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Chico da Silva (b. circa 1910, d. 1985) grew up in the state of Acre, Brazil in the Amazon rainforest, however, his first known engagement with art was in Pirambu, a coastal town in eastern Brazil, where he and his mother relocated after his father’s death. Beginning in the 1940s, Chico gained recognition for creating murals with black charcoal and natural pigment on the exteriors of fishermen’s houses. The years following found Chico expanding his material reach to include works on paper and paintings on canvas and board. During this period, he also gained wider recognition within the European art world, culminating with an honorable mention in the Brazilian Pavilion presentation at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966. Chico developed a distinct visual vocabulary which included graphic representations of mythological or enchanted creatures and Brazilian flora, made surreal through the use of bold colors, intricate line work, and vivid patterning. Elements of anthropomorphized figures—like open mouths receiving food, large, spellbound eyes, and floating appendages—connect nature to humanity, situating all of life within a broad cosmology. This narrative approach to painting, apparent throughout Chico’s career, allowed him to link life in a poor urban area to a realm of dream and fantasy. His commitment to art and his community was further strengthened in the early 1960s when Chico founded the Pirambu School, an informal artist workshop that helped develop sustainable artistic practices for local community members. Chico’s legacy, belatedly reappraised, reveals him to be not only a painter of remarkable skill and breadth, but also a practitioner for whom working alongside one’s neighbors was the intuitive outcome of a long-established way of life that was centered on communal gathering and the necessary sharing of resources.

Chico da Silva has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including the major, traveling retrospective Chico da Silva e o ateliê do Pirambu, presented at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo (2023) and the Pinacoteca do Ceará (2023). Other solo exhibitions include Chico da Silva: Sacred Connection, Global Vision, Museu de Arte Sacra, São Paulo (2022); Chico da Silva – O Renascer 100 Anos, Espaço Cultural Correios, Fortaleza, Brazil (2010); Retrospectiva Chico da Silva: do delírio ao dilúvio, Espaço Cultural do Palácio da Abolição, Fortaleza, Brazil (1989). Group exhibitions include The Sacred in the Amazon, Centro Cultural Inclusartiz, Rio de Janeiro (2023); Fantaisies brésiliennes, Musée International d’Art naïf Anatole Jakovsky, Nice, France (2016); Brasileiro, Brasileiros, Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo (2005); and 33rd Venice Biennale, Italy (1966). His work is in the permanent collections of Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate, London; Pinacoteca de São Paulo; El Museo del Barrio, New York; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Museu de Arte do Rio de Janeiro; and Fundacão Edson Queiroz, Fortaleza, Brazil, among many others.