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For this introductory essay, titled “The Color Strike,” Glória Ferreira reproduces a May 16, 1954 article from the Brazilian newspaper Correio da Manhã. The article describes the III Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna, known as the “Black and White Salon,” as a “landmark in Brazilian artists’ struggle for access to quality materials.” It explains the dissatisfaction of artists with foreign trade policies that taxed imported paints and inks as luxury items (along with luxury cars, fine beverages, and perfumes). This dissatisfaction mobilized the artist members of the National Fine Arts Commission, which sponsored the Salon, to organize the protest exhibition, which would only show works in black and white. Led by Iberê Camargo, Djanira, and Milton Dacosta, these artists also drafted a letter – signed by more than 600 artists from almost every state in Brazil – to the Ministers of Finance and Education. The Salon received a significant increase in submissions that year, displaying 323 works compared with only 203 a year earlier.
Ferreira then contextualizes the article and the Black and White Salon within the internationalization of Brazilian art during the mid-twentieth century: the founding of museums of modern art in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo; the inaugration of the São Paulo Biennial; the impact of Cubism and Constructivism on incipient art movements in Brazil; the flowering of artist groups, such as the Grupo Ruptura in São Paulo and the Grupo Frente in Rio; and finally the I Exposição de Arte Abstrata in 1953. Questions about modernism’s dominant and official position in Brazilian art, as well as about avant-garde theory and practice, allowed the Black and White Salon to function as an exploration of artistic production. Rather than interpreting the removal of color as a form of self-limitation, as some critics have, Ferreira points out how it pushed some artists, fruitfully, away from “mimicking the natural object” and further toward abstraction. She also points out the successes of the exhibition: the spirit of solidarity that was evident in the egalitarian distribution of prizes among abstract and figurative works, the significant coverage in the press, and an actual change in policy. In June 1954, just before the Black and White Salon closed, the Ministry of Finance changed the designation of imported art supplies to “necessary.”
[Maria da] Glória Ferreira (b. 1947) is a profesor, critic, and curator based in Rio de Janeiro. She has edited and authored several publications, including an anthology of Mário Pedrosa and the catalogue Mapa do agora: arte brasileira recente na coleção João Sattamini do Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói [see ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1110931)]. This essay introduces the book A Arte e seus materiais: Salão Preto e Branco, 3º Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna, 1954, which accompanied an exhibition in the Special Gallery at the Salão Nacional de Artes Plásticas in 1985. The exhibition reassembled the famous “Black and White Salon” of 1954, featuring works by Aluísio Carvão, Anna Letycia, Aldo Bonadei, Iberê Camargo, Ivan Serpa, Lygia Clark, Maria Helena Andrés, Maria Leontina, Tarsila do Amaral, Ubi Bava, and many others. The publication includes primary and secondary documents related to the original exhibition, as well as interviews with artists and critics from the period, compiled by Ferreira and Luiza Interlenghi. The Salão Nacional de Arte Moderna was first held in 1952 as a successor to the Modern Division of the National Salon of Fine Arts. Its third edition, known as the Black and White Salon, opened on May 15, 1954, with artists protesting the poor quality of materials available under Brazil’s import substitution industrialization policies. Led by Iberê Camargo, Milton Dacosta, and Djanira, 600 artists from across the country signed a manifesto addressed to Getulio Vargas’ Ministry of Education, objecting to the government’s prohibitions on imported paints, engraving and sculptural materials, papers, and other essential tools (see doc. no. 1307648). As Ferreira concludes in her essay, the spirit of protest that defined the Black and White Salon continued as artists organized at the National School of Fine Arts and went on to confront problems of speculation and price instability of materials, organizing the “Miniature Salon” in 1955.
[For complementary reading on the Salão Preto e Branco, see “O Salão Preto e Branco,” by Paulo Herkenhoff (doc. no. 1307599); “Memorial dos artistas ao Ministro da Educação e Cultura” (doc. no 1307648); “Mensagem do Ministro da Educação e Cultura ao artistas” (doc. no. 1307663); “Entrevista com Djanira no programa clube da crítica,” by Pascoal Longo (doc. no. 1307678); “Depoimentos: Aluisio Carvão,” by Glória Ferreira and Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307694); “Depoimentos: Décio Vieira,” by Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307712); “Depoimentos: Ferreira Gullar,” by Glória Ferreira and Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307732); “Depoimentos: Iberê Camargo,” by Evelyn Yoschpe (doc. no. 1307754); “Depoimentos: Ione Saldanha,” by Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307774); “Depoimentos: José Silveira D'Ávila,” by Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307791); “Depoimentos: Quirino Campofiorito,” by Glória Ferreira; “Depoimentos: Sérgio Camargo,” by Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307831); “Depoimentos: Ubi Bava,” by Luiza Interlenghi (doc. no. 1307851); and “Iberê Camargo: o poder do gesto” (doc. no. 1110416) in the ICAA digital archive].