May 7, 2020
35 Years of the Campana Brothers’ Legacy Unfolds at MAM Rio
Championing the Brazilian designers’ three-decade-plus career, Campana Brothers – 35 Revolutions is the largest exhibition ever dedicated to the twosome.
On the ground floor of Rio de Janeiro’s Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM Rio), 35 years of the Campana Brothers work unfurls across nearly 20,000 square feet. The mise en scène staged by the designer brothers, which was executed in collaboration with local nonprofit Spectaculu School of Art and Technology, surveys furniture, sculpture, and large-scale installations handpicked by curator Francesca Alfano Miglietti. As the exhibition title may suggest, Campana Brothers – 35 Revolutions documents the trajectory of Fernando and Umberto’s synthesis of craftsmanship, industrial production, and study of materials over more than three decades in an immersive environment. [Editor’s note: The exhibition was scheduled to run through May 17; however, due to health risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic, MAM Rio has closed indefinitely.]
The scenography reveals itself from behind the cracks of a terra-cotta wall—no doubt, a reference to vernacular Brazilian architecture—assembled from 1,600 pieces to form the shape of a human hand. Behind the entrance, close to 100 columns swathed in shaggy brown straw divide the studio’s most iconic designs, including the Bubble-Wrap Chair (an exploration of materials and rapid prototyping), a KAWSxCampana stuffed animal chair (a play on found art and pop culture), and the red rope Vermelha Chair (a Twizzler-like take on traditional Brazilian weaving), and others. Each of the works tells a story, some divulging the designers’ ability to integrate machine manufacturing with local manual techniques, while others reflect their artistry in subverting familiar forms.
As one weaves through 100-plus objects in the exhibition, themes in the brothers’ design vocabulary emerge—among them, an ongoing practice of placing readymade materials in the hands of Brazilian artisans. The methodology began early in their career due to a limited budget and material palette, but 35 years later, it remains true to their design process: First, pushing the limits of the material, then developing an object’s function and form. Working out of a studio located in São Paulo’s Santa Cecília neighborhood, the brothers have taken lessons from local materiality, reaping inspiration from the nearby small shops, busy streets, and rain forests that surround the town.
With no plans to abandon their original workspace in the buzzing Brazilian hub, the designers’ home country seems likely to continue to feed into the brothers’ gusto for process-driven design. For the foreseeable future, Fernando and Humberto will remain committed to Brazil with a small staff of in-house craftspeople, piles of scrap materials, and an on-going collection of prototypes.
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