Press Release of the Exhibition
11.12 - 07.01.15
Luís Paulo Costa
João Paulo Feliciano
Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of day-dreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command. The Chinese practice of copying books was thus an incomparable guarantee of literary culture, and the transcript a key to China’s enigmas.
Walter Benjamin, “Chinese Curios”, One Way Street.
This is an exhibition of copies, an exhibition where we try to think the place of the copy in the processes inherent to
artistic production. It does not aim to represent an anatomy of the artistic gesture, nor to be a didactic attempt to
understand the relevance of the copy within a universe composed by a heterogeneous group of artists.
On the contrary, this exhibition is about the copy as a creative principle that, depending on the tradition and the
historical moment we refer to, is recognized as quote, appropriation, imitation, or reproduction. It is about the action
of copying as an aesthetic principle. According to Walter Benjamin, and as he wrote in the text that names this show,
copying is not an exterior action, but an indication of the movement of the soul as it perceives what it is exterior,
strange, and alien to it.
The exhibition deliberately intensified and dramatized these copying actions and, because of this, this is also an
engraving/printing exhibition: all artists produced new work and, regardless of their usual media of choice. They
used engraving (one of the noblest copy techniques), with its possibilities and limitations, to create artworks that
are originally copies, imitations, or reproductions: copies that create originals, originals continued in the body and
imagination of others.
The artworks do not follow any formal or material criterion, but the affinities between them are subterranean,
expressing themselves in the internal principles shared by all. The result is not only an expansion of the territory
ascribed to engraving, but also an expansion of the grammar of the copy.
Curator: Nuno Crespo
Engraving: Hugo Amorin
Press Release of the Exhibition
Lucia Laguna (1941) presents “Outras Paisagens” (Other Landscapes), her first exhibition at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, in Lisbon.
Painting is the center of her artistic production; a work to which she is exclusively dedicated, almost compulsively focusing all her energies on it. Laguna’s practice also includes the observation and study of classical and contemporary painters whose work she is particularly interested in. However, and in the context of her work process, her interest in these authors does not imply the necessity to quote them as visible stylistic references. In a way, it is as if they were another part of her aesthetic and pictorial universe, as they represent a lineage of painters who are considered, integrated, and continued by Lucia Laguna.
The title of the exhibition—“Outras Paisagens”—indicates a range of possibilities of a painting genre that, despite its classical filiation, finds in the work by Lucia Laguna a derive from the canonical categorization it is inscribed in. The artist first approaches the model, the objects, or the views/landscapes she uses to intuitively start a canvas. However, her process is more complex. The paintings are initiated by her assistants, who introduce painted images and motifs on a preexisting geography, over which the artist will afterwards develop the work. From what we can see, be it peeking through her studio’s window, inside it, or peering through the first layers of paint containing tentative representations, the artist reacts using an analytical procedure, using masking tape to isolate colored areas or structural elements that may remain hidden until the artist decides to reveal these previous pictorial events, confronting new relations occurring within the canvas surface. This process can be repeated whenever the artist has the need to understand—in the space of her medium—the diverse stages of the composition’s structure, which may seem chaotic to the gaze of a less attentive observer.
Time is an essential category of her procedures, a category on which rests the act of painting, as her painting is a cumulative process of sediments revealed, dissected, recovered and organized by a constant archeological action. Not following a pre-established program, this random methodology finds a correspondence in the choice of the elements it represents, often fragmented and associated with her experience of the place, of the city she knows so well (Rio de Janeiro), of her location within it, and of a political awareness that this city is a space where very different and uneven modes of life coexist.
The titles of the paintings are grouped in three sections; “Studio”, “Garden”, and “Landscape”, revealing a tendency for the serial that conforms the way the painter builds her gaze on the space she inhabits. The city enters in her studio and the latter is discovered as a part of a city in continuous transformation, revealing architectural, social, vegetable (in the explosion of the tropical color and intensity), or formal distinctions that are translated in the different layers of the painting, never yielding to the virtuosity of faithfully representing the object she is focused on. In her way of doing, Lucia Laguna invests her attention in the plurality of the elements that move around her at a voracious speed, elements that are later accumulated and selected on and by the composition. Here, we face a painting typology that expresses an organic (and experimental) drive, as if a body in permanent transformation where we find the difference towards the Other, simultaneously close and distant to us in the formless scale of the megalopolis.
These differences are visible—almost tactile—in the images in the paintings, how paint is applied, between the texture, the dripping, the veiled transparencies and the colored surfaces, often as thin as a structural line, or a plant leaf that erupts over the urban landscape, transforming the nomenclatures of city, construction, nature, garden, or even the interior of her studio, in intense formal and chromatic relations that—precisely there—reveal her gaze on the multiplicity of the urban; a space where all modes of human interaction superimpose, and confronting us in the wonders of a painting that is simultaneously splendorous and a container of memories and re-inscriptions.
LUCIA LAGUNA was born in Campo dos Goytacazes, RJ in 1941. She graduated in Portuguese Literature in 1971 and started teaching after that. In the mid nineties she started studying Painting and History of Art at Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, Rio de Janerio. She had her first solo show in 1998. In 2012 she participated at the 30th São Paulo Bienal with a solo project, and in 2011 she participated at Panorama de Arte Brasileira at MAM-SP. She was one of the selected artists from Programa Rumos Artes Visuais, edition 2005/2006 at Instituto Cultural Itaú and won the CNI SESI Marcantônio Vilaça prize in 2006. Her work is part of the collection of Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Museu
de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Museu Nacional de Brasília, among others.
Lucia Laguna paints the urban landscape of Rio de Janeiro. But this landscape comes in a concealed way, almost abstract. There is a juxtaposition of forms, lines and color fields that start from or overlay figurative elements, at times resembling a broken mirror. It is an elegant painting, of decided and calculated gestures within a dense pictorial field. Laguna develops a unique technicque, working from canvases previously painted by her assistants in acrylic, which she then consumes or deconstructs using oil paint. Hers are compositions where the painting process seems never ending, the image remains alive and ever changing before our eyes.
Press Release of the Exhibition
AnaMary Bilbao | Matt Mullican | João Onofre | Julião Sarmento | Jim Shaw | Rui Toscano | Lawrence Weiner | Erwim Wurm
ON DRAWING II
The most important thing about drawing may just be that at some point in our lives we all have done it. Be it a drawing on a Canson paper or a simple doodle on a Post-it, in a visual arts class or on a coffee table, committed to it or just passing our time, drawing is completely inclusive in its applications and transverses all human activity. This means that everyone knows what is implied in the act of drawing, as if it were an innate or ancient lore. It also means that everyone recognizes and has some degree of domain over the innumerous protocols adopted by drawing, and that we use to communicate, learn, project, register, or express. Drawing has multiple uses, ubiquitous and democratic; what may explain why it is often considered the most intimate of the artistic mediums—one that does not lie nor keeps secrets and that, in its directness, establishes the open, informed, and immediate receiving field that once led Ingres to declare that 'drawing is the probity of art.'
The exhibition now being presented at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art comprises all this variety of uses of drawing and its natural impulse for denotative exchange. Between Matt Mullican’s emotional essay and Jim Shaw’s categorical archive, we can find drawing in the service of the cataloguing of an iconography that is as generic as it is anchored in the codes of popular culture. The easiness and excessive carelessness manifested by both work as leveling mechanisms, canceling out any chance of recognizing hierarchies, beliefs, or possibility of using them to confirm any personal framework of values. To put everything in the same plane is also one of the fundamental characteristics of pictogrammatic drawing. However, in Erwin Wurm’s and Julião Sarmento’s works, drawing is just the superficial layer of a set of advances, echoes and references that either refer to tutelary artworks and names in Western culture or complexify previous moments of the artists’ own paths. The graphical condition of the sign and the metalinguistic function of the text serve radically different purposes in the works by Lawrence Weiner and João Onofre. What in the first is spatialization, inflection of meaning, and deducible content, in the second is tautological depiction and operation, as if the energy giving density and intention to Weiner’s words was polarized by Onofre, forcing it to go back into itself and causing a circular coincidence between what we read and what we see. Besides bringing a skillful perceptual disruption into play, the traveling and panoramic sequences by Rui Toscano question the traditional codes applied to landscape, drawing our attention to the artful nature of contour—the impossible line that signals the thin edge of things, rigorously expressed and singularized in the works by AnaMary Bilbao.
Exactly ten years later, this exhibition repeats the premises of On Drawing I, honing its criteria. Despite the diversity of formats and resources used by these artists, their artworks establish a territory permeated by a common ideology. In the extraordinary economy of their achievements, these pieces row against the rhetoric of the superfluous, as well against the spurious tide of contemporary image. Fundamentally, they are exercises in concision and acumen: the depuration of their solutions, the focused attention of the gaze, the vague space of their intervals, the critical backing of subjectivity.
Press Release of the Exhibition
To accept that language, whether written, spoken, or drawn, is already substance before it is applied as such to become artistic material, allows us—at the least—to assert its plasticity. Above all, it allows us to understand that, whatever our language, time, or culture, we cannot escape form. Furthermore, we are faced with another observation, inherent to what happens in the immediate here and now, that concerns the reflexivity of the language: it seems to us less evident that a graphic or sound material can be reflexive, i.e., that it can refer to its own form, and, simultaneously, to elements that are not entirely contained in it. This amazing ability of linguistic signs to refer to themselves and to things that are not comparable to them, even if well known, does not cease to be amazing. The wondrous thing about it is due to what in linguistics is called the transparence and the opacity of the sign: on the one hand, when paying attention to characters and letters we don’t really access meaning; and on the other hand, whenever we focus on meaning, we tend to forget the material dimension. The sign both hides and unveils the signified thing. In the case of artworks where the poetic function of the language prevails, this duplicity is strongly reduced, making us hesitate between sound, image, matter, and idea.
In the immediate experience—and contrary to what is usually stated, but without provocation—the artworks by Lawrence Weiner are visual works. Their format, scale, layout, colors, and their use of space and distance, all refer us to a situation where the material, the physical, and the tangible are dominant. Even more accurately, they impose themselves as a bodily experience. Paradoxically—and always in the immanent experience—corporeality is not in their substance, but in what their forms say. Only in the tangible presence of these artworks can we understand that the intellectual relation (supposedly the only kind of relation) ultimately resides in our body. To understand that without incorporation (learning something) there can be no comprehension, we only need to imagine completely unknown words or letters. There is a simple reason for this: because it is made of matter, form, and texture, language models our being, our body, our hearing, and our sensitivity. This modeling, or even better, this plasticity cannot be purely intellectual.
The image and language artifacts we produce serve as representations of something. Once we perceive what is represented, these artifacts disappear or are discarded because, according to a peculiar dualistic criterion, the intelligible is more valued than the sensible. Avoiding the opposite excesses of matterism or physicalism, concrete, visual and sound poetry highlight the sensible and the perceptible in the tangible presence of the text’s forms, sounds, and words—its corporeality—and thus render language as an act of perception. The artworks by Lawrence Weiner are presented in a concrete situation, or, more precisely, are seen in an indiciary or indexical relation to the viewer, in the here and now of the psycho-physical relation. It is in this sense that the perceptual experience cannot be solely intellectual, but mostly corporeal, integrating the sounds and the temporality produced by what we are seeing/reading. This verbal-vocal-visual field possesses an ideal facet, but one that is inevitably connected to the language’s corporeality. I guide my perception in and through language because the action of perception is in itself constituted of materialized language. However, the relation we have as we enter the exhibition space is precisely a non-immediate materialization, because we are simultaneously reading words that resend us to indiciary parameters—‘placed/colocado’, ‘to reach/para atingir’, ‘wheresoever/seja onde for’, ‘here is it not’, ‘under/debaixo’—which are apparently related to the actual position of the words and sentences on the wall, as well as to the reader/viewer’s situation—while simultaneously keeping the possibility of describing other situations, that are not referred to in the here and now. The walls where we can read, as if in a reflection, ‘Here is it’ and ‘Here is it not’, perfectly represent that situation, because it is precisely that situation where we can understand the ‘here’ as literal (these words on this wall), but also as concerning to something that is situated in some other context.
The line drawn around the sentences calls our attention to something we shouldn’t forget, or highlights the fact that what we are reading is both present and not present. As we said before, it is both transparent and opaque. We are not dealing with the invisible, inaccessible or unintelligible, but with the non-complete, non-total access (transparence) to meanings. Because I cannot stop myself from thinking that ‘here is it’ could also be referring to the wall where I see painted ‘Here is it not’, and that in turn this last sentence refers to the other wall, and that both sentences refer to the entire exhibition, or to the building, maybe even to the street, or to an undefined and indeterminate context that cannot be, obviously, comprehensive.
All that is painted on the walls mediates our access to the dimensions, scales, colors, visual features, and to the situations inherent to the words and phrases themselves—as in ‘crisscrossed/entrecruzado’; and ‘placed on either side of the light/colocado em ambos os lados da luz’—, in the sense that what is read designates—if it doesn’t explain or construes—the experience we are having. What we experience is mostly shaped by language, which indicates, designates, and points to what is happening: for example, the fact that we are reading something that deals precisely with the situation in which we are, and we are precisely doing what these same words indicate and designate. We are not, after all, seeing or perceiving reality, but what these sentences say about it. Let us imagine that, changing only a color in the installation (here in black), the red or the green, for example, the experience of thinking about (an undetermined) something that is ‘placed on either side of the light’ and something that is ‘colocado em ambos os lados da luz’ is certainly not the same, as the change in color (because of the codes intrinsic to a specific culture) would make us not only see or imagine a different thing, but would also not refer to the same thing—if we are indeed dealing with a ‘thing’. Evidently, what is ‘colocado’ or ‘placed’ can be the words and letters, but also the color (the black), or even time and space—starting with the simple space of the wall, the time of reading/seeing, that is, the reference system necessary to materialize this or any other experience.
When we are proficient enough in two or more languages, we know (by experience) that different languages assign us to different times and different spaces; they can shift our bodies and minds into different contexts. Thus, we know that when living within or through a language we do not have the same body as when we express ourselves or act in another language. It is because of this that Lawrence Weiner’s artworks are, among many other things, representations of the body present.
The artist would like to give gracious thanks to Jacinto Lageira, José Roseira & Delfim Sardo for their admirable courage in translating the work into Portuguese.
Lawrence Weiner work is presented in several private and public collections worldwide.
BORN 10 FEBRUARY 1942 BRONX NEW YORK
ART IS THE EMPIRICAL FACT OF THE
RELATIONSHIPS OF OBJECTS TO OBJECTS
IN RELATION TO HUMAN BEINGS & NOT DEPENDENT UPON
HISTORICAL PRECEDENT FOR EITHER USE OR LEGITIMACY
Press Release of the Exhibition
Each man kills the thing he loves
Written by Oscar Wilde, the sentence was used by Gavin Friday, Virgin Prunes’ main vocalist, to title his first solo album, and sung with nonchalant abandon by Jeanne Moreau in Querelle, the film by Rainer W. Fassbinder.
On that October afternoon, sitting in his customary coffee-shop, Mr. Cold contentedly sipped his bourbon while smoking his fourth lucky strike. He was at ease. He had just killed.
Medium height, flawless hair and dark suit, he looked superb. To a less attentive look, he could pass by a lawyer, or a solicitor. Looking closer though, one would see the briefcase from which sprang an English translation of Les fleurs du mal (1857), by Baudelaire, the inventor of modernity and love, which was, according to him, the “the natural occupation of men of leisure”.
The book provoked a scandal when it was first published, and started the symbolist movement in literature, moving apart from realism and naturalism in its exploration of the unconscious. We were witnessing the emancipation of modern art. In one of the prefaces he wrote for the book, Baudelaire stated that his task was to “extract beauty from Evil”. In yet another preface to the same text, the author claimed that he “was accused of all the crimes he described”. Certainly.
Mr. Cold recalled the memory of the girl’s face on the beach. Beautiful and delicate, so obviously erotic a combination. And fatal, thereof. On the dark oak finish table, Mr. Cold answered with visible bore to a questionnaire sent to him by his publisher, on writing and symbolism, whatever that may be. It was time to, between cigarettes, devise his next story.
Outside, day was giving way to night. That perplexing moment when all is possible.