Somos todos patos a querer ser cavalos, by Adriana Proganó
Gender issues in Art History are a hot topic nowadays, but not because they are politically correct. One needs the historical perspective to understand that (all) written history has been told by men. However, oral history has always been told by women to their offspring at bedtime, around the fireplace, or the bonfire, while men were at war or work. But the oral tradition is being lost. And writing, although increasingly digital, lingers in time.
Art History is no exception. The question of gender goes beyond the way of telling history. It implies other issues, such as the capacity of female emancipation to develop an artistic activity autonomously, without being in partnership with husbands, fathers, brothers or as assistants to male artists. Something that only happened from the beginning of the 20th century. And even in that period, only through family tradition, since only the daughters of painters had access to an arts education. Furthermore, it was only in 1970 that a group of women art historians in California began to study the life and work of Italian Renaissance painters for the first time.
Figurative painting seems to have acquired a new impetus since the end of the last century. Somos todos patos a querer ser cavalos appears to have been emerged from this figurative lineage. With humour and some rebelliousness, it addresses social issues, among them the question of gender. Adriana Proganó is a rather whimsical artist. That rebellion, in this serious period we are going through, allows us to add a new perspective to the artistic work. Proganó is even caustic in her works, which are far from being politically correct. The sexual connotation is explicit and allows to deconstruct myths as in Cicciolina pees where she wants, in a clear reference to pornography not as an exploitation of women, but as a possibility of emancipation: the woman who takes part in pornographic films and the woman who watches porno flicks.
From an artistic point of view, Proganó is part of Bad Painting, whose best-known name is Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom the former shares several characteristics in figuration. But the lack of technical refinement, typical of this artistic movement, as well as an exploratory side in the trace, and some false frailty in her figurative approach, bring the artist closer to Rose Wylie, for example.
This figurative fragility and the rudimentary use of drawing allow her to be more caustic and direct without causing too violent an impact. The same happens with the exhibition apparatus. The gallery floor is lined with a fluorescent pink carpet. While the texture and colour of the carpet give us a feeling of comfort, the pink is not delicate. It’s a strong shade that bothers us, that overwhelms us along with the lights. The same happens with the works. The drawings and words seem childish, but the theme is not. This makes an impacting set with apparently different languages, albeit serving Proganó’s defying irony.
In Somos todos patos a querer ser cavalos, manual work is the most outstanding. The hand that draws, but also writes. The same handwriting that is increasingly rare, but which activates important parts, for example, the brain’s creative side. The insertion of the word and the title on the canvas is constant, as is asexual nudity. This nudity is a display of the character, a vehicle of her message, and not a provocation as in I fell in love with a boy with 502 moles. In other words, provocation is always the theme and not nudity itself.
Everything in Adriana Proganó seems like a game, a gag. From the positions of her figures, sometimes unusual, to the titles. Everything seems light and childish, even when serious questions are addressed. Deep down, Adriana Proganó has a child inside her, who, in a raw and objective way, but without drama, raises complex and urgent questions of the contemporary adult world.
Until 31 January 2021, at Casa da Cerca – Centro de Arte Contemporânea, Almada.