Adriano Costa, "MILK OF SLUMS - RUA DOS CACIQUES", Mendes Wood DM, New York, 2023

“Milk of Slums – Rua dos Caciques”: last week to visit Adriano Costa’s solo show in New York

(New York, USA)

Until April 29, Adriano Costa presents MILK OF SLUMS – RUA DOS CACIQUES, his solo show at Mendes Wood DM, in New York, USA.

In Costa’s work, the materials live as they circulate in the mess of the slums, like fluids or crowds, like the sap that gives life to plants such as bromeliads. It has been said the favelas look like this plant, with resilience and strength against adversities of any kind. The “Milk of Slums” is what springs from these places, a spirit, an approach to things, a mental construction. Endless fecundation, or we can say, anti-fecundation, all growing in rhythm, passion, and craziness. 

MILK OF SLUMS”: for those not familiar with the porn industry (a theme often called forth in Costa’s work), “MILK” here is slang for sperm. The idea for MILK OF SLUMS comes from an event, when the now-congresswoman of São Paulo, Carmen da Silva Ferreira, announced that favelas should be a part of world heritage, as they are the most visible Brazilian architecture. Like a bromeliad, the favela arises from physical necessity, violently overlapping with housing systems of the Brazilian metropoles. It is flawed, following the colonial model and, above all, the differences between social classes.

The rhythm of the exhibition is contained in the title. Rua dos Caciques is a street in São Paulo, where the artist’s seamstress lives. Yet, Cacique is also the title of the authority figure in an Indigenous group or community. Cacique is the director of the anteroom of Brazilian hypocrisy. [The owner of the “maloca” (Indigenous collective house), the man (or woman) responsible for the dance that creates and destroys. They are the maestro, never a dictator!] Placed together, the two terms, MILK OF SLUMS and RUA DOS CACIQUES, form a statement, give new perspective, and create a groove upon which all the works will come to life.

In the exhibition, some works make unexpected references to Minimalist and iconic (primarily American) sculptures. In Ana & Andre (2023) or the CASAS series (2000 – 2023), you may notice something peculiar: paradoxes that once seemed absurd have been transformed into works of art by the hand of the artist. As you immerse yourself in this display, prepare to be transported to a world where paradoxes are not only possible, but celebrated as a source of beauty and wonder. Anything is possible in the choreography of MILK OF SLUMS.

The 1913 series (2009 – 2023) uses Adriano’s works from different eras, presented in their packaging for storage (emblazoned with the gallery logo) and composed inside plexiglass boxes, staging a particular historical relationship. The artist presents the artworks as objects, objects free of romanticism. They represent the materiality of his relationship with Contemporary art and its systems. [“A sign of the times,” Costa laughs. “You should not cry over spilled milk.” In the same vein, aesthetics, values, and goals are at the same time referential phenomena or, as we might say, simply ornaments. The audience makes their own narrative.]

Adriano Costa poetizes the materials of our daily life in sculptures and images that form thought-objects. They are the faces of smiling monsters, musical keys, objects that invite us to think about the present and its eternity. He creates a political poetics. “Above all, no sentimentality” as they say in Duet For Cannibals, the Susan Sontag film, a film the artist considers key to understanding relationships of any kind.

Adriano Costa’s works are tales of cruelty and its glossy reverse, elegies of the primitive beauty of thoughts and materials that shape a universal theatre, woven by the artist from work to work, over time, and across the world.

This show is a dance of thoughts. This show is for dancing.

Check out the complete text about the exhibition here.

Adriano Costa, “Teleférico / complexos do alemão”, 2023, aluminum and plastic, 40 x 110.5 x 50 cm

From March 23 to April 29, 2023
47 Walker Street
New York NY 10013


PIPA respects the freedom of expression and warns that some images of works published on this site may be considered inappropriate for those under 18 years of age Copyright © Instituto PIPA