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Marcos Chaves: Art & Ceramics. Atelier Azulejaria, Rio de Janeiro

The Atelier Azulejaria  / Tile Workshop in Rio de Janeiro develops social and collective projects that combine arts, culture, urban / public space and involve the active participation of the local population to bring a sparkle to the city where it’s needed most. Marcos Chaves’ ceramic panels for the Túnel João Ricardo, pedestrian / vehicle tunnel in the Gamboa district were produced with the participation of the team of the Atelier Azulejaria and the residents of Morro da Providencia.

The one-way, 230-metre long, túnel da Central do Brasil or João Ricardo tunnel – nobody knows who he was! – was built between 1919-21 and is much used as a pedestrian route as the quickest connection from the central rail station to the Port area. It goes under the Morro da Providência, regarded as first favela in Rio, and the Morro do Livramento. To walk through the tunnel is a dark, noisy and unpleasant experience and Marcos Chaves’ proposal adapted an idea with a design reminiscent of traffic direction signals. The artwork consists of four 2 x 10-metre panels each of c.800 tiles located at each side of the entrance and exit.

Chaves’ starting point was a series of gallery installations started in 2002 entitled Logradouro (Location) where he appropriated a black-yellow ‘warning’ tape used for packaging and in building interiors as a Pop / Constructivist image. Chaves black-yellow ‘language game’ plays with visual irony and multiple meanings. Yellow is considered as the colour of madness, is a reference to the ‘bodily’ colour by Kandinsky in Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and also a sign for attention and isolation in urban transit codes.

Although the project is relatively small inside the monumentality of the tunnel there are ambitions to extend the tiles. An aim of the project was to unify art, education and community projects with the public of urban Rio de Janeiro. The panels were made by the craftswomen of the Azulejaria, who created 80% of the panels, together with the inhabitants of the Morro da Providência who produced work through educational ceramic workshops. The panels were commissioned through a partnership between the secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Atelier Azulejaria and ONG enda Brasil with a budget of 30.000 Reals (£11,000 / $17,600).

The Atelier Azulejaria is a workshop making and designing public art using the Portuguese style of azulejos / ceramic tiles. Set up in 1999, in partnership with the NGO Enda Brazil, Atelier Azulejaria has worked in 8 different favelas in Rio and finished public art projects in São Paulo, Paris and Lisbon. Each project is based on the Human Rights protocol, engaging locally trained craftspeople from the favela’s of Rio and to date the projects have involved more than 500 people.

Artist: Marcos Chaves. Série Logradouro (Sidewalk Series) Marcos Chaves,born 1961, Rio de Janeiro, works in diverse media – objects, photographs, videos, drawings, words and sounds.

Project Director: Laura Taves, Director Atelier Azulejaia

Production Team: Ana Paula Nascimento, Lúcia Rodrigues e Márcia Queiroz (Atelier Azulejaria); with Alda Maria, Eliane de Souza, Jailce Felix, Jorceli Barbosa, Leni Pereira, Luci Furtado, Maria da Penha dos Santos, Rafael Guanais, Rosineide Almeida, Samuel Marques, Tatiane Ferraro, Vanda de Jesus. Thanks: Ana Durães and Projeto Mulheres da Paz (Morro da Providência).

Local Production: Centro Cultural José Bonifácio

Production Management: Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro.

Completed: July 15, 2011, Rio de Janeiro

Images: João Ricardo tunnel. Photography: Fábio Caffé

Marcos Chaves. Logradouro, Black IRONY Yellow. Detail – exhibition at Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, 2001.



About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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