The issues of curatorship
An exhibition assembled against the artists and the space they advocate for their work is doomed to failure.
An exhibition that expands itself to encompass more than one hundred authors, not far from two hundred, is doomed to failure.
An exhibition that articulates a never-ending array of different expression from within, even if they fit under the umbrella of a specific technique or practice, will encounter justified opposition along the way.
An exhibition that does not merge the different scales of each artist in a coherent discourse or path will unavoidably fall into asymmetry.
An exhibition that requires a Herculean physical effort from the visitor and the spectator, forcing them to experience a marathon of rooms and galleries divided into different levels, will have to cope with people giving up on it and feeling fatigued.
An exhibition settled on a derivative dialogue is bound to augment contradiction.
If it opts to stay on the very same path of the previous decade, curatorship must become a consensual discipline, of mediation and consistency, having in the artists its greatest allies in the attempt to find proper spatial and theoretical solutions. The issue becomes even more important when dealing with complex matters, which involve different personnel and technicians from the most diverse areas.
Curatorship is the exercise of selection and not of addition; of pragmatism and not of undefinition. Therefore, it is the trained exercise of how to say no, or, from a theoretical or academic standpoint, the exercise of criticism and self-criticism.
Nevertheless, it rejects destructive analysis and cynical criticism. Regardless of how unsatisfactory the result is, fairness must be also nurtured. There is always a work that justifies the visit, the contemplation and the ascetic effort required to abstract oneself from the surroundings and the noise. There is always an artist who deserves to be revisited, a spatial, material, artistic solution that deserves to be looked at and analysed.
These words are motivated by the exhibition entitled Studiolo XXI – Desenho e Afinidades, at Fundação Eugénio de Almeida in Évora, curated by Fátima Lambert, which brings together about 180 artists. If the aforementioned is true – the excess of names, the lack of space to welcome them, the labyrinthine path and speech, etc. –, it should be mentioned that there are works and experiences that must be witnessed.
But if the curatorial line invites one to step into the studio of each artist, the result is unclear, given that the exhibition, in its endless torrent of names, does not match the work diversity that we could have found in each of these artists. We only have access to a tiny sample of their drawing efforts. And the exhibition limits itself to this small selection, extracted from the body of work of each author. In other words, this is yet another exhibition on the dilation of the practice of drawing and less on the private, intimate and ever-expanding realm of the studio or atelier.
We must acknowledge that the exhibition reaches its plenitude in the inventory of the different drawing expressions: from drafting to sketching, from the architectural to cartography, from installation to sculpture, from video to performance. The cataloguing of these pieces summarizes what could be coined as extended design, as Rosalind Krauss’s suggestion for sculpture. In this way, Studiolo XXI operates under the notion of an expanded field of drawing, displaying the drawing in its similarities to other practices, something that could also be called a hybridization of media and concepts.
Miguel Ângelo Rocha proposes the expansion of the curved line in space. Rita Gaspar Vieira simulates both discovery and curiosity by hiding the drawing, challenging the visitor, while suggesting an inversion of planes and axes through the use of the wooden floor’s texture. Pedro Valdez Cardoso works the line and the drawing in his concept, beyond the normal materiality of graphite or paper, making use of mundane materials such as a cleaning rag and sewing thread. Jorge Pinheiro draws a new language, suggesting a hypothetical outcome from a combination between musical, mathematical and literary writing. Ana Vidigal takes us to the children’s cartoonish imagination.
In other cases, the spatial design and its relationship with the surrounding architecture are what stands out the most. Such is the case of the works by José Pedro Croft, Catarina Leitão or Flávia Vieira, but also by Mauro Cerqueira, Raúl Mourão and Rui Matos – all of them with quite different materialities and dimensions.
Drawing as a construction of landscapes (natural, animalistic, dreamlike) is rehearsed by Gabriela Albergaria, Suzanne Themlitz, Martinha Maia, Alice Geirinhas and Rita Carneiro, but also by Daniel Caballero, João Jacinto and João Queiróz. In an approximation to the natural landscape and the botanical components, we have Prudência Coimbra.
In the figuration realm, Adriana Molder looks at the face as the first drawing to be acknowledged. Physiognomy is a composition of lines and expressions that Molder works between drawing and painting. João Fonte Santa proposes a critical perspective on the industrial landscape, depicting a series of nuclear reactors.
Rosa Ricalde and João Louro propose a reflection on the geography and the world’s abstract construction.
The graphic and geometric design is explored by several artists: Fernando Lanhas and António Quadros Ferreira.
The drawing when associated with performance is the most buoyant nucleus of the whole set, with works by Thierry Ferreira, Beatriz Albuquerque and Graça Pereira Coutinho.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
From the names mentioned above, many were left out due to fatigue and a lack of direct access to their works (the work of Nuno Sousa Vieira could only be properly seen on specific days). Some of the most important artists in the history of modern and contemporary Portuguese art were not mentioned: António Palolo, António Olaio, Ana Hatherly, Nadir Afonso, Nikias Skapinakis, Jorge Martins, Alberto Carneiro, Ângelo de Sousa, Lurdes Castro, Gerardo Burmester, Júlio Pomar and many, many others.
As a matter of fact, the monographic and all-encompassing character of the exhibition ends up jeopardizing a future willingness to explore every affinity or relationship between drawing and other art expressions. Each nucleus could have been a single exhibition, where each theme would have been expanded, deepened, without closing or categorizing the works under a certain subject.
After all, this is an exhibition of never-ending exhibitions, impossible to summarize without falling into a simplistic approach, running the danger of writing about it with that same fatigue or informative excess (11 room sheets, plus the text curatorial). The artists of the first nuclei managed to inculcate themselves in our memory, whereas the ones included in the last rooms – by physical exhaustion – did not.
Studiolo XXI – Desenho e Afinidades can be seen until September 29, at Centro de Arte e Cultura of Fundação Eugénio de Almeida, Évora.