Historical Journal

Journal Archives, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Archives, Reviews

Jonas Dos Santos’ Americas: To Whom It May Concern

July 2, 1982
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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In many ways, his use of ritual, natural and recycled materials and theatrical costumes was shaped by the primitive religious celebrations and fanciful carnival garb of his native country.

Jonas dos Santos was born in Recife, the oldest city in Brazil, In 1947. He attended the Atelier de Artes Livres, Recife, and received the B.A. degree from the Escola de Arte, Recife in 1968. From 1968 to 1972 he studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. He is the co-founder of both the Uniao Visual Studies, Recife (1969), and The Bird and the Dirt, Inc., which began in Washington in 1971.
Grants for performances were awarded in 1975 from the Secretaria de Cultura de S. Paulo, Brazil and in 1977 from Fundacao de Arte de Pernambuco, Brazil. In 1979 dos Santos was awarded a Gold Medal from the Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Olinda, Brazil. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant for Performance was awarded to him in 1981.
The Bird and the Dirt, the performance group co-founded by Jonas dos Santos in 1971, received its name in an inspired fashion. Dressed in elaborate yet primitive costumes, the artist and a friend one day staged an impromptu performance at an exhibition of paintings of national parks and American landscapes at the National Collection of Fine Arts, in Washington, D.C. After observing the two and their organic attire, an elderly gallery visitor came up to them, and pointing first to one and then the other, said: “Oh, I see, you’re the bird, and you’re the dirt in the American parks.”
A pioneer of performance art, Jonas dos Santos began to work with costumes and installations while still an art student in Brazil in the late 1960’s. In many ways, his use of ritual, natural and recycled materials and theatrical costumes was shaped by the primitive religious celebrations and fanciful carnival garb of his native country. An early proponent of video art, dos Santos included video tapes in his special project for the 1975 S. Paulo Bienial.
His Morris Gallery installation, Americas: To Whom It May Concern, is a dazzling visual narrative of the peoples of North, Central and South America. A Post Office of the Americas, constructed from lengths of blue-picket fence, serves as a collection point for postcards filled out by gallery visitors. The prominent use of the color green is an allusion to the importance of the Amazon jungle, which provides 1/5 of the world’s supply of oxygen. Using humble materials and vivid, representational images dos Santos creates a work of power and resonance, which addresses the timely issues of inter-American friendship and the perils of nuclear war.
Judith Stein: Coordinator, Morris Gallery
“The Postcard Ritual” A Performance at the Morris Gallery Thursday, July 1, 1982
Jonas dos Santos will give an informal gallery talk on his installation July 23, 1982.
Jonas dos Santos
Michael Gessner

Special Guests:
Alice Farley
Michael Gessner
Technical Director:
Link Harper

Special Thanks to all those who helped with this exhibition:
Sandra D. Rizen, Dot French, Glenda Frye, Brandywine Graphic Workshop, Mary Klaus, Barbara Sosson Design

Jonas dos Santos Exhibitions & Performances:
Impromptu Performances; presentations to National Collection of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC
Exhibit and performance at Art Barn, Washington, DC
Salome and Her Mother, SACA, Washington, DC
Biography of an Artist, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
A Trilogy: Salome and Her Mother, Fatima, A Story of Some Saints and Sisters,
Spanish American Community Program in the Arts, Washington, DC
Fatima and the Cantata, television production, WETA-TV, Washington, DC
Fatima de Spinner and the Tent, color special, WETA-TV
Barroca, presentation and videotaping, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC
Adding to our Forms, presentation and videotaping, Atrium, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
Visit to the Five Sense Store, National Collection of Fine Arts, DC
Logos — Danca do Caju, performance, Henri Gallery, Washington, DC
Construction of the Green Man, performance for Sycon ’73
Committee for the Future, Washington, DC
American Old Age: A Ritual Simplified of Bodily Chemical Contamination, Philadelphia Museum of Art Tortura Machinery, performance, St. Thomas Parish, Washington, DC
Claonirica, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Vienna, VA
Ruthonia Double Solo, The Cold Blooded Fraternity, City Celebration, Washington, DC
Experimental workshop and cultural research, Carnival performance, Olinda, Brazil
An Initiation, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Retrospective Exhibition, Private Arts Foundation, Washington, DC
Seven, Glen Echo Ballroom, Glen Echo, MD
Cultural … .E, Kalorama Park, Washington, DC
Ago-Agora, African Heritage Center, Washington, DC
Dog Dreams, for the City of Boston, Boston, MA
La Fiesta de La Came, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Kula, performance at Heartworks Studio, New York City
Reza /Lung, Fordham University Chapel, Lincoln Center, New York City
Errata I, performance for the Spanish Community, Kalorama Park, Washington, DC
Errata //, exhibition and performance, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
Anthropological Research, Northeast Brazil
Two symposiums, lpanema Research Center, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Performances for City Celebration, Cultural Department of the City of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Special guest participant, XIII International Bienal, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Pieces & Performances, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
Memories of the Bicentennial, created for District of Columbia Bicentennial Commission
Pomba Gira’s Festival, Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, DC
UM/LM: Upper Mezzanine, Lower Mezzanine, Market Place, Center Square, Philadelphia, PA
Se -1977 Ritual, performance created for Department of Cultural Affairs, Pernambuco, Brazil
Proto Fiber, Lowe Gallery, Syracuse, NY
Independence Ball ’77, created for the city of Philadelphia
Contemporary Drawings: Philadelphia I, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Ancient Roots/New Visions, Journey Exhibition, ’77-’79, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ; National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC.; Fondo del Sol, Washington, DC; Museum of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; University of Houston, Houston, TX; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, CO; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; San Antonio Museum, San Antonio, TX; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL Masks, Tents, Vessels, Talismans –Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
Homage to Noguchi, performance in Noguchl’s Variable Landscape, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Brazil Export I, Race Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Brazil Export II, Brazilian-American Cultural Institute, Fondo del Sol, Washington, DC
Return of the Emperor D. Pedro // of Brazil, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
To Give My Heart to Moctezuma, Palacio Mineria, Mexico City
Brazil Export III, Galeria Officina, Recife, Brazil
Maria Bonita Brasileira, Museo do Homen do Nordeste, Recife, Brazil
River Walk, Arcosanti ’81, Arcosanti, AZ
Inter-American Exchange, The Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC
The Blue Room: The History of Fashion at the White House, Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, DC
Public Collections:
Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
Brazilian American Cultural Institute, Washington, DC
The Private Arts F oundation of Washington, DC
Fondo del Sol, Washington, DC
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Fundacao Joaquim Nabuco, Brazil

CATALOGUES (Selected):
Jonas dos Santos with the Bird and the Dirt, Essay by Jose M. Neistein, Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1974.
XIII Bienal de S. Paulo, S. Paulo, Brazil, 1975.
Pieces and Performances, Essay by Suzanne Delehanty, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1976.
Ancient Roots/New Visions, Tucson: Tucson Museum of Art, 1977.
Contemporary Drawings: Philadelphia I, Essay by Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1978.
Masks, Tents, Vessels, Talismans, Essay, “The Ethnographic Model,” by Janet Kardon, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1979.

“Proposicion: Proyecto de la Piramide para Mexico,” Artes Visuales, no. 27
28 (March 1981), 92.

Corr, John. “What’s Bird and the Dirt?, ” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 7, 1976.
Donohoe, Victoria. “Bird and Dirt Offers Unconventional Outlook,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 31, 1976.
___, ” Non-egocentric work with roots in Brazil,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 8, 1980.
Ford, Carol. “Patterns of Flight and Fantasy,” The Washington Times, December 11, 1974.
Forgey, Benjamin. “Santos Guides the Bird and the Dirt,” Washington Star News, July 13, 1974.
Gomes, Alair 0. “A Bienal-75: Pontos Altos,” Cultura, 5 (Jan-Mar 1976), 47-59.
Hobson, J. Allan. “Dogs’ Dreams,” Dreamworks l (Fall 1980), 267-273.
Jarmusch, Ann. “The Bird and Dirt Wings It, ” (Philadelphia) Free Times, November 10, 1976.
Lewis, Jo Ann. “Galleries,” The Washington Post, July 17, 1976.
___, ” Limelight,” The Washington Post, May 4, 1979.
Neistein, Jose’ M. “0 Passaro Jonas dos Santos,” Feitura das Artes, S. Paulo: Editora Perspectiva, 1981, pp. 135-139.
Rosen, Carol. “The Bird and The Dirt, lnc,” The Drama Review, 22(June 1978), 97-106.
Rouke, Mary. “Their Brush Is Their Body, Their Canvas Is Time,” The National Observer, February 7, 1976.
The Morris Gallery displays the works of outstanding contemporary I artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Bo Bartlett, Murray Dessner, Walter Erlebacher, Janet Kardon, Charles Mather III, Dr. Perry Ottenberg, David Pease, Ann Percy, Jody Pinto, Jim Repenning, Rachel Seymour, Acey Wolgin; and Academy staff Richard Boyle, Frank Goodyear, Kathy Foster, Linda Bantel, Judith Stein.
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