‘Longilonge’ opens Friday at Ballroom

MARFA — Noted Brazilian artist Solange Pessoa is inspired by the complexities and space in Far West Texas. Pessoa’s first solo museum exhibit in the United States will be hosted by Ballroom Marfa, with an opening reception on Friday, November 15 from 6-9 p.m.

Pessoa arose in the Brazilian art scene in the late 1980s and currently lives and works in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The artist says she feels a familiar and intimate connection between Minas and the space in West Texas. “My imagination had a good introduction to the area here,” she said. To her, both places evoke a sense of old memories, ancient times and civilizations, and geology.

“This is a region that doesn’t end; it’s always shifting,” Pessoa said. “This is extremely personal because [I] always imagine space, and all the things I’ve seen in Marfa were in my imagination.”

The artist says Minas is very similar to Texas because it has a very ancient memory. “Through archeology and fossils, I can release ancient feelings,” she said.

Her exhibition, “Longilonge,” will encompass five expressionistic and enigmatic works that take up all four rooms and the outdoor courtyard at Ballroom. Pessoa says the layers of time, and the shifting between those layers, bring “Longilonge” together. A made-up word, Pessoa believes longilonge means longer and longer.

Since 2015, Pessoa has had solo exhibitions in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and now Marfa, where the artist’s work will encompass the entire gallery space at Ballroom.

Pessoa visited Marfa for the first time this past May. “I have always been interested in Texas and in the United States because it is a very old region in Earth and very important in the formation of the American and Latin American people,” Pessoa said. She has a strong interest in the archeology of the region because of the mysteries and because of the deserts. “I had wanted to go to the desert, a space of the desert, so I learned more about American sculpture.”

“I’ve known about Marfa for many years, since the 90s because of Judd and other artists,” Pessoa said. “The Brazilians have a very strong relationship with minimalism and sculpture. I have always wanted to see Marfa.”

She returned to Marfa earlier this month for a research trip, where she met local botanists and archeologists and explored the pictographs in Seminole Canyon, among other things.

“I loved the pictographs at Seminole Canyon,” Pessoa said. “They inspired me to create these panels. There is so much magic in those ancient paintings.”

Pessoa said that the prehistoric paintings in Texas are different than the ones in Brazil. She feels they are darker and something that feeds the imagination, something unconscious. “The animal instincts perturb me,” she said. “A wildlife; what existed is a shadow of them. I feel that.”

Her visit to West Texas from Brazil inspired the artist to reflect upon the two places: “Where I live in Brazil, a big skull, considered the oldest in American women, Luzia, was found,” Pessoa said. “Luzia has the characteristics of Africa, from times when the continents were still together. Near where we are in Texas, Clovis, the skull, is considered the oldest in America. There is a scientific competition over which is older. There is a Clovis culture that unites Clovis and Luzia, the two oldest skulls in America. This has to do with what directly inspired me with the archeological sites and the rocks.”

For her installation work, Pessoa brought materials from The Cerrado, a large tropical savanna ecoregion in Brazil. “The Ballroom team also collected many things,” Pessoa said. “Plants, flowers, seeds, dirt, soil, rocks and fossils.”

Making reference to her country, soapstone sculptures are sprinkled throughout the courtyard outside. “These rocks have one idea; they have direct relation with the sky,” Pessoa said. The soapstone works evoke something deep, primitive and elemental.

While here, Pessoa created large scale panels that are approximately 8 meters tall. The large, monochromatic panels, along with rows of smaller paintings, are installed in the far back room of Ballroom. The paneled paintings are warm-toned and take inspiration from the pictographs in Seminole Canyon.

In the big room, Pessoa is recreating an installation that was originally staged in Brazil. It’s described as an immersive sculpture – tiers of coffee bags are sewn together, suspended from the ceiling and filled with fruit, flowers, seeds, bones, earth and poems. People visiting are encouraged to not only look but also feel and touch the materials hanging from the ceiling and spilling off of the wall in this installation.

“This work includes a lot of bags and containers that hold things of the natural world: vegetables, minerals, like as if it was a memory from these materials too,” Pessoa said. “They evoke an abundance of memories of time and space of nature. Poems include the big American poets, modern contemporaneous, and some from Brazil.”

In her obscure works, Pessoa has used a variety of different mediums including hair, skin, animal blood, feathers, and leather oil, to name a few. “They choose me,” Pessoa said. “They’re materials that choose, not that I choose rationally. They attract you.”

The artist has a book of her work coming out later this year, the first English-language monograph of Pessoa’s work. The book will include sections of the artist’s sketchbooks as well as an interview with Pessoa by Liz Munsell, and texts by international scholars Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Eduardo Jorge de Oliveira and Alex Bacon.

Pessoa’s works for Ballroom are a result of what she has seen and felt in her time in Far West Texas. Her work will be on display through April 19, 2020. Longilonge’s opening reception will take place on Friday, November 15 from 6 – 9 p.m. at Ballroom Marfa with a live performance of Violin Phase by Steve Reich, performed throughout the gallery by Jeanann Dara and Ben Russell. A dance party will follow at Lost Horse. On Saturday, November 16 at 11 a.m., there will be a guided exhibition walk-through with the artist and Ballroom Marfa Director and Curator Laura Copelin.