Exhibition: Encounter between two collections
Barcelona, 15 January 2004
Encounter between two collections is an exhibition of works from the contemporary art collections of the Serralves Foundation and ”la Caixa” Foundation. Both collections, distinguished by their significant content of international art, are entwined at CaixaForum with a selection of 23 works by Portuguese and Spanish artists, in an effort to convey the spirit of commitment to contemporary creation shared by these collections. Beyond debating traits of national distinction, the exhibition is focused on a set of works that have consistently contributed to the approaches to art of the past ten years, making it possible to map out thematic relations. Though the variety of artistic proposals is noteworthy, they all have in common a specific relationship with today’s social reality: the influence of visual culture, human relations, the spaces we occupy, etc. The exhibition unites various artistic processes, although there is a predominance of video. Txomin Badiola, Jorge Queiros, Pello Irazu, Rui Toscano, Elena del Rivero, Augusto Alves da Silva, Pedro Mora, Fernanda Fragateiro, Javier Peñafiel, João Onofre, Dora García, Francisco Tropa, Antoni Abad, Miguel Palma, Juan Ugalde, Francisco Queirós, Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller, João Tabarra, Rogelio López Cuenca, Joana Vasconcelos, Martí Anson and Filipa César are the artists represented in this showing.
The exhibition Encounter between two collections, curated by the head of ”la Caixa” Foundation’s Contemporary Art Collection, Nimfa Bisbe, and the director of the Serralves Foundation, João Fernandes, will be open for visits at CaixaForum (av. del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8), from 16 January to 25 April, 2004.
The selection of works showcases one of the interests that has affected creation since the 1990’s, the desire to bring art closer to contemporary life. This approach is distinguished from other attempts in the history of art to use the language inherent to urban culture to a greater extent than the traditional artistic one. The artist enters real life, either through exploration of personal experience or by taking a participative attitude toward social, political and cultural debates. The conflicts of globalization, the problem of identity and the vindication of difference, interaction between public and private, and the social problems of isolation and alienation have given rise to a heated debate in our society that artists have not sought to evade. Their themes discuss and analyze social values, the influence of visual and mass culture on the individual, human relationships and the ambits of coexistence as well as the spaces we inhabit.
Although the exhibition unites different artistic process, there is a predominance of video. If modern culture is directed by the information from advertising, TV or computer screens, it should come as no surprise that art uses the medium most in tune with the expression of today’s society. In recent years, artists have recorded and explored the penetration of images in our world view, how this has altered our sense of space and time, and consequently, our sense of reality. Through images, our society has created a fictitious space that has even destabilized our beliefs toward what we considered to be real.
The two collections
The Serralves Foundation is a Portuguese cultural institution of a European scope whose objective is to bring the art produced in recent decades closer to the public through the Oporto Museum of Contemporary Art, considered the most significant center of its genre in Portugal. This Museum is home to the Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection, made up of works by Portuguese and foreign artists shown in temporary, collective and individual exhibitions.
The Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection began with the change that took place in the 1970’s art world, which resulted in the emergence of many new artistic manifestations. Along these lines, the Collection began with a cycle of acquisitions, the priority of which was to constitute a historical core of works created between the 1960’s and 70’s. This contents of this Collection portray the evolution of the Portuguese art of recent years, without overlooking the artistic proposals generated in the international realm. Thus, the Collection seeks to contrast national art with that produced outside Portugal.
The ”la Caixa” Foundation’s Contemporary Art Collection is one of the most important of its type in Spain, in addition to standing as a clear artistic reference point on the international stage. This Collection began to be formed in the mid-1980’s, and it now has some 850 works by over 300 artists which offer an excellent synthesis of international contemporary art’s evolution. Despite the diversity of artists from various generations and backgrounds, the Collection reveals a number of visual and conceptual themes that join and link the works among themselves. It is exactly this conceptual relationship among the works that gives the Collection its own personality, making it a bold, unique project.
The artists and works
Antoni Abad (Lleida, 1956)
Last wishes, 1995. Continuous video projection. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
A zenithal projection of a tightrope walker shot from below, nude, balancing on a rope, constantly moving forward and backward, captivates the spectator with its suspense and marked scenographic feel. On the tightrope, hesitation and insistence are dramatized, engendering a tense question as to the possibility of falling. The feeling of vulnerability, and an awareness of the lack of hand holds produced by Last wishes, induces a reflection on life’s risks and fragility, as well as the insecurity of artistic practice and the very entertainment quality of art
Dora García (Valladolid, 1965)
The breathing lesson, 2001. Video on DVD, color image, stereo sound, 16′ 18″. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Dora García has incorporated video into her artistic practice, creating works based on sensorial and perceptive experiences that generate high-intensity aesthetic situations. This work tackles the complex relationship between power and submission by portraying a teacher’s training and her student during breathing lessons.
Juan Ugalde (Bilbao, 1958)
The nave of the mad, 1992, and Multi Baby, 1992. Mixed techniques and photography on canvas. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Multi Baby and The nave of the mad are strikingly clear examples of this artist’s work method, based on using pop resources and their transformation into representative and narrative strategies, placing them in the service of an ironic, but caustically critical outlook.
Txomin Badiola (Bilbao, 1957)
Dreams of others, 1997-98. Construction in wood, furniture, photographic reproductions, video projector and monitor magneto, and two looped videos of 2′ 04″ and 4′ 06″. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Badiola’s creation is the result of a work process marked by hybridization and mix of different languages. This process includes different media, such as video, sculpture and photography, as well as elements of popular culture, such as photoromances, cinema, television, mass consumption music and comics. The formal interplay Badiola establishes in Dreams of others leads viewers to ideas relative to paranoia, masculinity, violence and its rituals; ideas born out of his personal experience and social/political conscience.
Javier Peñafiel (Zaragoza, 1964)
Mistreatment, 1999. Video on DVD, color image, stereo sound, 19′. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Mistreatment is a video projection that, like a trompe-l’il, shows a panel of flowers gradually destroyed by shots. Its apparent poetic beauty hides a perverse side that attacks our emotional imagination. The panel of flowers trips a direct metaphor that uses the same trap of beauty that we would like to believe in.
Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller (Paris, 1963; Madrid, 1964)
Untitled, 1998. Video projection, black and white image, without sound, 5′ in 3-hour loop. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
The couple made up by Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller are responsible for works with a conceptual and formal creation process focused on the idea of shared authorship in consonance with life lived as a couple. The enigmatic action shown in the video two hands digging two holes in the earth to later fill them in, each hand using the soil extracted by the other works as a metaphor for shared thought and life in cohabitation that examines the way it builds itself and how it is built by others.
Pedro Mora (Seville, 1961)
Lab-1, 1995. Plastic and diverse materials. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Lab-1 consists of a closed white plastic cubicle, with viewers that allow its interior to be seen. Inside the cubicle the walls of which are lined with foam rubber like a bee’s cell there is a neoprene jacket, a disc, a piece of red plastic and printed ribbons, all of which is illuminated by a fluorescent light. This work refers to the “dwelling” concept inherent to the modern metropolis: small, rented, aseptic, autonomous almost survival-level spaces.
Pello Irazu (Andoain, Guipúzcoa, 1963)
Untitled (The Adversary), 1994. Wood, paint and adhesive tape. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
In the 1990’s Pello Irazu devoted his work to exploring the world of daily life, paying special attention to the domestic container we settle into every day. The shape of the house and its common elements (tables, beds, sofas, walls) is transformed into sculpture by the artist through a dislocation play. Irazu breaks, fragments and dislocates the conventional appearance of daily objects until they are converted into abstract geometric shapes.
Elena del Rivero (Valencia, 1951)
300 letters to the mother, 1993-95. Laser printing and mixed technique on paper. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
In the 1990’s, Elena del Rivero cultivated the autobiographical realm through series of letters in which painting was fused with installation. In their arrangement on a wall, these 300 letters to the mother work like a suite of small drawings, typed texts, collages, objects, missives (some to the artist), bits of writing (some sewed or embroidered) in English and Spanish, which cover infinite approaches to feelings and emotions, sometimes bordering an open confession with a harsh edge.
Rogelio López Cuenca (Nerja, Malaga, 1959)
Living in the pronouns, 1994. Voiced video installation on three monitors. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Living in the pronouns is part of a series of works entitled Home Syndrome. It is a video poem that three monitors project at different paces, so that the resulting lag produces novel combinations and sequences unexpected even by the author himself. In this video-poem the artist speaks to spectators of dreams and failures, fantasies and frustrations of our attempt to inhabit a given place.
Martí Anson (Mataró, 1967)
The apartment, 2002. Painted and lacquered wood, glass. ”la Caixa” Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Martí Anson questions the logic of things. The apartment is a model built on 1/1 scale that visitors can enter. Everything is perfectly determined: the colors, the functions of the spaces and their accesses, the furniture, etc. Yet, it is precisely their unconventional distribution, based on the effectiveness of each area’s function, that makes this apartment so disorienting and uncomfortable.
Francisco Tropa (Lisbon, 1968)
Casalinho Project, 1998. Balsa wood model, synthetic felt. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Casalinho Project offers the spectator the result of several research efforts made by the artist. Observing the 25 cibachromes presented (three drawings and a model), we discover a warehouse used as an observation center. Here the artist built a rain observatory, a dust observatory and an insect observatory. The realities observed therefrom are conveyed to viewers in the cibachromes. The false woodland, the structure adjacent to the warehouse building, operates as another observatory where we can discover different realities, visible from the ground.
Filipa César (Oporto, 1975)
Untitled, 2002. Video in color, DVD, without sound, 9′ 16″. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Over the past decade, this artist has centered her video work on the world of appearances, exploring the superficial. In this video, she shoots slow-motion close-ups in long sequences, achieving an enveloping choreography of green and brownish tones that one recognizes as a landscape. The artist explores the possibilities of image manipulation with a marked enlargement effect. At the end of the video, the artist allows the image to be identified, moving the camera lens away.
Fernanda Fragateiro (Montijo, 1962)
House with patio, 1997-98. Wood, fabric, soil, grass, water. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
House with patio is made up of two wooden structures, one supporting a bed of natural grass and another holding a bed lined with a fabric with design inspired in New York City III, Piet Mondrian’s unfinished painting. It is a work that synthesizes the modern habitat, and with which the artist engages the concepts of private space as an interior and artificial space and public space as a natural one.
João Tabarra (Lisbon, 1966)
Improvised barricades, 2001. Video projection. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
João Tabarra usually works with images laden with caustic humor that express a vision of a modern society inhabited by ambiguous characters and situations which defy plausibility. His themes are based on the problems of marginalization generated by the global economy. He based Improvised barricades on an image that is known around the world as a symbol of resistance in the face of power’s brutality. The video shows the artist in an immobile, serene state, loaded down with several plastic bags while he attempts to keep rows of empty supermarket shopping carts from moving forward. It is a metaphor on economic power that advances menacingly like the tanks in the well-known Tiannamen Square picture.
João Onofre (Lisbon, 1976)
Untitled, 1998. Video, color, sound Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Through video, Onofre portrays various paradoxical scenes that refer to our corporal experience in relation with the perception of space. In this work, a man and a woman positioned on either side of the screen cross the white space in the middle separating them, as if drawn by a magnet, only to violently collide with each other. The sequences of the video are marked by the reiterative tempo of the scene.
Rui Toscano (Lisbon, 1970)
Rio de Janeiro, 9 May 01, 2002, and São Paulo, 24 Sep, 01, 2002. DVD, color. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Using sound, video and sculpture in his projects, Toscano built throughout the 1990’s one of the most consistent, original works on popular urban culture of our time. His works are video productions made to be viewed on a plasma screen. The portrayal of the massive metropolis places São Paulo, 24 Sep, 01, and Rio de Janeiro, 9 May 01 somewhere between a postcard memento and the objectivity of an inexpressive photographic record.
Jorge Queiros (Lisbon, 1966)
Untitled, 2002. Pencil on paper. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Queiros’ drawings breathe life into a world that exists in a surreal imagination, with figures that are at once familiar and mysterious. Figures, signs, light, elasticity, gravity, tempos and surfaces drawn with color pencils alternate and complement each other, inviting the spectator to linger over his faded twists and turns and sudden appearances of fragmented imaginings.
Augusto Alves da Silva (Lisbon, 1963)
What a lovely family!, 1992. Six color photographs. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
In this work, the artist seems to propose a hypothetical social and psychological portrait of domestic reality. Each of the photographs shows a different family gathering set in a given area of the home. At first glance, the images appear to be banal, but it is their serial effect that captures viewers’ attention. Each image is configured as a sequence that has its continuation in the following one. The artist reinforces this action by introducing subtle tricks, with the repetition of certain characters in the different gatherings.
Miguel Palma (Lisbon, 1964)
Ingenuity, 1993. Iron, aluminum, automobile parts. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Palma’s work is distinguished by its heterogeneity. Ingenuity, considered one of the emblematic works of the 1990’s in Portugal, is just one example. It actually works as an automobile, and has made the trip from Lisbon to Oporto.
Joana Vasconcelos (Paris, 1971)
Zero tolerance, 1999. Iron, wood and PVC. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
Joana Vasconcelos takes objects from daily life, then alters their identity and function through operations that include accumulation, repetition, serial effects, chromatic associations and decontextualization. This piece, made up of an iron structure that supports a number of blue funnels that have been stopped with wooden balls, projects a synthetic image with a powerful critical statement. Zero tolerance is constructed upon a paradoxical image that takes us back to an antisocial situation.
Francisco Queirós (Lisbon, 1972)
Frienzenwall#2, 2002. Drawings on self-adhesive vinyl and video, color, sound, 2′ 30″. Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Collection.
The work of Francisco Queirós, frequently populated by children’s characters, takes its main reference point from video games and the style unique to animation films. In Frienzenwall#2, the artist creates a paradoxical association between the atmosphere of innocence found in children’s characters and their violent behavior. In a hall that evokes a child’s bedroom, a monitor on the floor shows an animated cartoon of a girl ripping apart a bird doll to the sound of a popular children’s song. This song, sung by a children’s choir, tells of the unhappy ending experienced by a blackbird being dismembered.
Encounter between two collections
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