Cildo Meireles is a Brazilian artist who makes thought-provoking work that doubles as social commentary. Meireles often traveled with his father and was exposed to a variety of social situations including extreme poverty, oppression and political demonstrations. These experiences stayed with Meireles and have continued to influence his work decades later. He fought censorship in his native Brazil and continued to produce politically-based pieces, which have gained new ground in recent events, like the timely “Amerikkka”.
“Amerikkka” is large-scale work comprised of a bright blue, sky-like background layered with more than 30,000 golden bullets angled above the viewers, who look up at this ominous sight while atop around 20,000 wooden white eggs that are cushioned by a red floor. The piece, including its title, demand an examination of what “America” really means, what it stands for, and who it’s really serving. The red, white and blue colors that are incorporated into the piece bring to mind a facsimile of the American flag, but with bullets replacing stars, and injustice replacing a symbol that is meant to stand for freedom. Also featured is Meireles puzzling and slightly surrealistic “Virtual Spaces”, which is a constructed corner that is also located on a corner. The quirky piece draws the mind to think about the usefulness of corners, or alternatively, their disuse. “Aquaurum” is another piece that doubles as social commentary. It’s composed of two glasses, one filled to the brim with gold and the other filled to the brim with water, next to each other on a tall table. The piece is representative of the preciousness of water and its exchange for money in Meireles home country of Brazil. Though Brazil is abundant in fresh water, São Paulo, one of the country’s most populous regions, often experiences scarcities in the resource.
Meireles pieces highlight various different social issues or personal fascinations held by the artist. Viewed together, his work is a spurring call to action as well as a series of questioning moments.