“An Accounting”: Maria Thereza Alves at Alfonso Ar...

“An Accounting”: Maria Thereza Alves at Alfonso Artiaco gallery in Naples

Stories plunged in silence. Places tainted by an oppressed nature. Women and men bound by an illusory freedom. These are intermingled cultures that are about injustice and survival, wealth and violence. The enduring search for an unspoken truth is the artist’s ardent claim: art as a social medium, art as a proponent of necessary revelations, art as truth and not trivial politics.

Maria Thereza Alves, An Accounting, exhibition view, Alfonso Artiaco, Naples, 2023. Ph. Grafiluce, courtesy Alfonso Artiaco

An Accounting is not just any exhibition, it is the show that represents the part of a historiographic and cultural anthropological research conducted for more than a decade. Two cities – Naples and Xico (Mexico) – intertwined for half a century by the story of a family, a blood-red thread stretched from the era of European imperialism. Maria Thereza Alves – a 1961 artist from São Paulo, Brazil – guided by an equal spirit to bear witness to realities left out of history, brings into dialogue these two communities. The artist literally immerses herself in her investigation by counting anecdotes taken from every place, circumstance and environment that she experiences and touches. Like water for plants in a summer season, Maria Thereza absorbs every single relational drop with benign greed. The interaction with each individual element generates a dialogue that from time to time remains constant and circumscribed in artistic, natural, social and political boundaries.
Across time and space, the hybrid forms and stories presented merge organic and inorganic, human and non-human elements. In these moments of pause and becoming, Alves asks herself how it is possible to intervene and create ways of acting to transform current circumstances”. With these words by Kathryn Weir (curator and outgoing president of the MADRE Museum in Naples), it is possible to grasp even more the preponderant motion of the Brazilian artist, which is to give voice and importance to those who had no voice and no importance.

Maria Thereza Alves, An Accounting, exhibition view, Alfonso Artiaco, Naples, 2023. Ph. Grafiluce, courtesy Alfonso Artiaco

The Alfonso Artiaco Gallery celebrates the research of Maria Thereza Alves by transforming its rooms into spaces of representation and visibility – through relational and collaborative practices – of the culture of Xico, oppressed through the noble Neapolitan Pignatelli Cortes family. The study comes to life from the analysis of the Neapolitan family’s accounts in which possessions on Mexican land and tributes paid by the population were recorded. It is important to point out that “tribute” means any kind of wealth, from agriculture to textiles, from animals to ornamental or precious objects, including, unfortunately, children and women as slaves. Each duty was recorded with parsimonious description, remaining silent to the Pignatelli family until they began to run out. This is the exhibition’s pretext: the constant decrease of possessions reveals colonial inhumanity.

Maria Thereza Alves, Tuxtla_2174 ½ (tributaries), 2023. Ph. Grafiluce, courtesy Alfonso Artiaco

Through works, spanning from photography to video, watercolor, sculpture and design, Maria Thereza depicts everyday scenes between the Mexican and Neapolitan culture of the 1700s. The works combine the typical elements of one place and the other, such as porcelain and wood, paper and silver. Ideally, this is the attempt to represent that noble salon made of glitz and conquests, exotic and curious objects far from any social conception. The gallery rooms are appropriate to create this historical reconstruction, giving a bitter taste of a history in constant tension between the amorphous figures and rich in spirit and the poor in spirit riches. The sequence of works on display brings all this into a dialogue, surrounded by evidence and documentation that enhances its historiographical value. Every piece is, in fact, named with the kind of duty that the Xico community reserved for the Pignatelli Cortes family.
Maria Thereza Alves in her artistic work brings together stories and geographies that resonate with the contemporary. They are cultures and lives disrupted and bound for eternity, realities which are the result of choices counted with silent echoes. Every symbol is an emblem of responsibility.

Massimiliano Bastardo


Maria Thereza Alves, An Accounting
curated by Kathryn Weir
21/01/2023 – 04/03/2023
Alfonso Artiaco Gallery
Piazzetta Nilo 7, 80134 Naples


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