For 70 years now Casa de Vidro has shone through the thicket of São Paulo’s rainforest as one of the world’s most expressive examples of modernism. Yet more impressive is that it was Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi’s first project, created in 1951 as a residence for herself and her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi. There, the couple hosted symposia for international academics, artists, and thinkers, the glass-encased home as venue, and the surrounding forest a verdant backdrop.
Today, the residence is home to Instituto Bardi, an organization that is building on the Bardis’ tradition of promoting artistic and cultural discourse. Their latest effort? A new exhibition by furniture designer and artist Rodrigo Silveira that creates a poetic dialogue with the iconic home.
"The couple were tremendously active in the cultural world, and Lina Bo Bardi used to say that her house was a living space that welcomed all kinds of expressions," says Waldick Jatobá, president of Instituto Bardi and Casa de Vidro. "When I started managing the house, my idea was to bring this thought to life as well—and it’s my intention to let this space live rather than be like a mausoleum."
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With Tipologia de uma Segunda Vida (Typology of a Second Life), Rodrigo Silveira aims to raise awareness of the relationship between the environment and the objects that humans create and desire. There are twelve works in the exhibition, six of which weave a narrative that tells the story of how a tree becomes furniture.
"The main axis of the exhibition is a metaphor of a tree that has been chopped down and is trying to get up," explains Silveira. "When it does, it [becomes] a piece of furniture." The artist built representations of each moment in between—or what Silveira calls "movements"—which together show the transformation of a powerful being into a subservient object, he says.
Each "movement" has been finely crafted by Silveira in his workshop, with precise lines and angles echoing the architectural finesse of Casa de Vidro. While each piece is a celebration of the workmanship, it’s also a critical commentary that allows viewers to reflect on the environmental impact of the objects themselves.
"In Amazonia, there is an almost hypocritical ignorance," says Silveira. "No one wants to see trees being cut down, but almost no one knows where the wood of the chair they are sitting on comes from." Ultimately, Silveira hopes people will make better decisions, or at least ask questions, when purchasing objects for their homes.
Out of the other six works are five unique chairs, and a conceptual piece—what is meant as a tree—situated underneath the house that criticizes the act of greenwashing by corporations. "The tree is almost falling but is still standing," explains Silveira. "It is supported by two stakes that pierce it and hurt it. They keep it upright, but at what cost?"
The exhibition is on for three weeks and will run until October 23, 2021. Silveira and educators from Casa de Vidro will host guided tours, and Silveira’s work will also be paired with a live performance of Bach’s "Goldberg Variations," allowing visitors to hear a live symphony while viewing the home and exhibition.
"When I received the invitation to do whatever I wanted with this space, I had no doubts about what I wanted to exhibit," recalls Silveira. "What I find most impressive is that it was not designed as an exhibition space, but the relationship between the exterior and interior of the house, at least for this work, was perfect."
For more information about Casa de Vidro and to learn about upcoming exhibitions, please visit Instituto Bardi’s website.
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