Brazil: Body and Soul
Edward J. Sullivan
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Edward J. Sullivan provides an introduction to the history of Brazilian art for the catalogue accompanying the 2001 exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. His survey of Brazilian culture—from pop imagery to ancient rituals—walks us through the history of the nation, from its origins through the baroque, leading up to the artistic voices and architectural structures of Brazil's modernity and contemporary developments.
Brazil has continued to exist as an enigma and a dream. With its vast mineral wealth and its potential as a center for sugar, tobacco, and, later, coffee production, the country inflamed the imaginations of generations of industrialists from the colonial era onward. Nineteenth-century rubber barons in Manaus followed this dream when they erected a legendary opera house on the banks of the Amazon, and modern-day mega-capitalists revel in the fantasy of the country's economic and technological possibility. For generations, Rio de Janeiro has been the site of fantasies, both erotic and aesthetic, its Carnival serving as the allegorical fulfillment of hedonistic reverie. These dreams have eclipsed the primal nightmares that share equally in the Brazilian imaginary. The ravishing of the rain forests for their abundance, the violation of the cities by drug violence, and the massacre of homeless children are also components of the reality of modern Brazil.