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Tunga ink drawing
Tunga ink drawing

Tunga, Palíndromo incesto (Palindrome Incest), 1991, mixed media on paper. Courtesy: Museum of Modern Art Rio de Janeiro

Tunga was born in two cities at the same time – or so he’d like you to believe. Throughout his prolific career, the late Brazilian artist (1952–2016) often said he was registered in two locations: Palmares in Pernambuco and the city of Rio de Janeiro. Might another Tunga, his double, still be roaming around? This kind of deliberate self-mythology, an important aspect of his practice, is clearly visible in this exhibition, curated by Luisa Duarte and Evandro Salles, which spans four decades of Tunga’s work and includes extensive archival material across an entire floor. Rather than attempting a proper retrospective, this precise and thoughtful show focuses on the artist’s process and references – from psychoanalysis and pure math to poetry and alchemy – by delving into his drawing practice. A quieter, but no less intense, version of Tunga – best known for his gimmicky and erotically charged large-scale sculptures and installations – comes through in delicate tracings of biomorphic forms. I could spend hours following the single lines that generate surrealist bodily images over the pale hues of handmade Himalayan paper in the series ‘La Voie humide’ (The Humid Way, 2011–14): female genitals become pearls that grow legs and then transform into wings. Tunga plays perverse mind games with an astonishing lightness of touch. Like a charming puppeteer, he seems to hold strings that guide us through his mysterious universe, letting us go only when he pleases.

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