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The Aesthetics of the Body: A Big Return in Contemporary Painting?

Both the aesthetics of the body and celebrity culture owe much to the classical roots of our Western Culture, and if we really think about it, there is little difference between that today’s celebrities stand for us and what Gods stood for people in Ancient Greece or Rome.


The aesthetics of the body occupies a prominent place in today's world. And indeed, today’s celebrity culture, from tabloids to social media and the arts is deeply entrenched in the aesthetics of the body. Many contemporary artists have been producing work by appropriating the imagery of popular and celebrity culture; one of the main reasons being the desire of generating a criticism of our contemporary society and its obsession with appearance, consumerism, hedonism and the likes.


It is therefore not surprising that the body, its semblance, and the related aesthetics which have been multiplying in endless ways to express the most disparate gender, ethnic, political and social identities, has come to the fore as subjects of contemporary painting.


We have recently discovered Ricardo Coelho, a contemporary Brazilian painter committed to the pictorial exploration of the aesthetics of the body. Both the aesthetics of the body and celebrity culture owe much to the classical roots of our Western Culture, and if we really think about it, there is little difference between that today’s celebrities stand for us and what Gods stood for people in Ancient Greece or Rome. Ricardo Coelho paints the human figure with a masterly technique and a deep interest in exploring the link between celebrity culture and its ability to shape the way people want to look like, aspire to live life and behave in Western societies.


Among Coelho’s conceptual sources are the concept of the classic proposed by Omar Calabrese and the structures of Aby Warburg. The artist is prone to critically approach images separated in time and space without any aesthetic-formal, historical-chronological, or iconographic restriction.


This path unfolds through the analysis of the classical body not only in relation to aesthetic standards and their visual echoes in contemporary art and culture, but also through a close look at the ethical and conceptual dimensions of art production revolving around the body.

Ricardo Coelho holds a Post-Doctorate from the Unicamp in Brazil, a PhD in Visual Arts from the Institute of Arts at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) (2015), having conducted part of his research at the Universitat de Barcelona (2014), with a sandwich scholarship subsidized by CAPES; Master in Visual Arts from the Institute of Arts at Unesp (2003) and a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the same institution (1999).


Since 2009, he is a professor at the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Applied Arts of the Federal University of São João del-Rei, in Minas Gerais. He also works as an independent curator, exhibition designer and, as a visual artist, has participated in more than 40 exhibitions of contemporary art and video festivals in spaces such as Casa das Rosas, Centro Cultural São Paulo, Funarte, Fundação Bienal, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, besides having participated in the 2nd Cultural Award Sérgio Mota and the VideoBrasil Festival.


 

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