Showtime folks. Henrique Oliveira is en route to the airport in Sao Paulo as I type. Tomorrow, he will arrive in Washington D.C. and swing by the museum after a bit of recovery in his hotel. Unfortunately, neither his artworks nor the trademark weathered wood, "tapumes," that he uses in his installations will be here yet. We anticipate that they will arrive on Tuesday.
One of the greatest challenges in mounting exhibitions that include international artists and artworks is getting the people, art, and materials here. It's expensive. And, it's complicated. Henrique works with "tapumes" -- essentially sheets of plywood used as fencing material around construction sites throughout Sao Paulo, Brazil. Through months of rain, blazing sun and dust, the sheets of wood serve as fencing material. Then, battered, peeling and marked with fungus, Henrique gathers them up. He takes these weathered strips of wood and separates each layer until it looks like the stroke of a paintbrush writ 3-dimensional and builds massive installations that evoke the feeling of walking inside a painting. The problem is, US customs isn't so keen on importing unidentified woods or, possibly, unknown molds and fungi. We've had to get certification that the scrap wood has been fumigated and treated. And that's only one of the problems. Another has been that a work of art that Henrique has made specifically for the museum and this exhibition is enormous. Too big, in fact, to fit on any airplanes that land near DC. It's taken us months to contract for crates to be built, and now that they are, we are flying them to Miami and from there they will be trucked up to DC. It's throwing a bit of a wrench into our schedule. So, Henrique comes to the museum tomorrow surveys the gallery to survey the resources that are here. The weekend he gets to spend thinking about and sketching the site-specific installation he will be making in the gallery. The plan is that he will mark onto the sheets of flexible plywood ("benderboard") we already have in-house the cuts he wants to have made so that he can begin to build the armature that will support his installation first thing Monday morning. To learn more about how he's been developing his ideas for the installation, watch the video of him sketching in his studio in Brazil. Not so bad for having been shot on my (curator Karen Milbourne) iPhone!