Clarissa Tossinborn 1973, Brazil
Clarissa Tossin

“As I see it, discourse is inherent to aesthetics; as a brick is to a building.”

Clarissa Tossin studied at the Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado in São Paulo before moving to the United States in 2005; she completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in 2009. Tossin was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and spent her childhood in Brasília, the modernist capital designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lúcio Costa. This city—its utopian vision of the future, and its failures to achieve that vision—is an important protagonist in much of Tossin’s work. In works such as Brasília, Cars, Pools and Other Modernities (2009-2013), Brasília by Foot (2009), White Marble Everyday (2009),  and Study for a Landscape (Brasília) (2012), Tossin places the city at the center of her investigations of labor, architecture, geography, modernity, and economic exchange.

Brasília, Cars, Pools and Other Modernities uses a Volkswagen car to connect the two cities of Brasília and Los Angeles. Beginning in 1973 (the year of Tossin’s birth), Volkswagen sold a compact hatchback called the Brasilia, but after 1982, the car was no longer produced. Used and aging Brasilias became the cars driven by working class laborers in the city. Tossin purchased the car in its namesake city, and then drove the car, outfitted with pool cleaning supplies, around Brasília before having it transported to Los Angeles. There, she drove it to the only residence built by Oscar Niemeyer in the U.S.: the Strick House. The vehicle, then, became a way to draw a connection between the two cities’ shared architectural heritage. Curator Michael Ned Holte writes, “The work’s performative gesture asserts the body as a vehicle for plotting forgotten or overlooked historical and material connections, if not charting new trajectories.” In 2013, Tossin penned a letter to Niemeyer (a year after his death): “As a progeny of your visionary city, the idea of architecture as a manifestation of identity, ideology, and economic power is at the core of my formative experience. … The complexity of your oeuvre wherein the imposing aesthetics is in constant friction with your discourse has always instigated my art practice. As I see it, discourse is inherent to aesthetics; as a brick is to a building.”

From 2010-2012, Tossin was a Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and in 2013 she was an artist-in-residence at Artpace in San Antonio, TX. While there, she created the multimedia installation Brasília, Cars, Pools and Other Modernities, which was subsequently shown at the Hammer Museum’s 2014 biennial, Made in L.A. She is a recipient of a California Community Foundation Fellowship (2014), an Artists’ Resource Completion Grant (2013), and an Artistic Innovation Grant (2012), from the Center for Cultural Innovation. She lives in Los Angeles.


2015: Streamlined: Belterra, Amazônia/Alberta, Michigan, Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), Long Beach, CA, USA           
2014: Transplantado (VW Brasilia), Galería Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil
2013: Blind Spot: Window into Houston, Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
How does it travel?, Ltd Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Brasília, Cars, Pools & Other Modernities, Artpace, San Antonio, TX, USA
Study for a Landscape, Sicardi Gallery, Houston, TX, USA
2012: On Brasília, The Print Studio, Hamilton, Canada
Small Edition, OMR Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico
2011: Gasto, Galeria Luisa Strina, Project Room, São Paulo, Brazil
2009: Real, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA, USA (MFA Thesis)

Tossin’s work has also been shown in numerous group exhibitions, including: Customizing Language, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), CA, USA (2016); United States of Latin America, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI, USA (2015); Unsettled Landscapes at SITE Santa Fe, NM, USA (2014); Bringing the World into the World, The Queens Museum, NY, USA (2014); Liberdade em Movimento at Fundaçao Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2014); When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco, CA, USA and Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI, USA (2012-2013).


Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Houston, TX, USA


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