José Augusto Costa de Almeida was born on 3 July in the city of João Pessoa, in the brazilian state of Paraíba. He is the only son of Antônio Augusto de Almeida, a civil engineer, and Maria Marlene Costa de Almeida, an artist with a degree in philosophy.
His early life was marked by the uncertainty of the era of repression that followed the 1964 military coup, at which time his parents, who were activists in social movements and leaders of the Peasant League, attended underground meetings of the Brazilian Communist Party. Though still a child, he accompanied them on various occasions, and also had the opportunity to meet the legendary communist leader Luis Carlos Prestes. These private memories mingle with the collective memory in works such as Plasmatio (2003), in which he addresses this period of Brazilian history using the personal documents political activists who disappeared during at this time.
His childhood was divided between the Vaca Brava sugar mill, in the Areia uplands, Riacho da Cruz Farm, in Curimataú, in the semi-arid region of Paraíba and the city of João Pessoa. Living in such different regions was an important factor in enabling the artist to produce a broad repertoire of forms drawn from nature and from the world of clerks and instruction manuals, especially those of his paternal grandfather’s sugar mill, where he grew up along side carpenters, cabinetmakers, locksmiths and blacksmiths.
From an early age, both at the grandfather’s farm and in his parents’ house, he was accustomed to the company of poets, musicians, artists, intellectuals and political figures such as José Américo de Almeida, Jomar Souto, Archidy Picado, Vanildo Brito, Horácio de Almeida and others.
When he was still a child, José Augusto went on expeditions to various mines in the States of Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Minas Gerais and Goiás, indicating a precocious interest in paleontology and mineralogy.
The artist attended a Preliminary Course in Fine Arts at the Federal University of Paraíba’s Cultural Outreach Centre.
Accompanied by the anthropologist, Ruth Trindade de Almeida, he traveled through archaeological sites of Cariri and of the Brejo region of Paraíba, helping to put together a register of the prehistoric rock art that illustrates the book A Arte Rupestre nos Cariris Velhos, [The Rock Art of the Old Cariris] published in 1979.
The death of the patriarch, José Rufino, marked the end of an era in his grandson’s life. Recollections of his grandfather and of the rural world of the sugar mills would be turned into the raw material for the composition of his artistic works. The artist went back to visit Riacho da Cruz Farm only once following his grandfather’s death, on which occasion he spent several days there. Some of the drawings from the series Cartas de Areia [Letters from Areia], produced years later, were the fruit of what he experienced in the course of those days. At the Vaca Brava mill, however, he only returned to pick up books, letters, shelves and his grandfather’s writing desk.
The artist began a degree course in Geology at the Federal University of Pernambuco and came to live in Recife, where he was heavily involved in the student movement. This was the period during which he developed a love for poetry, especially experimental, concrete and visual poetry. It was through this that he got to know the tropicalia artist, Jomard Muniz de Brito.
The artist discovered his grandfather’s correspondence, which he later used in a series of drawings and installations. This is how José Rufino described his father in his memoirs:
In 1976, I was with my son, José Augusto at the Vaca Brava mill, to transport the “Paraibana”, a collection of books by Paraiban writers that I had been charged with preserving and updating… It was then that I came across another treasure: in the drawers of the large desk in the library, in addition to the newspaper collection, there was, as if specially kept, a large quantity of letters, receipts, old handwritten notes and manuscripts. Everything had been carefully collected with the help of José Augusto, who also went through the drawers of the desks in the office… Back in João Pessoa, during breaks in the task of producing an inventory and cataloguing this precious bibliographical resource, José Augusto’s artistic feeling soon found in the letters a source of inspiration for his conceptual work. (José Rufino – Areia Paraíba, 1995).
He began his career producing occasional works of Postal Art, at which time He met artists and poets linked to this movement and to Visual Poetry, such as the Pernambucans, Paulo Bruscky and Daniel Santiago.
He took part in Exposición Internacional Arte-Correo at the Bernadino Rivadavia Cultural Center, in Rosário, Argentina, under the curatorship of Jorge Orta.
He exhibited at the postal art show, 1984 Despuès de 1984, at Galeria de La Casa Del Lago, in Mexico City.
He was present at the show, Natureza é vida, put together by the Paraiban Education Institutes in João Pessoa.
He participated in the international postal art exhibition, Liberality, in Bucharest, Romania, under the curatorship of Pantea Rares.
He won is first prize, in the Library Week Poster Competition, held by the Federal University of Pernambuco.
He published poetry in collections and newspapers in Recife and João Pessoa, usually addressing themes that would become a recurrent feature of his work. In his poem, Arquivo the artist, in the stanza, “drawers of forgetting/drawers of recollection”, foreshadows themes that he would take up again in works such as Respiratio, Vociferatio and Sudoratio.
He took part in the event/exhibition, Tempos e Espaços dos Abismos II (Times and Spaces of Abysses II) organised by Jomard Muniz de Brito, at the Aloísio Magalhães Metropolitan Art Gallery in Recife.
He was also a participant in the 1st International Postal Art Exhibition Solidariedade (Solidarity), organized by the José Afonso Association, at the Setúbal Museum in Portugal, as part of the Cantigas de Maio Festival.
He was awarded First Prize at the 2nd New Paraiban Visual Artists Salon at the Galeria do Serviço Social do Comércio in João Pessoa.
He participated in the 1989 edition of the Pernambuco Visual Arts Salon, at the Pernambuco Convention Centre in Olinda.
He was part of the Exhibitions Agenda Project, at the Galeria do Serviço Social do Comércio in João Pessoa.
He received the Grand City of João Pessoa Prize at the 4th Municipal Visual Arts Salon, which took place at the Contemporary Art Unit in João Pessoa.
He moved to São Paulo to do a post-graduate degree in Paleontology at the University of São Paulo. His large number of drawings from the Letters from Areia series date from this time. This was a large series of works, first drawn on envelopes and then on letters inherited by the artist.
He held a joint exhibition with the artist, Cláudio Santa Cruz, entitled Infinitamente (Infinitely) at the Contemporary Art Unit in João Pessoa. He presented rereading of drawings he had done in childhood and a series of large paintings. In the text introducing the exhibition, the Pernambucan critic, Celso Marconi, wrote:
“I feel the flight of Augusto, but it is vertical, in dense, tense strokes, using somber colors, demanding a form of exoteric vision from the viewer, perhaps like that of bats. It is certainly no coincidence that Augusto lives in a world whose cultural roots include a poet of the caliber of Augusto dos Anjos.”
He took part in the 2nd Paraiban Contemporary Art Show at the José Lins do Rego cultural Center in João Pessoa.
He exhibited at the Gamela Gallery, as part of the show Art on Paper II in João Pessoa.
He adopted the name of his paternal grandfather, the owner of a sugar Mill in the municipality of Areia, as his artistic name.
He set up a Studio in a 1950s house in the City Lapa neighborhood of São Paulo, where He produced the ink-stained letters for the Lacrymatio installation and the series of drawings on envelopes.
With the Mandacaru group, he participated in the Cuba’ 91 show, at the Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño in Havana, Cuba.
He received an honorary mention from the Nascente Project, for the Letters from Areia series of drawings and participated in the on at the São Paulo Museum of Contemporary Art.
He received a Special Award at the 5th Municipal Visual Arts Salon in João Pessoa, which was staged at the Contemporary Arts Unit of the Federal University of Paraíba.
He participated in the 4th Parana Salon, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Curitiba.
The artist returned to live in Recife and took on the position of Professor of Paleontology at the Federal University of Pernambuco.
He took part in the 3rd Berlin/Paraíba Workshop, hosted by the Paraíba Cultural Center Foundation under the curatorship of Dieter Ruckaberle, who was at that time director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Berlin. On this occasion, he mounted his installation entitled Espaço Colonizado (Colonized Space), composed of two piles of objects on wooden platforms – one of stamps and another of varnished house plaques – surrounded by paintings in gold using his grandfather’s letters as a support.
He participated in the São Paulo Cultural Center’s Exhibitions Program, whose solo shows occurred at the same time as the São Paulo Biennial that year. He mounted an installation comprising typewriters and paintings on collages using letters and mimeographed documents.
He returned to working with typewriters and family documents at the Le Hors Là exhibition, at the Tour du Roi René in Marseilles, France.
He received the first Projeto Nascente II prize, run by the São Paulo Museum of Contemporary Art. As a result of this, he participated in the Visualidade Nascente II show at the same museum.
He took part in the Brazilian Contemporary Art project, headed up by Charles Watson, and had one of his works published on post-cards by Abacus.
He took part in the Franco-Brazilian Exhibition of the Le Hors Là association, at the Contemporary Art Center in João Pessoa and later at the State Museum in Recife.
He participated in the painting workshop run by the New York School of Visual Arts, with Henry b and at the Massana School in Barcelona, Spain. On this occasion he produced a small series of Letters from Areia, which featured in the exhibition of works produced as part of the workshop.
He staged a solo show of photographs at the Brazilian Institute of the Environment in Cabedelo, Paraíba. The 21 photographs depicted inscriptions and drawings on the walls and various angle shots of the old building which once housed the Institute of Sugar and Alcohol distillery.
He exhibited work at the inauguration of the Tambiá Visual Arts Center in João Pessoa, where he has taught several courses on sculpture.
With a series of works in encaustic on the pages of books partially eaten away by woodworm, the artist contributed to the exhibition, Um Olhar Sobre os Trópicos [A View of the Tropics], run by the cumpliCIDADES Project, at the Teixeira Museum in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.
He also took part in The 1st Salon of the Bahia MAM.
He staged a solo exhibition, entitled Respiratio at the Archidy Picado Gallery in the Cultural Center Foundation in João Pessoa. The variable installation was composed of wooden drawers and plaster and white cement.
“The mass that transpires from its drawers is counterpoised by an explicit objectivity. It is both material and immaterial. The elements that are going to give life to the installation are not the things in themselves; rather it is born in gaze that is whose seeds they contain.” (In COSTA, William. Jornal o Norte, 19/05/1995)
He presented Respiratio at the Pernambuco Museum of Contemporary Art in Olinda. The installation was re-assembled and the show consisted of polyptychs formed of paintings in putty on hand-crafted paper.
He participated in the exhibition Ecstasy Up at Galpão do Varadouro in João Pessoa, producing for the first time a site specific installation comprising piles of wooden furniture and plaster cylinders.
He took part in the Visions of Borborema visual arts workshop at the 20th Winter Festival of Campina Grande, Paraíba, which was coordinated by Raul Córdula. This resulted in the construction of one of the elements of Vociferatio, a writing desk fixed to one wall of the Assis Chateaubriand Museum of Art.
He staged the solo show, Lacrymatio at the Sérgio Porto Cultural Centre, in Rio de Janeiro under the curatorship of Cláudia Saldanha. The critic, Katia Canton, commented as follows on this work:
“Lacrymatio is a text. Here, José Rufino builds up a formal organization based on the very interference of different floor spaces in the painting. The result is a work that multiplies space as much as it generates a plurality of interpretations. What one sees expands far from interference in personal relations to attain a kind of universality.
The serialism generated by the variations in the quantity of letters painted and hung on the wall, the multiplicity of strings and black rubber tubes “sewn” together and tied to a single central chair establish a superimposition of contexts. At times, it suggests the ruined throne of an old patriarch, tied to umbilical chords and nostalgic recollections; at others it is redolent of an implacable and mute electric chair surrounded by wires. At others it is transformed simply into a landscape of an after-life, established by the combination of the empty chair and the apparent soot that results from the painting of the letters, bearing witness to the fantasy of burning the records.” (In Canton, Katia. Catalogue to Lacrymatio, 6th Havana Biennale Cuba, May 1997)
He contributed to the collective exhibition The 1980s: emerging artists at the Contemporary Art Unit in João Pessoa.
He also contributed to Show 96, at the same institution and at the Assis Chateaubriand Museum in Campina Grande.
He took part in the Antarctica Artes com a Folha exhibition at the Padre Manoel da Nóbrega Pavilion, in São Paulo, which was curated by Lisette Lagnado, Lorenzo Mammi, Tadeu Jungle, Nelson Brissac Peixoto and Stella Teixeira de Barros. He presented part of the installation Jogo Fenotípico [Phenotype Game] composed of chairs and plaster cylinders.
He also participated in the collective show, Apocalípse XII [Apocalypse XII], a contemporary reading of Chapter 12 of the book of John the Evangelist São Francisco Cultural Center in João Pessoa, under the curatorship of Gabriel Bechara.
At the Visions of Cabo Branco workshop, coordinated by Raul Córdula, at the João Pessoa Cultural Center, Rufino mounted two installations, the first using used metal buckets, coat-hangers and clothes and the second made up of a chair, metal plates, a photographic self-portrait and a hanging lamp.
He also took part in the exhibition Generations: Art in Contemporary Brazil, Referência Art Gallery, Brasília.
The artist coordinated the Things sculpture workshop at the National Art Festival /FENART, José Lins do Rêgo Cultural Center Foundation in João Pessoa.
He participated in the exhibition, Contemporary Legacies, at the São Paulo Museum of Contemporary Art, under the curatorship of Katia Canton.
At the invitation of the curator, Lillian Llanes Godoy, he presented the installation, Lacrymatio at the 6th Havana Biennial whose theme was The Individual and Their Memories, in La Cabaña Fort, Havana, Cuba.
He participated in the exhibition staged by teachers from Quartier 206 – Friedrichstadt Passagen in Berlin, Germany, which resulted in the International Summer Academy of the FrieKunstshule Berlin, at which he was an international guest teacher.
He exhibited at the Kunst aus Brasilien [Art from Brazil] show at the Ausstellungszentrum of the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University in Greifswald, Germany, curated by Sibille Badstubner and Tereza de Arruda and at the Barsicow Gallery in Berlin.
He held a solo show as part of the Connection 4 at the João Pessoa Contemporary Art Unit.
He staged another solo show at the Vicente do Rêgo Monteiro Gallery of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation in Recife.
He took part in the Panorama of Brazilian Art show at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art under the curatorship of Tadeu Chiarelli. In the words of Leonor Amarante:
“In the proposed reading, the correspondence interferes in the social cartography, not as the mere recovery of history, but as a humanistic register. Rufino’s concept is broad and often perturbing. If in previous works he has been accustomed to relieve the form of its more disturbing rigor, nowadays he has transcended the concept itself. In his “tower”, tickets, cards and annotations are superimposed one on anther and juxtaposed so as to compose a totem, as if they were social sculptures. The accumulation of materials leaves the formalism open; at times it appears static, at others to follow the rhythm imposed by the lines…. Alternating between more stage-like installations, with broad and minimalist gestures and small intimate scenes, José Rufino proposes an inventive social code, without hierarchies. His dialogue covers various fields in urban sociology in an ongoing exercise. Yet it is not an open work; its formalism is well finished as a result of a linear way of thinking, combined with a more pragmatic vision of the world… In the natural metabolism of the art system, Rufino is reaching out for the poetics of the day, but searching for incursions that lead him to a kind of research that goes beyond the ephemeral.” (In Universalisms Uprooted, Panorama of Brazilian Art, MAM-SP, November 1997)
Panorama of Brazilian Art became a traveling show and was staged at the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art, at the Bahia Museum of Modern Art, and at the Aloísio Magalhães Museum of Modern Art in Recife.
He participated in the Stones of Fire workshop run by the Tambiá Visual Arts Center in João Pessoa and coordinated by the Swiss artist, Dadi Wirz, which resulted in an exhibition at the same institution.
He mounted the solo show, Letters from Areia, at the Adriana Penteado Contemporary Art Gallery in São Paulo. For this exhibition, he selected 45 drawings from the almost 3,000 he had produced in ten years of work, in addition to twelve sculptures, along with roots, books and fragments of family objects. In the exhibition catalogue, the critic, Agnaldo Farias, wrote:
“José Rufino’s poetics is built up by re-assembling the past, using the objects that he has inherited, in particular these letters that, like others, were taken from an trunk that belonged to his grandfather… José Rufino confronts this time, taking as ballast the testimony provided by the objects which through excessive contact with the people who near them ended up being imbued with their lives. This, in fact, is the nature of objects. Each of them, far from being a silent spectator, receives, like a reverberation, the impact of our minor afflictions, our dramas, our desires, our fleeting states of bliss. Set fast in the fibers of the wood of which the furniture is made, forgotten inside drawers and suitcases, mingling with the ink with which the letters are written is blurred and yellowed by the emotion of the person who read them over time, will always be a little piece of us… There are various pasts inside us. Among these, the one that we choose to represent ourselves. Rufino, however, is interested in other pasts. As in these envelopes, the dwelling place of old messages, and is in all, monotonous in their supplications, confessions and news, now transformed into the support the artist uses to bring out in a coarse language, the memories obliterated by distance or terror: the writing desk from which his grandfather spun out the texts that provided an account of his shrewd life, this same grandfather’s wake, the dog with no head, the road that led to Vaca Brava, the dances, the country dances, the fishing, the blue trees that were more genealogical than vegetal…”
He took part in the exhibition, 90s Generation – Recent work by artists from the “Antarctica Artes com a Folha” project at the Casa Triângulo Gallery and the São Paulo State Gallery.
At the 3rd Barro de América Roberto Guevara Biennial, at the Maracaibo Lía Bermudez Art Center, in Venezuela, he presented the installation Vis Formativa, inspired by the Aristotelian theory of the same name, which postulated the existence of a creature capable of sowing the seeds of life inside rocks. The work was composed of six sculptures with roots, seeds and droppings collected in the Sertão region of the Northeast of Brazil, books, paper, plaster and 21 computer prints.
For the Brazilian section of the América Roberto Guevara Biennial, which took place at the São Paulo Brazlian Museum of Sculpture São Paulo, under the curatorship of Fábio Magalhães, he produced a new piece based on Aristotelian theory: an open book 2.6 meters high made of white cement plaster, sand and animal droppings gathered in the Sertão region of the Northeast of Brazil. The piece was mounted on bricks.
He exhibited drawings from the Letters from Areia series at the Brazilian Cultural Center in Berlin, under the curatorship of Sônia Frey.
He received the Brasília Visual Arts Prize of the Brasília Museum of Art, for untitled piece comprising 32 wooden objects in which are set letters, envelopes and notepads belonging to members of the artist’s family.
He held a solo show entitled Obliteratio at the Ruben Valentin Gallery, Cultural Center 508 South, Brasília, comprising photographs and objects.
He once again used a series of Letters from Areia at the Paraiban Brejo Museum in Areia. This time, the exhibition brought together a group of 15 blue monotypes drawn by the artist on envelopes belonging to members of his family sent to his grandfather. These monotypes were produced in the manner of the stains designed by the Swiss psychologist, Rorschach. Apart from the works on paper, the artist also created a series of direct interventions using objects contained in the museum and the museum space itself, with articles taken both from the manor house and the sugar mill – the sugar press, sugar loaf molds, furniture and photographs.
He collaborated with another series of Letters from Areia in the traveling exhibition, XS/XL – Extra-small/Extra-large, curated by Nancy Betts, which went on to show at the Curitiba Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the Post Office Cultural Center in Rio de Janeiro, at the Nara Roesler Gallery in São Paulo, and at the Marina Potrich Gallery, in Goiânia.
He took part in the show, Identidades: Artistas de América Latina y del Caribe [Identities: Artists from Latin América and the Caribbean] at the Galerie du Passage du Reux, in Paris.
He contributed to the show, 1500 via Pedro II – Collective, at the São Francisco Cultural Center in João Pessoa, for which he presented a small installation made up of two wooden sculptures and paper cuttings on the wall, under the curatorship of Fábio Queiroz.
He also participated in a collective show at the João Pessoa Cultural Foundation.
He also took part in the Nordestes SESC Pompéia Exhibition in São Paulo, with a series of drawings from memory that would later be developed into the Obliteratio project.
He participated in the Entre Eu e o Mundo [Between Me and the World] Exhibition, at the Goiânia Museum of Contemporary Art.
He took part in the exhibition, Contemporary Art from Paraíba at the Assis Chateaubriand Museum of Art in Campina Grande, under the curatorship of Wellington Medeiros.
He was one of the contributors to the collective show, 19 Cabeças [19 Heads] at the Adriana Penteado Gallery, in São Paulo.
He was also involved in the show, 15 Artists of the 90s at the Contemporary Art Unit in João Pessoa.
He participated in the Mercosur Visual Arts Biennial, at the DPREC in Porto Alegre, curated by Fábio Magalhães and Leonor Amarante. He assembled the installation, Laceratio, for the occasion. In her text, Memory as a Condition of Humanity Katia Canton observes the following:
“Since 1999 the work of José Rufino has been moving out of the field of private memories of a family to embark on commentaries on local histories and the mechanisms of memory itself. In order to produce his piece for the 2nd Mercosur Biennial, held in 2000, in Porto Alegre, Rufino visited government offices,, sifted through old bureaucratic tomes and account books and delved into documents from the past. With this material he created the installation which connects these everyday bureaucratic items with strings, mapping out an imaginary topography in the ramblings of the memory.” (The Latest Brazilian Art –a guide to its tendencies, 2001)
He received an Honorary Mention from the State Council for Culture of the Government of the State of Paraíba for his work throughout the year.
He was awarded a Vitae culture grant for Obliteratio, a project involving the production of 200 drawings base don return visits to places and landscapes in the Brazilian Northeast.
He participated in the Extremes show, at the São Francisco Cultural Center in João Pessoa.
He presented a second version of Laceratio for the Origem project at the Malakoff Cultural Observatory, in Recife, curated by Moacir dos Anjos. In this version, the supports used were accounts books from the Port of Recife.
He participated in the exhibition, Entre Eu e o Mundo.[Between Me and the World] at the São Francisco Cultural Center in João Pessoa, curated by Divino Sobral.
He exhibited XS/XL – Extra-small/Extra-large, at the University Art Museum of the Federal University of Uberlândia in Minas Gerais.
He was recommended by Bravo magazine to participate in the exhibition, L’Art dans Le Monde [Art in the World]- an initiative of Beaux Arts magazine- at the Pont Alexandre III Gallery, Paris. This exhibition involved one hundred artists selected by 36 contemporary art magazines around the world.
He took part in the exhibition, O Particular [The Particular], at the Cândido Mendes Cultural Center, Rio de Janeiro, curated by Adriana Tabalipa, where he presented another series of drawings from Letters from Areia.
He held a solo show of drawings and monotypes at Casa da Ribeira, in the Petrobrás Room, Natal, under the curatorship of Gustavo Wanderley.
He participated in the exhibition, Auto-retrato – Espelho de Artista [Self Portrait—Mirror of the Artist], at the FIESP Cultural Center in São Paulo.
He presented the installation, Murmuratio, at a solo show at the Vila Velha Railway Museum, in Espírito Santo. The piece was produced using documents and furniture found at railway stations in the State of Espírito Santo. In a text entitled, José Rufino: the delirium of the ordinary, the critic and curator of the show, Luiz Camillo Osório, wrote as follows:
“Rufino brings the most ordinary, brute, mechanical and repetitive objects to an appropriately ordered poetics of the extraordinary, the surprising, uncommon… His installations take on the aura of the government offices and their bureaucratic memory, removing the driving force behind their morbid world-weariness: their functionality… The positive feature of everyday things appearing in a space reserved for art is that they can be thought about rather than simply used. And they can be thought about in the poetic sense of the term, of something that leads us sensibly beyond the ordinary and the banal. Herein lies the contradiction: this act of separation, stepping back from the routine is what gives life to the everyday. This is why art, unlike science, thrives on contradiction, an unusual way of speaking, that cannot be accounted for by the obviousness of certainties.
Two characteristics of the artist are important for his poetics and the way his work takes shape. First, Rufino has an emotional relationship with literature, or rather, with words, which produces indisputable plastic vibrations. His texts permeate his installations, endow them with a peculiar materiality and are therefore a determining feature of the poetic experience.
His scientific work as a paleontologist who studies and deciphers the signs of life crystallized in time has certainly contributed to this. His extremely plastic vocabulary is capable of elaborating a fiction full of details that involve us in its delirious atmosphere in an ongoing fashion. This is a constant feature of his work: he suggests familiarity as a way of making things more powerfully uncanny.”
He took part in the exhibition, Palavra-Figura [Word-Figure] held at Paço das Artes in São Paulo.
He was involved in the exhibition Onde o tempo se bifurca [Where time bifurcates] at the São Francisco Cultural Center, João Pessoa, curated by Divino Sobral.
He took part in the 1st Cariri Arts Biennial in Juazeiro do Norte, curated by Dodora Guimarães.
He staged the solo show, Obliteratio, at the São Francisco Cultural Center, João Pessoa, where he presented some of the drawings of landscapes from memory funded by the Vitae Project grant.
He participated in the International Contemporary Art Fair in Madrid, at the Casa Triângulo Gallery’s stand.
He took part in the 25th São Paulo International Biennial, curated by Alfons Hug, with the Brazilian section being curated by Agnaldo Farias. He staged his installation, Plasmatio, which received the following critical acclaim from the curator responsible for producing the Metropolitan Iconographies catalogue:
“The domestic furniture of the Paraiban artist, José Rufino, the chairs and dark brown desks piled on top of each other or fastened to the wall, exude the somber and petty air of bureaucratic offices, where lives are dedicated to individual lives unbeknown to the individuals themselves. Lives expressed on yellowing sheets of paper—personal letters and cold dispatches – which are hung from this furniture and which bring black printed monotypes, like long backbones. Black Rorschach stains, whose meaning varies from one observer to another. The stamps stuck to the walls connected by string allude to the invisible network formed by the methodical percussion of clerks banging them into inked pads, indifferently ordering the lives of others… Rufino is a specialist in the reconstitution of life by means of a few fragments. With Plasmatio, the artist again brings to light the issue of the political prisoners who disappeared in this country, a brutal chapter in our recent history that has yet to be fully laid to rest.”
He participated in the Faxinal das Artes Contemporary Artists Residents Program, run in the village of Faxinal do Céu, in the State of Paraná. This was curated by Agnaldo Farias and Fernando Bini, with consultancy services provided by Christian Viveros-Fauné. As a consequence of this he contributed to the exhibition of the same name at the Paraná Museum of Contemporary Art in Curitiba.
He exhibited at the show, Caminhos do Contemporâneo [The Paths of the Contemporary], at the Paço Imperial in Rio de Janeiro, curated by Lauro Cavalcanti on the recommendation of Moacir dos Anjos and Cláudia Saldanha.
He staged a solo show, Memento Mori, at the Sérgio Porto Cultural Center, in Rio de Janeiro, curated by Moacir dos Anjos. The installation mounted for the occasion of the Visiting Curator Project, was composed of monotypes in the manner of Justinus Kerner and Hermann Rorschach set in old frames and a bedstead.
He took part in the Versteigerung exhibition, at the Freie Akademie für Kunst, in Berlin, curated by Stefan Halbscheffel.
He participated in the exhibition, Pele, Alma (Skin, Soul),at the Banco do Brasil Cultural Center, in São Paulo. The curator, Katia Canton, wrote the following text to introduce the exhibition catalogue:
“In the installation, Memento Mori, the artist recovers a book written and illustrated by the 19th-century German spiritualist, Justinus Kerner, containing poems and commentaries on death, the spirit and the search to incorporate entities from the after-life. Using the kind of monotypes developed for Rorschach tests, Rufino draws on pages from a list of obituaries found in Ceará, interfering in these records and covering the text with drawings of imaginary bodies, shrouds recreated to incorporate a memory that blend into and install themselves on the boundary between fable and historical record.”
He took part in the exhibition, Fragmentos a seu Ímã – Obras Primas do MAB (Fragments to your Magnet—Master Works of the MAB),at the Venâncio/ECCO Contemporary Cultural Center in Brasília, curated by Adolfo Montejo Navas.
He participated in the exhibition, Heterodoxia (Heterodoxy) at the Curitiba Metropolitan Museum of Art in Paraná and in editions of the São Paulo, at the Marta Traba Latin American Memorial Gallery and in Goiânia, at the Faculty of Visual Arts Gallery.
He took part in the exhibition, 7 Pinturas (7 Paintings), at the Adriana Penteado Contemporary Art Gallery, in São Paulo.
He was Artistic Director for Transubstancial – a short 35mm film, directed by film~-maker, Torquato Joel – for which He received an award at the 10th Vitória Film Festival in the State of Espírito Santo. The film presents a reading of the work of the Paraiban poet, Augusto do Anjos, using fragments from his poems.
He held a solo show at the Aloísio Magalhães Museum of Modern Art in Recife, curated by Moacir dos Anjos. This was the largest collection of his work put together until that time. It included the Sudoratio installations—a hitherto unseen installation thought up in 1997 and mounted for the exhibition – Plasmatio, and Lacrymatio, along with groups of drawings from the Letters from Areia series and sets of monotypes of invoices and social security slips.
He staged a solo show at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, under the curatorship of Moacir dos Anjos, organised by the Aloísio Magalhães Museum of Modern Art. This edition also included the installation, Memento Mori. According to Leonor Amarante, in a text entitled Universal Letters, this exhibition provides evidence of the density of Rufino´s work:
When the prestigious European critics, Pierre Restany and Aquille Bonito Oliva informally judged José Rufino’s work the best on show at the 6th Havana Biennial in, in 1997, this came as no surprise. In 1989, the artist was beginning to produce his more sophisticated conceptual works, shot through with political and psycho-analytical questions, all stemming from everyday family life: the letters sent and received by his grandfather, a sugar mill owner, with characters from a quasi-colonial world, driven by power, wealth, love and hate…
At the beginning of his career, José Rufino, was apparently attempting to exorcise ghosts that, in decades gone by, had determined what and who was good or bad for “society”. His much broader discourse, however, led him to discuss other legacies and ways of viewing life that impose themselves on the close link between a man, his cultural heritage and his surroundings. The family find became a lightning rod for intelligent reflection on human being, its limitations, legacies and impossibilities. This starting point introduced us to a very private cartography, in which fragments of an intense and prolific correspondence are transformed into the support for paintings, drawings and small-scale installations, all with a strong critical expression. The poetic transfiguration of the world and its utopias is crystallized in Lacrymatio (1991-1997), an installation in which painted letters, mounted on acrylic plates and joined together by rubber tubes remind us of the torture instruments used to repress the people during the military dictatorship.
Rufino works simultaneously on a variety of fronts, cognizant of the fact that the history of Brazilian culture passes through archeology, anthropology, ethnology, and above all, politics. From the vanguard of the labor movement in the docks of the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil, he gathered the bureaucratic debris, kept for decades in the run-down customs offices, to produce Laceratio, which was exhibited at the 2nd Mercosur Visual Arts Biennial, in 1999. In this installation he worked with tempera on port authority documents which were embraced by stamps and string in an allusion to the red-tape of bureaucracy which is still very much a part of workers’ everyday life.
One of the artist’s most astounding works and the tour de force of this exhibition is Plasmatio, 2002, which is emblematic of a body of work that always has a political character, but never stoops to mere propaganda. Made up of a set of cards, tickets and documents from former political prisoners at the time of the military regime, the installation simultaneously masks and reveals the isolation, loss, revulsion and contempt of that time. The images painted on the texts are suggestive of mutilated human bodies. But try though the viewer might to decipher any message contained in these papers, they cannot. What lies on the surface of the paper are new, more universal codes, which complement the earlier ones and are molded by this invented territory.
Rufino’s art is constantly expanding. This accurate sample, put together by Moacir dos Anjos, shows us a career replete with poetic situations and shows us the artist’s concern with solidarity with human beings of all eras, united in times of uncertainty, anguish and solitude.
He participated in the exhibition, Spanish Visions /Brazilian Poetics, at the Caixa Econômica Bank Cultural Unit in Brasília, curated by Adolfo Montejo Navas.
He contributed to the exhibition, Heterogeneous Memories, at the Oduvaldo Vianna Filho Cultural Center, in Rio de Janeiro, curated by Marcelo Campos along with works by Farnese de Andrade, Efrain Almeida and Renato Bezerra de Mello.
He took part in the exhibition, Para ver de(s)perto at the Gallery of the Goiânia Faculty of Arts, curated by Carlos Sena.
The artist participated in the exhibition, Bienais: um olhar sobre a produção nacional [Biannuals: an overview of Brazilian Production], at the Bergamim Gallery in São Paulo, under the curatorship of Leonor Amarante.
In this year, he also returned to the Heterodoxia show, this time at Casa Porto das Artes Plásticas in Vitória, at the Dragão do Mar Cultural Center, in Fortaleza, at the Paulo Darzé Art Gallery in Salvador, and at the Florianópolis Museum of Art.
He also took part in Heterodoxia – Latin American Edition at the Marta Traba Latin America Memorial Gallery, São Paulo.
He exhibited at the Virgílio Gallery in São Paulo, as part of the BR 2004 show.
He participated in the 6th Clay Biennale of América Roberto Guevara, at the Maracaibo Lía Bermudez Art Center, in Venezuela.
His work was included in the exhibition, Narrativas – Desenho Contemporâneo Brasileiro [Narratives—Contemporary Drawing in Brazil], at the São Francisco Cultural Center in João Pessoa.
He also exhibited as part of the Aloísio Magalhães Museum Donations 2001-2004 Collection exhibition.
In this year, the artist took part in the Vida & Arte Festival in Fortaleza, exhibiting as part of the Nordeste: Fronteiras, Fluxos e Personas [The Brazilian Northeast: Frontiers, Flows and Personalities], at the Banco do Nordeste Cultural Center, under the curatorship of Luiza Interlenghi.
He also took part in the collective show Visível – Legível [Visible—Legible], at the Antônio Sibasolly Art Gallery, Anápolis, curated by Divino Sobral.
He exhibited for the show, Pluralia, tantum at the Marina Potrich Gallery in Goiânia.
He was also part of the Umas – Grafias show, at the Amparo 60 Gallery, in Recife.
He staged a solo show, entitled Incertae Sedis at the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art, under the curatorship of Luiz Guilherme Vergara and Cláudia Saldanha. The exhibition included series of drawings, objects and the Sudoratio and Plasmatio installations, the latter including a number of new monotypes executed on papers dealing with disappeared political prisoners, which were collected for the occasion in Niterói and Rio de Janeiro.
He was included in the Jogo da Memória [Memory Game] show at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art, under the curatorship of Franklin Pedroso.
He staged a solo show Axioma at the Amparo 60 Gallery, in Recife.
He participated in the Limite como potência [Limitation as Potential] show at the National Fine Arts Museum, in Rio de Janeiro, under the curatorship of Paulo Herkenhoff and Luíza Interlengh.
He also exhibited as part of the Nanoexposição [Nanoexhibition] show, at the Murilo Castro Gallery, in Belo Horizonte.
The artist took part in arteBA, the 15th Contemporary Art Fair at La Rural, Pabellones Amarillo y Rojo, Buenos Aires, through the Virgílio Gallery.
He act as artistic director for the short film Gravidade [Seriousness], shot in João Pessoa on 35mm, directed by Torquato Joel, with Walter Carvalho as director of photography.
He took part in the 5X5 show, at Casa da Ribeira, in Natal.
He also participated in the Ver=Ler [Seeing=Reading] exhibition at the UFG Faculty of Arts Gallery, in Goiânia.
He exhibited at the exhibition, Lugar Plano, [Flat Space] at the Espaço Cultural Contemporâneo – ECCO, in Brasília, under the curatorship of Divino Sobral.
He held a solo exhibition at the Brazilian embassy in Berlin, as part of the Culture Cup Program under the curatorship of Luiz Camillo Osório.
He also took part in the Paisagem Bruta [Raw Landscape] exhibition at the Virgílio Gallery, in São Paulo, curated by Luiz Camillo Osório.
He participated in the Geração da Virada: 10+1 = os anos recentes da arte brasileira [Turnaround Generation: 10+1 = recent years in Brazilian art] at the Tomie Ohtake Institute, in São Paulo, curated by Agnaldo Farias and Moacir dos Anjos.
He was part of the Contemporary Drawing exhibition at the MCO Contemporary Art Gallery, in Porto, Portugal, under the curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
He also contributed to the Primeira Pessoa [First Person] show at the Itaú Cultural Center, in São Paulo, again curated by Agnaldo Farias.
The artist took part in the First End of the World Biennale, at the former Ushuaia building, Argentina, in where he mounted the site specific installation, Lex Oblivionis, made of beds cut up and stuffed into the tiny cells of the building that used to be the city jail, which held both common criminals and important political prisoners.
He also took part again in arteBA, the 16th Contemporary Art Fair in La Rural, Pabellones Amarillo y Rojo, Buenos Aires, through the Virgílio Gallery.
In this year, the artist started a new line of work involving metal furniture. The first of these to be produced on a large scale was the installation, Nausea, comprising a geometrical arrangement of desks, filing cabinets and Rorschach-type monotypes. The installation was mounted for the first time at the Banco do Nordeste Cultural Center, in Sousa, in the State of Paraíba.
He also participated in the ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair in Madrid, through the Virgílio Gallery.
He contributed to the Sertão Contemporâneo show at Caixa Cultural, Rio de Janeiro, which was the result of a project involving travel in the Sertão region of the State of Paraíba. The exhibition was curated by Marcelo Campos. Rufino produced new drawings and a sculpture entitled Quimeras [Chimeras] for this show.
Plasmatio was installed as part of Figurações, Sonhos e Desejos [Figurations, Dreams and Desires]/ Coleção Sattamini and MAC-Niterói, at the Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art, Brazil.
He also held a large solo show at the Virgílio Gallery, São Paulo, where he exhibited various series of drawings, objects, engravings and installations (Léthe and Sudoratio). The curator, Adolfo Navas, wrote of the show:
If something weighs on or gravitates around the work of José Rufino – and continues to accrue import as we look at it -, it is the fact that this poetics is fed by a constantly reinvigorated substrate, a constantly present knot of (geographical, territorial and cultural) roots, latent (historical political and existential) content, and (public and private) documents. These diverse roots, in turn, fire and configure an impulse that is greater than the combination of these factors as a whole, be it in terms of the real and imaginary landscapes produced or the biographical and subjective materiality that is both fictional and shared. In other words, the degree of universality, of ecumenical achievement with which his various artworks are endowed, always stems, precisely, from a resilient sense of place, increasingly firmly embedded in a cultural soil that aspires to recognize itself in this cross-fertilization of different eras and different forms, of latitudes that rise beyond the originating space.
Rufino held a solo show, curated by Marcelo Campos, at the Banco do Nordeste Cultural Center in Fortaleza, where he exhibited a second expanded version of Nausea, and a new series of Rorschach-like monotypes, in addition to Incertae Sedis.
He also took part in the Superfícies da Memória [Surfaces of Memory] show, curated by Lisbeth Rebolo and Sylvia Weneck at the São Paulo Museum of Contemporary Art. A new version of Nausea was prepared for this show.
At Usina Cultural Energisa, in João Pessoa, he contributed to the Cartas/Trajetos [Letters/Paths] show, where he exhibited the work Auto-Retratos [Self-Portraits], from the series Cartas de Areia [Letters from Areia], under the curatorship of Bitu Cassundé.
He took part in Memorial revisitado, 20 anos [Revisited Memorial, 20 years] show, at the Memorial da América Latina/Galeria Marta Traba, in São Paulo, presenting the installation Léthe, under the curatorship of Ângela Barbour and Fernando Calvozo.
Represented by the galleries Virgílio and Amparo 60, he took part in SP-ARTE, the São Paulo International Art Fair.
Under the curatorship of Philippe Daverio, Elena Agudio and Phelippe Blachaert, he presented the work Nausea 2010, especially created for the show Las Américas Latinas – las fatigas del querer, that took place at Spazio Oberdan, in Milan, Italy.
He also participated in Saccharum BA, at the Bahia Museum of Modern Art, in Salvador, where he exposed 60 drawings from the series Cartas de Areia [Letters from Areia], curated by Alejandra Muñoz.
Under invitation of the curator of the Andy Warhol Museum and the University of Pittsburgh, USA, he participated in a project called Residency Artists Image Resource – AIR, with the support of the Alzheimer Disease Research Center – ADRC. At that time, he produced a series of engravings and monotypes, gave a lecture and took part in lectures and discussions. During this trip, he started the research of photographies for producing the video Myriorama 2.
In July, his work Timidus, composed of a modified bed on a wall, has joined the Alcove show at Laura Marsiaj Gallery, in Rio de Janeiro, under the curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
In September, he held a show in Italy once again, at the Palazzo dei Congressi, in Pisa, as a part of Mind the brain, an experimental exhibition, curated by Elena Agudio. He presented the unpublished work Rorschach mind test for barbaric subversion – 300 engravings à la Rorschach, on typographies.
The set of works that composed Sertão Contemporâneo – Quimera [Chimera] and and five drawings – was exposed at Caixa Cultural Salvador, under curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
With a new Sudoratio, he took part in Linha Orgânica [Organic Line] show, at the Gallery Amparo 60, in Recife, curated by Ana Maria Maia.
At Galeria Virgilio, in São Paulo, he participated in the Múltiplos e Pequenos Formatos [Multiple and Small Sizes] show, and at the end of the year he won the prize Bolsa Funarte de Criação Literária [Creative Writing Scholarship], from Funarte, with the project of a novel entitled Desviver.
At the beginning of the year, he worked intensively on the production of two solo exhibitions and the novel Desviver.
He held a big solo show, the installation Faustus, representing a being of 22m, built in plaster and old pieces of furniture and wood. It took place at the Palácio da Aclamação, in Salvador, under the curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
At the Casarão Contemporary Art Gallery, in Viana (Espírito Santo – Brazil), he held another solo show entitled Silentio, in which he presented a big installation built with pieces of furniture and wood collected after the flood occurred in Viana. Besides, he made a performance using an old chair covered in mud and sediments from the Santo Agostinho River. The exhibition was curated by Neusa Mendes.
He produced the video Myriorama 3, that was presented during the show Silentio.
At this year, he started being represented by dy Warhol Museum, in Pittsburgh, USA, entitled Blots & Figments, under the curatorship of Jessica Gogan. The show had 78 works, that included monotypes in the manner of Rorschach on papers related to Warhol’s life, old newspapers, documents of Alzheimer’s patients and others.
He presented the video Myriorama 2, created with old pictures from Pittsburgh, selected by the artist during a research he made in 2009.
He took part in the Preto no Branco – do Concreto ao Contemporâneo [Black in White - from Concrete to Contemporary] show, at the Berenice Arvani Gallery, in São Paulo, showing the work Quimera [Chimera] and drawings, under the curatorship of Celso Fioravante.
He participated in the exhibition entitled Jogos de Guerra – Confrontos e convergências na arte contemporânea brasileira [War Games - Confrontations and Convergences on the Brazilian Contemporary Art], at the Marta Traba Gallery, in the Memorial da América Latina, São Paulo. The show was curated by Daniela Name.
He contributed, with the work Memento Mori, to the Come-In show, at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, in Curitiba, under the curatorship of Renate Goldmann.
He finished the first version of the novel Desviver and, in late January, he received the Funarte Scholarship of Literary Creation.
Represented by the Millan Gallery, he took part in SP-ARTE (the São Paulo International Art Fair) and of Art Basel 2010, in Switzerland.
At Vera Chaves Barcellos Foundation, under the curatorship of Vera Chaves Barcellos, he participated in Silêncios e Sussurros [Silences and Whisperers] show, in Viamão (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil).
The installation Nausea was exhibited at the inauguration of Sala Nordeste at the Ministry of Culture, in Recife, under the curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
He took part in Paralela 2010 [Parallel 2010] show, with the work Nostrum spiritus rebellis. Nostrum spiritus domitus, under the curatorship of Paulo Reis, at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios in São Paulo.
In this year, he won the prize Prêmio Bravo! Prime de Cultura for the best exhibition, with the installation Faustus, presented at Palácio da Aclamação in Salvador.
In December, he took part in Art Basel Miami, United States, with wooden sculptures exhibited inside of two showcases, entitled Aenigma 1 and Aenigma 2.
He held his fifth solo exhibition at this year, named Aenigma, at Millan Gallery, in São Paulo. Fourteen new works have been exhibited.
In March, he participated in the group exhibition Projeto Ideal [Ideal Project], at Centro Cultural São Paulo, and in May he took part in the show Vestígios de Brasilidade [Traces of Brasility], at Santander Cultural, in Recife, under the curatorship of Marcelo Campos.
Represented by the Millan Gallery, he took part in SP-ARTE (the São Paulo International Art Fair), with the work Nobilitas.