Born in São Paulo in 1946, Carmela Gross studied fine arts at the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado—with Flávio Império (1935–1985), Ruy Ohtake (b. 1938), and Flávio Motta (1923–2016)—and at the Universidade de São Paulo (MFA 1981, PhD 1987). Throughout her career Gross has explored a wide variety of production formats, including drawing, printmaking, sculpture, installations, and video art. Her practice is informed by deep conceptual thinking about the limits of mediums and the relationships between her works and their surroundings as well as social and political questions.
The artist's early work was influenced by pop art and the visual vocabulary of children, as in the 1967 sculpture Nuvens (Clouds). During the following decade her production focused on two-dimensional representations in drawings, photocopies, mail art, and stamps, as in the 1978 series Carimbos (Stamps). In the 1980s Gross created paintings and video works, although she never abandoned drawing. From the mid-1990s issues related to architecture and the urban landscape became more relevant. One example, from 1994, is the installation Buracos (Holes), in which Gross dug holes into the floor of a former municipal slaughterhouse in São Paulo for the exhibition Arte cidade. The haunting A negra (The black woman), a sculpture originally installed on Avenida Paulista in the heart of São Paulo, is also from the 1990s. A ten-foot metal structure covered by layers of black tulle, the piece alludes to the invisibility of certain bodies in the urban landscape and exemplifies the artist's social and political concerns. In the 2000s Gross's works began to activate new spatial relations with the inclusion of light, for instance, in Aurora (2003) and Escadas (Ladders, 2013).
Besides her production in the visual arts, she has created costumes and stage designs for theater, and since 1972 she has been a professor at the Universidade de São Paulo. Gross's work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions and has also appeared in important group shows such as the Bienal de São Paulo (1967, 1968, 1981, 1990, 1998, 2002); 2nd Bienal del Barro de América, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber, Venezuela (1994); and Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2015). Among other accolades, Gross was awarded acquisition prizes at the fourth Jovem Arte Contemporânea, organized by the Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Universidade de São Paulo (1970), and the first Mostra do Desenho Brasileiro, Curitiba (1979). In 1991 she earned the prestigious Fundação Vitae Fellowship.
—Mariana von Hartenthal
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1977 Carmela Gross: Desenhos, Gabinete de Artes Gráficas, São Paulo
1987 Carmela Gross: Pintura-desenho, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Universidade de São Paulo
1993 Carmela Gross: Hélices, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro
2010 Carmela Gross: Um corpo de ideias, Estação Pinacoteca, São Paulo
2013 Escadas: Carmela Gross, Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro
Belluzzo, Ana Maria de Moraes. Carmela Gross. São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2000.
Gross, Carmela. Carmela Gross: Desenhos. São Paulo: Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, 1992.
———. Escadas: Carmela Gross. Rio de Janeiro: Casa França-Brasil, 2013.
Mesquita, Ivo, and Juliana Rego Ripoli. Carmela Gross: Um corpo de ideias. São Paulo: Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, 2010.
Olivetti, Beatriz R. "Carmela Gross: An Uncanny Presence." In Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America, edited by Mari Carmen Ramírez, 117–21. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2015.