Chico Rei: Ivan Grilo

Chico Rei [Ou a verdade tropical está nas entrelinhas], 2015

Ivan Grilo (b. 1986) is a Brazilian artist who uses photographic archives, found objects and text to produce conceptual installations which explore the history and folklore of Brazil.

It was during a recent trip to São Paulo, namely a brief visit to the JK Iguatemi shopping centre, that I first came across Grilo’s work. It left such a profound impression on me, not least because the last thing I expected to see as I wandered aimlessly through this shiny complex was an artwork that was minimal in design yet so vast in its subject matter. In many ways, the shopping centre was a perfect location for Grilo’s work, reflecting his desire to create pieces which go beyond the confinements of a traditional gallery space and enable public interaction and discussion.

Chico Rei [Ou a verdade tropical está nas entrelinhas] recounts the legend of Chico Rei, a tribal leader who was captured by the Portuguese in the 1740s and sent to work in the gold mines of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Using flakes of gold that he had hidden in his hair, Chico Rei was able to buy his freedom and establish his own goldmine, the profits of which he used to help free other slaves. Although there is no archival record of his existence, Chico Rei’s legacy has been preserved through oral tradition.

The layering of multiple narratives and perspectives in Grilo’s work always forces us to stop, question and discuss; in turn, making us part of the story.

There is the idea of presenting work that separates itself from the space of the white cube, which reaches people who are completely alien to art, but not politics or love.’ – Ivan Grilo

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