Press Release of the Exhibition
LUÍS PAULO COSTA
'Pintado por Cima'
Nov 17th 2011 > Jan 11th 2012
“Every image embodies a way of seeing”.1
When Painting breaches Protocol
Protocol can be defined as the establishing of a hierarchical order determining rules of conduct. To think about
how to act before a work of art, considering there are proper forms for its analysis can be understood as an act of protocol of sorts. This belief produces an anatomical feature known as the good eye, limited to believing that one’s eye is absolutely correct, so long as it is instructed in the matter at hand. To this good eye Irit Rogoff counters with the curious eye, one that questions (itself) and configures new ways of seeing. Curiosity, a trait of the common man, implies then a certain disquiet, outside of the known universe, within the pleasure of discovering what lies beyond the surface. It ranks, therefore, with commitment, emotional and physical empathy towards the art piece, and thus breaches the protocol.
Ponto de Vista [Point of View] (2011) plays with this paradox. On one hand, it defines how the public must position their body, relaying to them the ideal manner to be placed before the piece. On the other hand, the suggestion of randomness, of free will, the multiplicity of choices, and, likewise, the initial difficulty to interpret the “authoritarian” and normative character of the marks suggests a different attitude, one that implies them as a second creator, whose awareness of their physical positioning becomes an essential factor. The movement of the spectator leads to the aforementioned curious eye.
The works of Luís Paulo Costa, contrary to proper protocol, play with risk and improvisation. This imponderability can be found in We Use Red Balls (2011), defining the artist’s attitude towards the spectator, in an interaction close to the idea of a game. The red of the golf balls establishes here a notion of danger associated with the idea of standing still, but also to the ludic temptation that lies within us all. Like the other pieces on display, this piece comes with a catch.
This nigh-revolutionary action of “confusing the system” becomes an artistic gesture. It is almost revolutionary for here there is no explicitly political intention or any sort of manifesto, but rather the recognition of the truth that a work of art, and namely painting, is a surface prone to error and the imponderable. Changeable like life itself.
Most of these works have a photographic base, found at random, as if the artist happened to stumble upon the
imaginary image museum of the world. They are then covered by a pictorial layer, and hence the title of this exhibit: Pintado por Cima [Painted Over]. Painting function here as a second skin.2
This dialogue/confrontation between the photographic image and the paintings is a fundamental factor for
understanding this exhibit. According to Rosalind Krauss, supported by Pierre Bordieu (Un Art Moyen) watching a photograph leads to repetitive notions by affirming “this is this” or “this is that”, within the limitation of a stereotype.
Painting breaks with this way of thinking by establishing a velocity that is different to that of the contemporary sense of urgency, humanizing what seems machinal and repetitive. Even if it is not unique in its theme, it is so in its essence.
In these pieces, it seems to make the photographic original disappear, although it remains fundamental for the artist, who reinforces this notion in their titles, suggesting both what is hidden and what overlaps it. Thus, along with their origin, these images create an alter-reality that is revealed in its plastic corporality. Not just an appropriation, but a true recreation.
This is what is witnessed in, among many other examples, Big Moon (2011). This piece departs from a snapshot of the largest moon in two decades taken on the countryside by the artist, an event that took place on 19-03-11. What results from it is, probably, the feeling shared by all when setting out to take snapshots of the moon and the frustration of expectation when the result is a small white dot that in no way reveals the magnificence of the object pictured. In pictorial terms it is a white circle on a black background – in the abstraction of reality however it belongs with the imagination of possible infinities. This creative capacity, allied with a curious eye, allows us to break with the rules, the common, the ordinary.
There is a Portuguese idiom that expresses what we affirm here: borrar a pintura toda [to blotch up the painting,
literally]. This action (condemnable by those one should “paint straight”) represents however the creative sense that has always been true in painting: that everything can be resumed to the way we appropriate subjectively the world available to us, countering the protocol of common sense. The banal can, after all, be truly extraordinary...
Carla de Utra Mendes
1 Berger, John, Ways of Seeing
2 In his essay, Moi-Peau, Didier Anzieu affirms that skin is, just as in life or painting, a surface of contradictions and ambivalence, somewhere between resistance and vulnerability, protection and risk, and prone to various accidents.
Press Release of the Exhibition
LUÍS PAULO COSTA
Nov 27th 2008 > Jan 3rd 2009
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art has the pleasure to present its third Luís Paulo Costa solo exhibition.
In this show, Luís Paulo Costa displays four new pieces, which stand between purposeful banality and theatrical staging.
Banality, free from the depreciative meaning the word frequently acquires, is used here as a strategy of extreme realism and simultaneous annulation of the object, which the artist has been recently employing in his work. In the new set of pieces presented here, the artist’s aesthetic and conceptual program remains, though his production is now ruled by a new paradigm: painting is being slowly relinquished in favour of the sculptural dimension of the objects, and especially of their enveloping space. The exhibited pieces explore such concepts as the simulacrum, anticipation, disappointment, inaccessibility and invisibility.
In Welcome, an action that will take place at the gallery’s entrance for just 30 minutes (from 22h00 to 22h30) and only on the opening night, a group of photographers, hired by the artist, will pop their flashes at all the people entering the space. Bathed in a glow of lights, visitors anticipate (given the media hubbub) a major event, or maybe the presence of some celebrity. Inside the gallery, all they see is a regular opening night.
In the gallery’s first room, we find Construção (quase pronto). Luís Paulo Costa has built a wall that makes part of the gallery space inaccessible. The way it was built shows clearly that the spectators have been left on the outside of the construction. There are sounds of people setting up an exhibition: electric saws, power drills, hammers. Perhaps the event anticipated at the entrance is happening inside this space. Once again, we are denied access.
Boas intenções is the piece that is most reminiscent of Luís Paulo Costa’s previous works. A cardboard box – laid open on the ground, with holes on its sides – leads us to believe that there is something inside it. The silence reigning in the piece once again thwarts our expectations. An inquisitive gaze will discover that everything in the box is painted. This is a reconstruction of the object itself, which acquires, through the action of painting, a new identity.
Finally, It can be anything (with light) occupies the whole of the lower gallery. It consists of a wall, painted in Chroma green, and a lighting structure, like the ones used in theatre. Chroma green is the colour used to paint a backdrop for film. The actors perform in front of that backdrop, which will be later replaced by CGI scenery. This wall is used as a space for contemplation, as a place of potency and projection.
Press Release of the Exhibition
LUÍS PAULO COSTA
Feb 25th > Mar 25th 2006
Out in the open, laid bare – this could be a slogan for pornography. When speaking of pornography, this reference isn’t exclusively about a specific subgenre of the film industry. Porn also pertains to a particular notion of the right to look, the provision of the need to expose, which this industry holds as its paradigm. Its expansion into other pictorial regimes instills the gaze as an absolute examination of a clear, perceptible image. Sight, or the ability to see, means putting everything, with the exception of parade, inventory and the close-up gaze, aside.
This overture was prompted by Luís Paulo Costa’s eye level, one of the pieces on display (which also lends its title to the exhibition), an ordinary wooden shelf placed on one of the walls at about 1.72m from the ground. Each porn image, scattered on the surface of the shelf, explicitly discloses a variation of the sexual act. The question lies in how the shelf has been placed, how it stops us from seeing, how the images have been stuck to the table in layers, how they are rendered inaccessible behind their successive layers.
It is my contention that the relationship between the spectator and this piece synthesizes the issues that have guided the artist throughout his course. The shelf, initially regarded by the spectator as an everyday, industrially produced object, seems somewhat sterile, devoid of anything worth notice. Although it is has been placed here for all to see, it seems to disappear amongst the standard objects that amass during our lives – objects we use without talking notice. This indistinctness, together with the act of being displayed, calls for further inspection as we discover the pornographic images on it. The way the images are revealed is almost sadistic: linked by definition to the promise of laying bare, the images (depending on how tall you are) disclose borders, edges, lifeless zones that photographers ignore on the most part. Further on, as we resume the forensic activity that characterizes our relationship with Luís Paulo Costa’s body of work, it becomes clear that the artist has meticulously painted the wood and photos; objects disappear beneath the artist’s brush as he copies their every detail.
The fact is that the objects presented by this artist – and this exhibition, as we shall see, is no exception – always point towards the juncture between visibility and invisibility, to a point where these categories cannot be mutually excluded. As we have seen, these objects are mostly industrial, standardized by nature, far from unique or exclusive; just because they have been individually and meticulously painted, their status (trivial and generic) isn’t wholly denied, for the time spent painting them suffers an elision (the greater the care and precision taking in the copy, the more the artist’s handwork recedes); lastly, because Luís Paulo Costa frustrates our instituted right to see, to see everything clearly and precisely. Costa does this exceptionally well, without exclusively using what lies out of focus, without obstructing the gaze or employing strategies of effacement. In standing, another of the artist’s pieces on display, a film is projected onto a hanging screen. A conventional bench, used in museums and galleries, has been placed for visitors to watch the video in comfort. We soon realize nothing seems to be taking place – the screen remains blank – as if nothing were being projected. Some of us may be temped to stand up and work our way around the screen. On doing this, the colour of the projected image, its whiteness, confirms a presence: the invariable projection of a film of the wall on the other side, together with the sound of the gallery during a normal day of work. The subtle irony of this installation lies in the fact that it is extremely revealing and clear at the same time that it confronts us with our visual rights (notice that the white bench we use to seat ourselves has also been painted with the exact original colour, as well as the forlorn paper bag in one of the corners). Our need for unity, clarification and closure has been disregarded: the video begins each time somebody enters the room, incessantly repeating itself. It has no beginning or end, and more so, less of an end to explain a beginning.
The largest installation to this exhibition occupies most of the gallery’s upper space. This piece is also about motion picture. Using strips of VHS, the artist writes the phrase see and see not on one of the walls – which is equivalent to saying that he has ensured we will be unable to see the film as it is used in the installation. The gallery floor on the other hand has been covered with hundreds of films that have been removed from their cassettes. In other words, the element that occupies most space, that which is truly sculptural, which we inevitably stumble upon, is, at the same time, that which expresses the impossibility of seeing, for all of these films have been rendered useless.
In another room, Luís Paulo Costa has erected a second, fake wall that is the exact length of the original behind it. This second wall becomes evident as it doesn’t entirely cover the one behind it, being only 1.70 m tall. This means that lofty visitors are able to see the hollow between the walls and a wad of notes tied together with an elastic band on the ground, both of which have been painted by the artist.
The dollars refer to financial transactions we have all seen in movies. In some, people check if the notes are real, in others, briefcases abound with dollars that hide a stuffing of white paper below – money can be a piece of painted paper or just a thin coat that covers something worthless. Luis Paulo Costa’s wad is potentially both, a painting over a note that covers a sheaf of paper. Most people will never get a clear purview of the piece, for the notes cannot be given the once-over.
Another piece, entitled nude descending a staircase, immediately evokes absent objects – something that is effectively missing, that cannot be embodied, namely the works of Marcel Duchamp and Gerhard Richter. The piece, placed on top of the staircase which leads down to one of the gallery’s rooms and holding, is basically comprised of a pair of shoes and two garments which have been painted over with their original colour. The shoes and clothes appear at random, discarded by the woman who stripped before descending the stairs. In other words, the title, to start with, points towards something we cannot see, circumscribing a space of absence.
Once again, the objects Luís Paulo Costa appropriates are quite ordinary – black shoes and clothes without any real appeal. Why? Because he is interested in presenting objects as they disappear (without employing tricks). I will try to explain. The artist normally chooses, as we have seen, mass-produced objects. He chooses things that are practically invisible in their natural environment - shelf, bench, telephone, jug, paper bag, cigarette pack – all deserve an award for their design precisely because they present no signs whatsoever of having been designed. This represents one of the artist’s first concerns with disappearance. But Luís Paulo does not employ the ready-made, he does not simply stick to confiscating objects. He usually covers them with paint according to the object’s original palette, attributing them with enough importance to spend meticulous hours working on them, yet simultaneously ensuring that they disappear as he covers them. On displaying these objects, he safeguards the tension between presence and disappearance (some objects can always go unnoticed), instituting the spectator’s activity as a circuit, a forensic circuit, where the artist claims participation from the audience, rather than mere accompaniment. If some of the artist’s pieces are trying, this is because he tweaks our relationship with images. Visitors stand on their tip-toes, peer between walls, inspect the reverse of a canvas. eye level locates us as potential voyeurs, as viewers of fragments, nothings – this effort merely underscores the pointlessness of wanting to see everything, more. Pornography’s slogan has no place here, for what is has been given up to observation is partial, devoid of the real, its saturation and loopholes.
Text by Ricardo Nicolau
Translated by Nancy Dantas