he explores this almost invisible diaphanous pellicle, which halts the flow of the body as much as it grants the gateway of sight. Furthermore, a flirt is not to be seized by this twin matter: due to its aerial differentia, it rejoices itself through the surface, piercing it, refracting or exposing itself in reflections. Racy tensions and submits the material to its own weight, gathering as a result, endless nuances through which this ethereal body is now present.
However, not only do his works rise from the body of the material but also from the power of research. After all, the frailty of glass implies danger to our own body. From the core of its peaceful beauty, the material irradiates its possibility of sudden violence, shaped as shards and microscopic sparks, capable of reacting to the smallest challenge.
For this reason, we surround ourselves with so much diligence when contemplating his works. Our fearful insight elapses from the virtual projection of this material: a clearing made of emptiness and fear.

Museu Theodoro de Bonna 

Curitiba PR

Edgar Racy uses discarded materials from industries in his work, arranging their use in the visual arts. With a mixture of different waxes, used in weaponry casting, he builds pieces that embody the opposite of what the material was initially designed to.
Weaponry parts, firstly built on wax and then replaced by metal, become green blocks of wax, coincidentally, the hue of the Brazilian army. Thenceforth, Edgar uses red hue over the green surface, exhibiting facts about the subject, usually focusing on the opposite to what the material had as its initial use.
He sometimes manipulates the material itself to produce words or letters as a way of protest. Other times, he produces works that protect the viewer or symbolise the effect caused by the arms industry.