Blum & Poe is pleased to present the first U.S. solo exhibition of São Paulo-based artist Sonia Gomes. This presentation serves as an introduction to her practice, spanning key bodies of work integral to the artist’s oeuvre, and a new site-specific installation produced over the course of a year and a half.
Sonia Gomes combines found and gifted textiles with scavenged materials such as driftwood, fishnet, buttons, and birdcages, often bound by thread and wire, to create abstract multi-dimensional compositions that reclaim the Afro-Brazilian experience. Employing historically feminized materials and crafts, she creates powerful assemblages that capture and celebrate marginalized histories, rendering those of women, people of color, and countless anonymous individuals, visible. From a mother’s wedding dress and a grandmother’s towel to tablecloths and bed throws, the artist invites each item to tell its story—memories and traces of identity that she weaves into the grand narrative conjured in sculptural form. She says: "There's a relationship between time and reflection—all the materials that I work with are an exercise in exploring the soul of these objects. It is closely linked to the intimate history of other people."
At the entry point of the exhibition, a sculpture rendered from a broken birdcage hangs in solitude. From Gomes’s A vida não me assusta or “Life Doesn’t Scare Me” series, the work conjures both the radical freedom of a bird and its existence within the constraints of a cage. Citing Maya Angelou as a reference for these compositions, Gomes applies an element of gravity to each work by inserting a single rock inside.
Sinfonia Branca (2021) or “White Symphony,” is a large-scale site-specific hanging installation of pendulum-like swathed structures in pale fabrics and laces. Together these sculptures from the artist’s Pendentes or “Pendent” series generate a labyrinthine presence. The work is installed in dialogue with the shifting shadows and natural light that pass through the gallery during the course of a day. These forms verge between cosmic and biomorphic, with tendrils like umbilical cords. Gomes has been working with such fiber sculptures since the mid 2000s, initially as vehicles for performance work tied to Carnival and the Tropicália movement.
In an adjacent gallery, sculptures from her Raízes or “Roots” series rest on the floor, with cocoon-like and bulbous fabric twined around tree roots. The wall works that hang nearby, called Patuás, are soft forms that incorporate amulets such as coins, written messages, and sacred herbs. These sculptures channel her childhood years in the Brazilian city of Caetanópolis, where she witnessed her grandmother, a benzedeira, perform Afro-Brazilian spiritual rites and divinations.
Quando o sol nascer azul (2021) or “When the Sun Rises in Blue,” is an arresting wall work in blue that recalls the sea and the movement of the waves. Crafted from a range of fabrics—some that have been in Gomes’s collection for almost twenty years—Quando o sol nascer azul is layered with fish casting nets and Renascença lace salvaged by her assistant in his hometown in northeastern Brazil.
Sonia Gomes lives and works in São Paulo. Gomes's first institutional solo exhibition in Europe premiered in 2019, at the Museum Frieder Burda, Salon Berlin and Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany. Her first major institutional solo exhibition in Brazil toured in 2018, at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo and at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea of Rio de Janeiro. Her work has been exhibited in significant institutional group exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK (2021); Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea (2021); Revival, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2017); New Shamans/Novos Xamãs: Brazilian Artists, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL, traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2016); Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women 1947-2016, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, Los Angeles, CA (2016); 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015); Art & Textiles—Fabric as Material and Concept in Modern Art, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany (2013); A Nova Mão Afro-Brasileira, Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil (2013); and Out of Fashion. Textile in International Contemporary Art, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, Aalborg, Denmark (2013). Her work is represented in public collections worldwide including the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil; Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Muzeum Susch, Zernez, Switzerland; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY.