Da Silva and the Pirambu School
The state of Ceará is by nature a place of invention and resistance. Its cultural tone gives content and form to creations that reveal its strength and delicacy. In this context, a singular phenomenon in the history of Brazilian art emerges. Chico da Silva was born between 1910 and 1922 (date is uncertain), in the state of Acre, northern Brazil, as a result of an encounter between a woman from Ceará and an indigenous Peruvian man during the intense Battle for Rubber. Chico da Silva’s artistic journey started on the coastal outskirts of Fortaleza, more specifically in the Pirambu neighborhood, a region historically marked by social challenges and constant struggle for survival. That was where the artist flourished.
In the 1940s, he already demonstrated his talent in wall paintings at Praia Formosa, using charcoal, shards of tile, and foliage to create impressive representations of birds and fish. These artworks drew the attention of Pierre Chabloz (b. Switzerland, 1910–d. Brazil, 1984), a Swiss artist who decided to meet Chico da Silva and offered him paper and gouache, requesting some illustrations. This meeting was a turning point in the artist’s career, as the transition from walls to paper allowed his work to achieve worldwide recognition.
Chico da Silva created a visuality based on fabulous and fantastic compositions. His universe reveals an intense relationship between fauna and flora, coming from the deep ecology of his thought. His bestiary is based both on references from his childhood in northern and northeastern Brazil and on he inventiveness of his restless, creative mind. The Pirambu School, one of his creations, represents the tone of this artist, who overflows, multiplies, and advances towards decolonial and contemporary thought. Chico da Silva was ahead of his time. More than just an artist, he was a movement capable of turning his surroundings into a creative, culture-producing environment, in addition to challenging artistic and academic paradigms.
To celebrate the power of Chico da Silva and the Pirambu School, this exhibition presents rare drawings from the 1940s, large panels, and a collection of artworks made in the 1960s, including those that received an honorable mention at the Venice Biennale in 1966.
After 1963, much of his production came from his collective studio, where the Pirambu School was established, with the participation of Babá (Sebastião Lima da Silva), Chica da Silva (Francisca Silva), Claudionor (José Claudionor Nogueira), Garcia (José dos Santos Gomes), and Ivan (Ivan José de Assis). The individual works of the School’s artists also gain space in this exhibition, unveiling each one’s singularities and their intertwining with the master’s original matrix.
The incredibly successful partnership* between the Pinacoteca of São Paulo and the Pinacoteca of Ceará for the realization of this exhibition reveals another achievement of Chico da Silva: promoting powerful encounters that echoes art and culture. May this confluence celebrate the pulsating creative power of Ceará. Long live Chico da Silva! Long live the Pirambu School!
Thierry Freitas and Flavia Muluc
* This exhibition is a version of the original production from the Pinacoteca of São Paulo, Chico e a Ateliê do Pirambu (Chico and the Pirambu Studio), presented between March 4th and May 28th, 2023.