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.
Press Release of the Exhibition
'SMOKE AND MIRRORS'
Feb 4th > Mar 12th 2011
Illusion. Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors, first a thin veil of blue smoke, then a thick cloud that suddenly dissolves into wisps of blue smoke, the mirrors catching it all, bouncing it back and forth. 1
I don't think when I make love.
This is the first episode of a narrative in three acts being told in the Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, BES Arte e Finança and Appleton Square.
In this exhibition the plot is developed around a very well-known expression - Smoke and Mirrors – inspired by the illusions that magicians perform and which is metaphorically used to describe, among other things, deception, fraud and superficiality. Here it is related to João Louro’s central themes, namely the glamour of contemporary society and consequently its critical approach.
All of the works in this exhibition at the same time as being a reflection on important issues in the artist’s work are simultaneously concurrent to the meaning stated here, constructing a structure destined for illusion and immersion. The tradition of these spaces is long, and nowadays their effects are still being debated. In their association to art they go back to the galleries of Pompeii, where the walls were painted with the Bacchian rites that it was thought induced the observer/participant into a drunkenness of senses and a torpor that affected rational capacity in order to benefit delight in pleasures. In philosophy the allegory of Plato’s cave is more than well known, in which men were fooled by the shadows that they believed to be reality, immersed in the ignorance of a device precisely created for that effect and which some critics have associated to a cinema hall.
Art, love, the cinema, literature, drugs or the world of fashion (fundamental references in this exhibition) all participate in this enormous universe of the simulacrum, made to “fool” reality, proposing another world in which the subject can immerse himself. This narcotic effect of immersion presupposes a total submission of the body, of the senses and of the mind, enjoying the wonderful effects of ecstasy, power, fame or beauty.
This is one of the meanings of João Louro’s invitation and is one of the reasons for including the work exhibited referring to the “molecule of love”: MDMA (the abbreviation for metylenodioximetamphetamine). This work is also related to another one, in which the game of words is taken from the title of Roger Vadim’s film, Et Dieu Créa la Femme (1956), starring Brigitte Bardot, one of Louro’s muses and the personification of sensuality. Baudelaire stated about women in Artificial Paradises: “Evil minds will find it singular, and even impertinent, that a painting of artificial voluptuousness is dedicated to a woman, the most common source of natural voluptuousness. (…) The woman is the being that projects the biggest shadow and the greatest light in our dreams. The woman is fatally suggestive; she lives in another life besides her own: she lives spiritually in the imaginations she frequents and fecundates”. Bardot also protagonises the fleetingness and ephemeral nature of fame and beauty, important issues, expressively reflected to the contemporary condition in one of its fundamental elements: fashion… the crucial subject in this exhibition. Live fast, die young.
In this field the mirror has a lot to say. The object of Narcissus, of eternal contemplation of egocentric beauty and which makes is also an object of death and capture. To concentrate only on our reflection is to ignore the world around us, which may lead us to the “devil’s door”. However, just as in Louro’s Blind Images, this surface may be the place of emptiness or alternately the place of all possibilities, in trying to understand their use, using our image bank. To do so it is enough to possess the curiosity to question and research into their statement.
Cardinal sins also inhabit this universe. This little cave of vanities is populated (just like the halls of mirrors in fairgrounds that increase, shrink or deform reflections) not just by great works but also by little and intimate ones, the characteristics of which lead to a different type of reflection.
In fact, all of this is a great journey to the Self, supported on the great appearances of the world. In this sense this space is also a hall of games: between associations of phrases and words, between meanings, between opposite states. Between fascination and repulsion.
There is another alternative in this gallery of mirrors and illusions without being immersion in a loss with no return or the careless diversion consisting of a return to consciousness, the critical capacity necessary for all the “inhabitants” of the contemporary world. Any of these possibilities is related to the artist’s modus operandi: to give frames for the observer to question himself, discover and make of the images that he (doesn’t) see(s) his own in interpreting them. As Baudelaire states: “Good sense tells us that things of the earth have little existence, and that true reality is only in dreams. In order to digest natural happiness, as well as the artificial one, you first have to have the courage to swallow it (…)”.
Thus in this gallery of mirrors each person sees their own reflection, immersed (or not) in illusions … those we create or are created for us.
What does one feel? What does one see? Wonderful things, isn’t it so? Extraordinary spectacles? Is it beautiful? It is terrible? Is it dangerous? (…) Imagine the drunkenness (…) like a prodigious country, a vast theatre of sleight of hand and of conjuring, where everything is miraculous and unforeseen.
Carla de Utra Mendes
1 Breslin, Jimmy, How the Good Guys Finally Won, Notes from an Impeachment Summer, 1975, pp. 33-34.
2 Baudelaire, Charles, Os Paraísos Artificiais, Lisboa, Estampa, 1971, p.9
Press Release of the Exhibition
Opening: Thursday 25 October 2007, 10 pm
26 October – 17 November 2007
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art is pleased to present BIG BANG, a solo exhibition featuring two new installations and bi-dimensional works by João Louro.
João Louro is widely regarded as a leading artist of his generation. Best known for his BLIND IMAGES and DEAD ENDS, Louro idiosyncratically gathers together references culled from popular media alongside the work of radical theorists, either under the sleek, opaque surfaces of his BLIND IMAGES or on the large-scale, rhizomatic, grass roots traffic signs that constitute his series of DEAD ENDS.
Over the past two decades, João Louro has defined several journeys, or better yet, the idea of journey and navigation, not from one productive or evolutional point to another, but along alternative, secondary roads, detours, forgotten paths and “cul-de-sacs” as one of the many defining subjects of his work. This time round, Louro has defined another impossible journey as the theme for his show: an expedition by car to the beginning or origin of all things, one that ends in chaos.
The routes Louro proposes are never clear or linear, but rather somewhat labyrinthine, paths of flight from vertical order and prescription. It is never clear what his passengers can expect at the next turn – the journey is unpredictable – what awaits us at the next stop. The road is long and winding, and the one we have chosen to travel in the company of the artist is no exception. One senses from the back seat, from our view onto the desolate landscape, the exhilaration that radiates from the artist in his driver’s seat, his excitement at the roaring engine of his chosen vehicle, his obsession with this lost highway.
Louro, a blind runner, has no fear of speed. He steps down on the accelerator and concentrates on the road ahead. All of a sudden, our driver looses control. The car screeches, careers out of control and grins against the rails, spinning. By some miracle, we come to a halt. As we pry ourselves from this twisted wreck, a sense of a new beginning, of new life, flushes over us. This is what feeds and pumps through the veins of this strange creature, the daredevil, the Hollywood stuntman, the suburban racer x-type who whizzes around the parking lot in his domestic vehicle: the possibility of return.
Working directly in the space at Cristina Guerra Gallery, João Louro will recreate the “mise en scène” of a fresh accident, presenting the wreckage of a crash and brutalised rails together with the fractured images or flashes of an ordered universe.
João Louro has exhibited in Europe and the US. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Blind Runner’, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon (2004); and Play, Rec and Pause, Christopher Grimes, Santa Monica (2006); and the group shows ‘InSite ’05 – Art Practices in The Public Domain’, S. Diego and Tijuana (2005), the 51st Venice Biennial, Venice (2005).
‘Blind Runner: An Artist Under Surveillance’ is a documentary on the artist by director Luís Alves de Matos will premiere in DOCLISBOA on Friday, October 26th at 6.30pm. The screening will take place in the large auditorium of Culturgest (Rua Arco do Cego, Lisbon).
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