Monday’s Inspiration – Mario Cravo Neto

A Brazilian photographer whose work spans many genre, image-making, painting and sculpture.

His work shows a dark enigmatic and harsh city, where lonely souls roam, and where the dirt and filth of the streets lie alongside big limousines, the riches, the luxury.

Born into a family of artists, Mario started his training early under the guidance of his father, a well known sculptor. He made a name for himself as a visual artist but in 1964, at the age of 17, he joined his father who was working in Berlin as an artist in residence. It was this period that gave rise to his experiments with photography.

In the late 60s, having been awarded a place at the prestigious Art Students league in Manhattan, he attended classes given by conceptual artist Jack Krueger, who encouraged him to use vegetation in his sculptures.

His paintings had elements of nature, the blues, the greens, the sea, the sky, the vegetation. It is speculated that his inspiration came from missing Bahia. His photography on the other hand is inspired by the metropolis, cars, parking lots, tramps lying in the streets. His street photography shows the solitude of people living in a big city.

He experimented with photography by moving the camera to create an effect that made the picture look like a painting. At home, he experimented with self-portraits and portraits of his wife using a silvery aluminium that resulted in some distorted images.

Difficult living conditions, accumulated stress, solitude, anxiety produced by competition among his friends and his experimentation with drugs led to a nervous breakdown. However, he grew and developed as an artist despite the stresses. His son believed that his move to Brazil changed the course of his career.

He worked across various media during his recovery but he remained vulnerable to the stresses of life and came close to another breakdown. While in this fragile state, he had a serious car accident in which he sustained severe injuries that affected his mobility. After  extensive physiotherapy, he eventually learned to walk again but his movements were compromised. This limitation paved the course of his work.

It was at this point that he started to explore studio photography, using staged shoots to create an artistic language that blends nature and culture, religion and eroticism. he’d set up shoots as if they were sculptures, using various textiles as background, incorporating many dimensions, blending objects with the human torso.

He was a natural creator and nothing ever was black and white, right or wrong. He also explored mysticism, recreating Candomblé rituals, a religion in which he himself had been immersed and impregnating the shoots with intimate references to voodoo.

It was his black and white studio portraits, The Eternal Now, which brought him international recognition especially in Latin America and the US.

The first solo exhibition of his work, Mario Cravo Neto: “A serene expectation of light” is currently on show at Autograph ABP in London.

O&S.N.CRAVO 12-6

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Mario Cravo Neto

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