“[...] everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.”
‘Twas radiant vertigo I experienced as I first entered UQ!’s studio at Parque Guinle, Rio de Janeiro, upon editors Lucia Bertazzo and Leonel Kaz invitation. The indescribable unbound object on the table... was Zerbini’s nearly finished book.
Mind-blowing printing plates merging art and nature, as though the autumn breeze had just swept in the woods’ raw materials.
Inside, Lucia was at work, operating massive printers while throwing away imperfect prints (color-wise) of Gullar’s ultra colorful reliefs from Revealing the Reverse, as we, both mesmerized, rendered them all perfect.
I remember that time I wouldn’t put a certain book down until it fell from my hand at an art opening: tipsy off of Krajcberg rather than wine, I tried not to fall, but the neglected wine glass held by my opposite hand had already spilled over the page. For some time, no one would’ve noticed it...that spiritual-blood color over Franz Krajcberg’s iridescent flower, but I came forward.
And how could one remain unshaken in the face of a repeatedly unique black wave? Acetone and pigment on a 6.5 feet high bamboo sheet –– infinity folded many times over. Pedro Cabrita Reis’ object-painting inspired by José Regio’s poem Cântico Negro calls for the cosmic humbleness of asteroid watchers.
True space-time travel, such expanded pages fluttering through fingers, moving back and forth on the walls.
Thus far, no one has said a word about my minor disaster, and I was even contacted for new projects once Lucia Bertazzo opened Urucum Editora, in Lisbon.
The first project, José Eduardo Agualusa’s A Grammar, Momentary and Infinite (2020), presents photographs by the author. Yara pregnant with Kianda, images on rice paper, poems on bamboo paper wrapped in island light and capulana colors (Mozambican textiles) make one wish to be born in Africa.
Then, in a welcome partnership (at the pandemic’s worst), Lucia and I started a series of editions I’ve named “Objeto de Poeta e Livro de Artista”, all of which displayed her designs and my essays and curatorship.
The many ways to say “I love you” (2020), started with a paper pad for sketching I gave Gullar as a gift on our first date which,some time later, was re-gifted back to me as a full sketchbook.
Now, faithfully reproduced 90 times, facsimiled, printed on the same paper quality as the original (Canson C à grain), wired and all, it comes in a tied jasmine-scented case along with a Japanese-binding book of my own.
I’ve changed the order: drawings tell the story, while memories are illustrations.
The following year, we made Post-Mondrian, by Ferreira Gullar (2021). The object-book has its origin in my immersive installation “Sala3D”, which stemmed from a rare photo of the poet at work in his living room, by Tomás Rangel. Printed to the full-size of the wall, the image also served as a backdrop for ten framed collages by Gullar.
Lucia visited the exhibition and showed interest in reprinting the collages, now shown in three fanfold portfolios (leporellos), meticulously laser-cut according to the artist’s manual cut, in a one-of-a- kind shimmery silver case!
It’s all settled within the rectangle, the lozenge, the radiant color field. It was Mondrian who, to my knowledge, best defined abstract art: “Abstraction stands closer to reality than to any illusion.”
Later that year, we released Before Touching the Sky, photo engravings by Siron Franco accompanied by Augusto dos Anjos’ poems.
The editor’s wish to combine photos that captured shadows from the artist’s installation “Renascimento” to the poet’s “Monólogo das Sombras” has resulted in photo engravings in gold.With a print run of 47 large-sized copies, they have dirt applied to their covers and are enveloped in linen. Whereas both gold and dirt have always been recurrent substances in Augusto and Siron’s productions, we can now read, see and touch these pages like Golden shadows from a single Sun.
Other projects stemmed from the same urge to create new formats, like Marco Tirelli’s 33 images (2021). A book based on the artist’s 2013 installation at theVenice Biennale,“Teatro della Memoria”, comprises drawings, paintings and sculptures. They’re images that are 33 times mysterious, cinematic, like those philosophical thriller series we watch time and again.
Forms of the artist’s local life have been taken... to a kind of terraforming in another world.
In addition to the 32 artworks, each copy contains an original drawing.
winged objects (2022) comprises poems, assemblages and photographs I’ve created while grieving, using giclée prints of Van Gogh’s work as well as a drone to assist me in facing Gullar’s personal belongings around the house.
It’s the first time a drone is part of the contexture of a poetry book.
A whole book in small caps, bereaved although yellow, and winged, so as not to weigh in at hard enough times on this planet.All well-designed in loose sheets within a tiny yellow box. Light as a feather.
Initiated in 2021, Joana Vasconcelos’ project The Sketchbooks of My Life inaugurates this catalogue-book and encompasses Urucum’s whole editorial concept. 50 unique notebooks, with write-ups, ideas, sketches and collages by the artist (including letters from Valter Hugo Mãe specially written for each copy) have found their rightful support to hold the greatness of Joana’s visual autobiography.
All experimentalism and excellence gathered from previous works; all available and unexpected materials, such as tile, for example, cork, mirror and wallpaper, were added to the idea of showing the inner life of great art, in large format.
In its short yet intense creative production, Urucum grows by adding pages to the textbook of life, crossing boundaries in space-time from clay plates and papyrus times to volumem’s skin roll, parchment and the codex, through the Sheng and Gutemberg’s press, evolving to Miró and Arp’s graphic artworks, from Surrealism to Brazilian Neoconcretism. Scribing materials that hark back six thousand years remain relevant here,at the epicenter of contemporary art, including bark, dirt, wood, palm leaf and cotton.
Urucum’s team gathers the Bertazzo family, producer Olivia Portellada and I, who, although being far away, am always nearby. And we’re all very honored and happy with collector Sérgio Corrêa de Sampaio’s presence in the publishing house routine. Lucia always manages to get everybody around to work for Mallarmé’s aforementioned lifelong dream.
Jorge Luís Borges once stated “When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad of an incarnation.”
And when we get to experience that in life: to gradually become a book yet not necessarily being previously eviscerated...
Even when death intervenes between the original and a future solution, the work’s core will not be ripped out.
This recognition in broad daylight is what artist’s books are all about.
poet and curator