"Samba Sessao: Afro-Brazilian Art and Film" at Penn's Arthur Ross Gallery

PHILADELPHIA — “Samba Sessao: Afro-Brazilian Art and Film,” which focuses attention on the visual culture of Brazil, opens at the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery on April 7. 

Collected in the late 1990s by John Axelrod and later acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the 15 paintings and three sculptures draw on the different aspects of modern Afro-Brazilian life and culture. In addition, videos will be on display as a part of the exhibit.

Brazil, formerly home to the largest concentration of African slaves in the Americas and the longest-lasting slave system in the Western Hemisphere, has a rich, artistic tradition that is little known or exhibited in the United States.

“In the canvases, sculptures and films featured in the gallery, we witness birth, death, love, conflict, belief and fantasy,” curator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw said.  “We see bustling life in the big city and the slower pace of country roads side-by-side with ribald dancing and visionary rituals.  The societal and cultural landscape of Brazil is brought to life.”

“Samba Sessao” is the product of a Halpern-Rogath Curatorial Seminar offered by the Department of the History of Art, led by Shaw and fellow professor Tamara J. Walker.

“The past – its weight, lessons as well as its triumphs – is ingrained into the symbols and stories at the heart of the pieces on display, and as such it provides the key to understanding them,” Walker said.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Arthur Ross Gallery, with support from the Friends of the Arthur Ross Gallery, the Center for Africana Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, the History Department and the Interdisciplinary Arts Grant of Penn’s Office of the Provost.

“Samba Sessao” runs through July 29 and offers many related events, including a weekly Brazilian film series, DanceBrazil performances, lectures, Bateria drumming sessions, a symposium, a Capoeira demonstration and a Samba dance workshop in addition to the members’ reception, scheduled for April 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Gallery.

The Gallery is at 220 S. 34th St. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and weekends, noon-5 p.m.

The Gallery is free and open to the public. 

Additional information is available at 215-898-2083 or www.upenn.edu/ARG.

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