MoMA and Modernism w/ Tarsila do Amaral

Tarsila do Amaral’s work is concerned with her involvement with Anthropophagy. Her work was known as the most significant Brazilian avant-garde project of the twentieth century. She was striving to establish a distinct and authentic national culture. This project made her a central artistic figure of international modernism in her native country. As Amaral faced bankruptcy, due to the stock market crash of 1929, she turned to political activism. Her involvement in political activism inspired her works.

Tarsila do Amaral’s work can be described as modernist because it embraces artistic modernism, which according to the work’s description is complimented by a recognition of the social ills caused by modernization. She was focused on depicting and expressing her country’s concrete political reality. The painting represents her modernist values of diversity. The painting illustrates unhappy, blank, miserable, and some even neutral faced  labor people in Brazil working through the tough times of the 1930’s. The people of Brazil were facing political and economical turmoil due to the events transpiring during this time. Modernism has to do with embracing uncertainty, breaking traditions, and formal experimentation. Amaral embraced the uncertainty that her and her people were experiencing in Brazil concerning politics and economic struggles. She broke traditions concerning  her art by focusing on political activism instead of her illustrations of broad symbolic terms in Brazil. She experimented with the more ideal modern art and took risks in this uncertain pool of danger. She also included Gregori Warchavik in her art, a modernist architect in Brazil. The experiences the Brazilians at the time were enduring were due to modernist influences. Factories and urbanization was a vital aspect of this time for many Brazilians.

This painting attracted me because of it’s size and it’s diversity. The faces that are painted caught my attention. The way in which it’s drawn made me linger at it. I wonder why the people were painted in a the section of the portrait that looks like an irregular triangle. I wonder who exactly each individual is and why Amaral only drew a crowd of faces. I also wonder if these people were all standing together when she painted them or if some of them were conjured by her imagination. The painting also looks like a picture that would be drawn in a children’s book. I wonder what exactly her message is for this painting. I understand that she’s underlining a stressful time for Brazilian laborers, but what message did she want her audience to have when looking at this painting? What feeling did she want to stir? I honestly didn’t feel an emotional connection to the painting so I wonder what effect she intended her audience to have here.

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One Response to MoMA and Modernism w/ Tarsila do Amaral

  1. JSylvor says:

    Adanna, I don’t know if you noticed, but you and Annamarie chose the same painting. It’s interesting to read your different responses to the same work. I think that the fact that you have so many questions about it is an indication that the work is successful. You may not feel emotionally connected to it, but it has stirred you up. You don’t mention the painting’s title, “Operarios” (workers) – clearly the central message is about what it means to be a laborer. The shape you describe as an “irregular triangle” seems to me to be like a mountain, and I imagine the country being built on top of this mountain of workers whose faces seem so blank and weary.

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