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Iko Ouro Preto

“Love never dies”. Art during Oscar Wilde鈥檚 England. By Iko Ouro Preto

A brilliant exposition opened in Paris this month of November.

The Aesthetics, a mid 19th century movement that even if never clearly defined a style, came to influence art in the following century and beyond with their a quest of new sensations, a revolution in perception and soul alike.

Determined to move away from the ugliness and materialism of their day, this band of radically engaged artists rebelled against the rigid Victorian Academism under the banner of Art for Art鈥檚 sake, proposing a new idealisation of art and beauty.

From the 1860s to the last decadent decade of Queen Victoria’s reign, this movement is seen through the emblematic works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde.

Painters, poets and decorators passionately defined an artistic mood freed from the principles of order and Victorian morality, and allowed the expression of sensuality to prevail.

They all united in a quest to combine artistic creation and lifestyle, a quest that found fertile areas of expression in photography, the decorative arts, literature and fashion.

It was the age of Aesthetic romantics. It became a rallying call for a younger generation of disciples, amongst whom; the most prominent would be Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde - 鈥淎 man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies.鈥, having been imprisoned and suffering two years of hard labour for the crime of homosexuality, he later died, penniless, in Paris.

Remembered today as a dramatist and wit, in his lifetime Wilde was notorious as the spokesman of this daring art movement and its bold declaration that art exists solely to create beauty with no moral purpose whatsoever.

Wilde said : 鈥淎 dreamer can find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

It was an age of hedonism, of extravagances and depravity. Art that simply offered visual and sentimental delight. Pure poetry or beautiful pictures that had no need to tell stories, preach sermons, or rely upon sentimental clich茅s.

An art self-consciously absorbed in itself, aware of the past but created for the present, and existing only to be beautiful.

The emphasis was on elegance and often showed heavy Japanese influence. The opening of the East by the convention of Kanagawa, 1854, ended Japan鈥檚 long period of self imposed isolation. Supplanting a largely fantastical Japan of the imaginary by real Japanese artefacts, these objects were avidly studied by artists, greatly influencing Edward Godwin in furniture designing.

Japanese Woodblock, Lady in Breeze

As the movement rapidly evolved, it also revealed its dark side. The hero of Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray destroys lives in his pursuit of beauty without limits.

Indeed most aesthetic poetry dwelled upon the subject of sensual love, lust and cruelty, degenerate Femmes fatales and the theme of blood, punishments and death – sorely lacking what the Victorians described as 鈥榤oral fibber鈥.

Writing in that age of stern hypocrisy and repression, Walter Pater, who was also Wilde鈥檚 tutor in Oxford, gleefully expounds on the sexual adventures of the great Renaissance artists, openly praising gay desire.

His febrile vision of art culminates in a bizarre description of the Mona Lisa: “Like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave.”

Pater concludes that the purpose of life is to pursue sensual beauty and live in the moment. “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life”.

Choosing as their models women whose looks and lifestyles where at odds with conventional Victorian ideals of demure and feminity, these painters created an entirely new type of beauty.

When Fredric Leighton painted Nanna Risi (la Pavonia) – with her sultry Roman features and glossy black hair, neither of which conformed to stereotypical notions of genteel good looks – it was a social scandal. Oscar Wilde reacted saying 鈥楢n idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.鈥

Lord Frederic Leighton 鈥 Pavonia

Likewise, Algernon Swinburnes treatment of masochist sexual themes whipped a storm of critical abuse. Considered Unmanly Manhood, decadent and shamelessly vulgar, they were loathed by the society.

It was 鈥渢he fleshy school of controversy鈥. Many, if not most, objected to art for arts sake and deplored the absence of religious sentiments and virtue.

Oscar Wilde personified the movement in it鈥檚 fullest. When asked to explain reports that he had paraded down Piccadilly in London carrying a lily, long hair flowing, Wilde replied, “It’s not whether I did it or not that’s important, but whether people believed I did it”.

Wilde believed that the artist should hold forth higher ideals, and that pleasure and beauty would replace utilitarian ethics.

Lord Frederic Leighton magnum opus - Flaming June.

Even as the movement widened, it鈥檚 ideas brought scant public support for what, to many observers, was deemed a perverse and immoral artistic clique.

Indeed, The prevalent bourgeois mentality reacted fiercely, for the most part they characterised the Aesthetics as obscene, viewed with suspicion and often downright hostility, to which Wilde would retort 鈥楢lways forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.鈥

In the end, these adventurers were Victorians, and pure hedonism was never going to be simple for them. Thus, the culmination of the aesthetic movement in Britain was to be a golden age of horror fiction that began with Gray’s portrait.

Bram Stoker鈥檚 Dracula 鈥 A romantic, gothic, horror epic adapted for the screen by F.F. Coppola in 1992, amongst countless other before and after him.

Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel popularised aesthetic Victorian decadence in its most glorious personification, Count Dracula. Sex, death and everlasting beauty pushed the lingering morality of the Victorian age inward 鈥 in the single beds of the aesthetes 鈥 to feast on macabre visions of sin.

This debate would continue to reverberate throughout the period and come to fore again as the pivotal issue during Oscar Wildes trials, until the final decadent phase of the movement in the 1890鈥檚.

Oscar Wilde who became the high priest of the movement, defied the age until finally it destroyed him, convicting him for homosexual “crimes”, imprisoning him, then leaving him to聽eke away his final years in Paris, Saint Germain.

A master of modern art, Damien Hirst.

Few artists or writers have influenced the society of their times and beyond as much as the Aesthetics.

Across Europe its passion for聽flowers and vampires, decor and desire can be glimpsed in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Klimt’s聽Kiss or Damien Hirst鈥檚 sliced animals.

Its legacy weaves through modern times in the defiance of dandies from Salvador Dal铆 to Freddie Mercury鈥檚 Queen, to David Bowie and or even Kurt Cobain鈥檚 Nirvana.

Yet, unfortunately, today art is moving away from beauty, becoming a statement, either political or social.

Propelled by armies of Nouveaux-riches with little sense of aestheticism, they stink the market with easy money deforming norms of beauty with mediocre taste. The major art fairs of today vomit innumerable objects which are, quite frankly, incomprehensible, and frequently just simply ugly.

Nowadays Critics seems enchanted with their own perspectives, oblivious of the merits of the oeuvres. Aesthetical beauty seems to be an afterthought.

We can still be provoked by the Victorian聽modernist hauteur: “All art is聽quite useless”.

Maybe one day, once again, we can have art for art鈥檚 sake.

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OS ANJOS CA脥DOS DE PARIS POR IKO OURO PRETO

Quem 茅 atra铆do at茅 o cemit茅ro parisiense do P猫re-Lachaise durante as tarde de outono tem a sombria sensa莽茫o ter chegado atrasado para um grande acontecimento. As esculturas de anjos ca铆dos, senhores deitados, damas cl谩ssicas e m谩rtires parecem cochicar entre os muitos jazigos que ostentam datas do s茅culo retrasado. Durante um passeio entre uma sepultura e outra, Japa trocava de roupa e posava para as lentes de seu grande amigo Iko Ouro Preto, que captaram muito al茅m das obras de arte corro铆das pelo tempo.

Aqui, as excentricidades de Oscar Wilde n茫o incomodam mais a elite, a voz de Piaf n茫o 茅 mais aud铆vel, os costumes n茫o provocam cr铆ticas de Moli猫re e, por um sarcasmo do acaso, em vez de prostitutas, Victor Hugo agora descansa bem perto da rainha Carolina Bonaparte. Talvez a 煤ltima e constante piada para Comte, Camus e tantas outras personalidades que comp玫em um dos poucos cemit茅rios onde os visitantes geralmente circulam sorridentes.

Em poucas horas, a luz acinzentada, os musgos encrostados em t煤mulos an么nimos, as folhas secas nas alamedas de paralelep铆pedo e o sil锚ncio absoluto聽聽se misturam, transformando o lugar num cen谩rio que mais parece pastel em tela. O P猫re Lachaise traz uma tranquilidade muito mais profunda do que os parques franceses: ele aproxima nomes de artistas, fil贸sofos e escritores a indigentes num ambiente neocl谩ssico de Brongniart; o peso da hist贸ria trazido 脿 luz pelo padre Lachaise, confessor do rei Lu铆s XIV, em maio de 1804.
Japa veste:

Legging acetinado – Gloria Coelho

Capa morcego de couro – Neon

Sapato – Pedro Louren莽o
Japa veste:

Vestido couro – Pedro Louren莽o
Legging cetim – Gloria Coelho
Sapato – Gloria Coelho

Japa veste:

Camisa – Gloria Coelho

Saia – Superonic


Japa veste:

Blusa renda – Gloria Coelho

Pulseira cobra – Kenneth Lane
Japa veste:

Casaco veludo e couro - Pedro Louren莽o

M谩scara – Reinaldo Louren莽o

Japa veste:
Camisa de seda – D’Arouche

Japa veste:

Saia de couro – Pedro Louren莽o

Blusa – Forum

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Blek the rat, por Iko Ouro Preto

For most of modern age, street intervention has not been considered a valid art form. Denigrated by establishment, despised and frequently loathed, it wasn鈥檛 until recently that insiders re-evaluated their positions on what was formally considered dirty art, or maybe not art at all.

Some years ago when an art dealer in London auctioned a piece, Brad Pitt was amongst the first lining up paying thousands of Dollars for a slab of public wall. How Brad Pitt would take this chunk of concrete away with him was left to the buyer.

The intelligentsia, baffled, began re-assessing their position, and ever so reluctantly, their perception swung.

Unwittingly, the age of democratisation of art had begun.

One of the pioneers was Blek le rat. Born in 1952 in a 聽鈥渂ourgeois” suburb of Paris from a culturally mixed background, his father an architect of Jewish decent, his mother Chinese, from the offset, Blek was a most unlikely candidate.

In the early 70鈥檚, Blek went to New York to study architecture, for the first time stepping out of his cocooned world of privilege.

“At the university,” he explains, “my teachers were revolutionary Trotskyites; they taught me much more than art. I was learning about another world.”

Fascinated by the vast array of graffiti and tagging on the NY subway network, Blek felt 鈥榠lluminated鈥, a feeling of social awareness hitting him like a freight train.

Soon afterwards on a family trip to Italy, he saw a stencilled portrait of Mussolini amongst WWII ruins. That inspired him to create a life size silhouette of a rat running along the street.

鈥楻ats are the only free animals in the city鈥, says Blek, 鈥榓nd one that spreads the plague everywhere, just like street art鈥.

Blek le rat wasn鈥檛 the first to develop stencil graffiti art, that honour would fall on John Falker who, in 1978, feeling cramped in his Long Island studio space, began pervasively creating his imagery on nearby underpasses, but Blek is credited with inventing life-size stencils and basic lettering in pictorial art.

In 1981 he began painting in Paris. French Police revealed his identity when he was arrested while working on a replica of Caravaggio鈥檚 Madonna and child.

Blec le rat was exposed, his name, Xavier Prou, despite his efforts, became publicly known.

Blec soon realised the only way to evade future capture was to adopt extensive stencilling as a means to speed up his graffiti. Inadvertently, a new era of 鈥榞uerrilla art鈥 was throttled onto us.

鈥淯rban art is there to be inclusive.鈥 He says, 鈥淏y bringing our work to the masses within the urban landscape, on the streets, we are including everyone.”

British graffiti legend Bansky has openly acknowledged Blek’s influence stating, “every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier.”

The Godfather of stencil art, Blek le Rat, an immensely creative artist, is a giant amongst his peers, even if the current generation of graffiti fans will, for the most part, neglect to mention him.

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Storm by Iko Ouro Preto from Paris

It was a windy, storm-prone night, quite unusual for this time of year – a full moon, intensely and holy magnificent, just visible through the clouds. The streets are an empty, desolate landscape; the approaching tempest violently scattering what is left of autumn leaves.

Peter didn鈥檛 like people very much, human contact, small talk, birthdays, as far back as he could remember, he was always like this. As a child his parents would take him to the movies. He always hated the movies, even the love stories. As an adult, he preferred the company of the dead. When he got his new job and the opportunity came, he gladly accepted the night shift.

Peter had now been working at the morgue for years. The job suited him, the hours too. It was punctual, precise and the pay above average. Besides his job, nothing of interest ever happened, ever. Every day he would see the same people, that is, if one doesn鈥檛 count the corpses. Of those he saw quite a few, and some, he felt, became his companions, even if only for a moment before they would decompose or be burnt to ashes.

Initially there was nothing unusual with the new body they had just received. It was, as they all do, inexorably disintegrating, Peter would repeat to himself. They didn鈥檛 know the identity, but then that鈥檚 more common than one might expect and they were certainly in no hurry for an extra autopsy that night.

But suddenly.. the most unexpected thing. Peter had a sudden rush of euphoria. In his well-planned, premeditated life, he had all but forgotten he had any feelings, much less anything of this magnitude. Confused, Peter stood in the metallic chamber staring intently at the one leg sticking out from under the hospital sheet dressed as it was in well-worn jeans.

Momentarily dazed, he shifts back against the wall, his heart thumping. Peter is stunned, bewildered and surprised at his sudden flush of emotions.

Peter鈥檚 two colleagues are called on a matter next door, leaving him alone with the body. As he stares at the corpse a most bizarre thought crosses his mind. He desperately wanted the jeans for himself.

First hesitantly then enthusiastically he undresses the corpse and tries it on, right there, on the cold concrete floor of the morgue, tucking the half naked body carefully back under the blankets. It was a perfect fit, even though the body seemed considerably smaller than his.

As he stood gazing down at his new acquisition, slightly ashamed of his deed, he wonders what to do next. He feels an urge to leave, immediately. Not that he had anything or anywhere in particular to go. He just wanted to leave, immediately. He grabs his keys and does so without bothering to say good night to the staff.

Even though Peter had taken this same route to his car everyday for the past 6 years, suddenly, he鈥檚 lost. He can鈥檛 take his eyes of his legs. He touches them; feels them, caressing himself in the empty parking lot.

Then, most unexpectedly, he hears a faint voice from behind. It is Marie. The most beautiful Marie. She worked for the pharmaceutical company on the second floor. She had never looked at him, much less spoken to him, except in his fantasy. And yet here she was, asking for a ride home, with a smile.

It wasn鈥檛 very clear how Peter had found his car, nevertheless, he was now on the highway going north.

They didn鈥檛 realize they鈥檇 missed the exit until they reached a small town neither had ever been. Perplexed, Peter excused himself and promised her this wasn鈥檛 鈥榮ome kind of trick鈥. He did, however, urgently need a gas station for his car. After driving aimlessly around the ghost town, one is found open.

The moon, shinning in all its glory. How beautiful, look, how beautiful. Peter had never contemplated it before, not really, but that night it seemed so exquisitely balanced that if touched ever so lightly, it would rock back and forth forever till the end of time.

They make their way to a small caf茅 adjacent to the station for a break before the ride home. Surprised that Marie would indulge in such a late nightcap with him, Peter, unlike himself, walks in proudly.

The caf茅 falls silent, all eyes on them. Small town folks, but, slightly to the right, a man elegantly dresses in a three-piece suit, stares agog, transfixed.

They order, wine. Peter, who never liked alcohol, drank with enthusiasm. Then, most unexpectedly, the well-dressed man approaches them with an unusual offer. Unsure why and equally embarrassed, he offers Peter to buy the jeans he is wearing, right there, on the spot. Peter, taken aback and surprised, declines. The man excuses and goes back to his table.

But then the man comes back, and again in the most polite and convincing terms, offers Peter an outrageous exchange. His jeans for his top-of-the-line Mercedes parked outside. Peter is impressed, but says no. Marie feels frightened and asks to leave.

Outside they make their way towards Peter鈥檚 car. As they enter, the well-dressed man comes running after them. Peter turns the ignition and darts away with Marie safely by his side.

That night she was lovelier than ever and at that moment, with her face sparkling in a faint silhouette, she was divine. Peter would have given his life for hers without a thought. She was wonderful, Marie was sublime.

As they drive back, Peter has a dream. In his dream the most beautiful things happen. For the first time in his life he began to ask himself questions. He began considering the possibility of never going back to the morgue and that everything would change. From this moment on, he would rather deal with life and the living.

He would take Marie safely back home and never let harm approach her. He would send her flowers the next morning with a letter telling her in prose he loved her more than anything he could imagine. They would have a family and celebrate Christmas with their children and when they where old, together they would view death as being united forever.

A deafening clap of thunder interrupts his thoughts. The storm was close, it was nearly on them. Outside, he remembers, was still night as they approached the city again. He collected his thoughts. He sighs as he looks at Marie as she, most gently smiles back.

Of all memories he had in life, he had never anything this glorious.

Yet absentmindedly Peter had driven back to the morgue. As Peter shivers with memories of a place he would leave behind forever, Marie suddenly remembers she鈥檇 forgotten a bag upstairs.. and if Peter could just bear a moment while she quickly retrieved it.

And so he did.

As Peter sits in his car, feeding his mind with images of things to come, he feels a tickle inside the pocket of his jeans. He looks down and scratches but the itching is still there. He straightens himself and slips his hand inside the pocket. Immediately he retracts it, feeling a sting.

The pang was soon colossal. Peter contorts himself frantically. As he briefly controls the pain, holding his right hand with his left, he felt a coldness overcome his body. Initially from his finger, but quickly overcoming everything.

He crawls out of his car, stunned, dizzy, yet still strong enough to cover the distance across the street to the morgue. Then suddenly he collapses.

His body had been there for only a while when a hospital van arrives, the drivers notice Peter stretched on the sidewalk.

They rush towards him but Peter is now cold dead. They pick up the body, put it on a stretcher, cover it with a blanket and take it upstairs to the morgue. As they enter the doorway they cross Marie coming out.

She finds the car, empty.

Late at night a body is delivered to the local morgue. They didn鈥檛 know the identity, but then that is more common than expected, they were certainly in no hurry for an extra autopsy.

The morgue manager stood there, gazing at one leg sticking out from under the blanket, dressed, as it was in well-worn jeans, confused at his own feelings of sudden euphoria.

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