Lenora de Barros’ ping-poems: Regarding Forms

The Legacy of the Latin-American Avant-Garde Explored With Warmth, Humour, and Ping Pong Balls

In the midst of the emerging experimental art scene of 1970s Brazil, University of São Paulo Linguistics graduate, Lenora de Barros, was establishing her artistic career. As the daughter of Geraldo de Barros, a pioneer of Concrete Art, her work has always been tactile, whilst also incorporating her fascination with language.

Ping pong balls first appeared in Lenora’s work in 1990, when she performed her fist solo exhibition in Milan entitled ‘Poesia é coisa de nada’, translated as ‘Poetry is a thing of naught’. It featured 5000 balls (with the title printed on each) scattered throughout the galley floor, and a ‘sunken’ red velvet cushion in the center. It was a ‘a trompe l’oeil that visually explained the weight of language,’ she told us.

In the years following, ping-pong balls became a recurring feature in her work. And in this year’s #SoloProjects Focus Latin America, Lenora’s series exploring the theme of ‘the legacy of Latin-American avant gardes’, uses the items in new and imaginative ways. She has been shortlisted along with artists Ángel and Fernando Poyón (Galería T20) and Sergio Zevallos (Galería 80m2-Livia Benavides) for the 8th illy Sustain Art Prize.

Leonora kindly told us more about her audiovisual fascination:

The Plus: How did Poetry and ping-pong come together in your mind?
Lenora de Barros:
In 2000, with the installation “Ping-poem for Boris” I explored other elements of the ping-pong game, such as rackets, hooks and table. The work proposed a dialogue with the Russian constructivism (Rodchenko, Malevich, El Lissitzky, Mayakovsky) and also included a poetic vocal performance, in Portuguese and Russian. In 2002, in Galeria Millan, São Paulo, I displayed the exhibition “What’s new is, anew, pussycket?”, creating several poems-objects, ping-poems in dialogue with the pop and conceptual universe.
Since then, the game element has also become part of the “imaginary games” in my work, which includes multiple languages and issues that develop through videos, photographs, performances and sound art.

TP: How has your artistic style developed since you began in the 70s?
Everything is always changing. I do not really like the word “style” to classify artworks. But I would say that the work that exposes the ArcoMadrid 2015, “remirando forms,” (“regarding forms”) came from this playful universe of exposures of 1990, 2000 and 2002, and are part of a context of dialogue with the vanguards of constructivist tradition, pop and conceptual art. The aesthetics of concrete poetry is also one of my generational influences.

TP: How would you describe the current state of modern art in Brazil and how is it being influenced by international sources?
The Brazilian contemporary art scene is certainly one of the best in the world. It devours the dynamics and issues of international art in an anthropological fashion.

TP: What’s next on your to do list. Will ping-poems make another appearance?
To be honest, quit smoking and eat more fruit and vegetables. Ping-poems? Who knows?

Lenora de Barros’ ping-poems: regarding forms, will feature in GALERIA MILLAN at ARCOmadrid 2015, #SoloProjects section / Hall 7 / Stand 7SP22, February 25 –March 1, 2015