VAREJAO ADRIANA

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL [1964]

Varejão lives and works in Rio de Janeiro and is one of Brazil's leading contemporary artists.References to the effects of colonialism of Brazil by Europe, are apparent in her work as well as art history and illusion. Her work alludes to expansion and transformation of cultural identity, yet continues the use of her theme of understanding the past, in order to understand the present.

Cultural anthropophagy, or the process of absorbing and incorporating foreign influence into native Brazilian culture, inspires much of Varejão’s work. This movement is evident throughout Brazil’s history into the present and the dichotomy of diversity and unity is a common theme amongst contemporary Brazilian artists. In Varejão’s works, she examines this theme within the contexts of race, body, identity, and the effects of colonialism.

Drawing upon tensions surrounding race and ethnicity in Brazil, Varejão uses installation, oil painting, and drawing to comment on the perception of race in Brazil in the twenty-first century. In her work entitled “Polvo,” exhibited at Lehman Maupin in 2014, Varejão combines color theory and casta (a social theory that influenced European paintings of Brazil’s conquest), to examine the norm of defining race in terms of skin color. The series of nearly identical self-portraits forming the bulk of the work were displayed with individualized titles that explained the portraits’ only differences: the titles were generated by the 1976 Brazilian census, which asked Brazilians for the first time to give their definitions of their own skin tone; the responses ranged from branquinha, “snow-white,” to morenão, roughly “big black dude.” 

Several of Varejão’s sculptural installations, including “Linda da Lapa”, “Folds”, and “Ruina de Charque - Nova Capela (Nova Capela Jerked-Beef Ruin),” juxtapose structural uniformity and stability against human destruction.These artworks consist of bisected azulejos-covered walls filled with human organs. Using these images, Varejão comments on postcolonial Brazilian social structure and implies that colonially influenced order is built upon human destruction and violence.