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About Today – João Louro at zet gallery

About Today, by João Louro, at zet gallery, curated by Helena Mendes Pereira, is a solo exhibition that allows the visitor to go through the artist’s work. The works were created between 1995 and 2019, marked by an important reflection on contemporaneity, the use of different artistic practices, references from various cultural areas and the use of language and the written word as a means of reflection, redefinition and deconstruction of reality.

João Louro (born in 1963) is one of the most renowned Portuguese artists of his generation. In the important exhibition Imagens para os anos 90 (1993, Serralves) he presented This is not communication #1 and #2, works that would be the fuel for the development of his practice. He was displayed alongside artists who would have a decisive influence on current Portuguese art. Louro, influenced by pop art, minimalism and conceptualism, shows a critical thought about his time, a new analysis of the image in contemporary culture, starting from cinema, literature or music. He uses painting, photography, installation or language, a set of signs that allows the viewer to decode and create their own meanings.

In About Today, we are first confronted with Et Dieu Créa la Femme (2011), a reference to Roger Vadim’s 1956 film starring Brigitte Bardot. João Louro, using a play on words, presents one of the exhibition’s premises: to pay tribute to Woman, questioning her role in the origin of creation and her emancipation, as muse and object of representation, contemplation and inspiration of men of the arts and letters. Then, Love (2004), a neon that references pop culture; Man is a Being Made of Scars (2017), a painting on glass, with words inscribed, where the artist transforms the front of a truck, reminding us of David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996); and Blind Image #221 (2019), from one of his best-known series, where those who pass by the reflection of the painting’s plexiglass, along with the caption, can create a shot of their own film.

In the gallery’s second room, we highlight Cover #18 (Dylan Thomas), presented in the Portuguese delegation at the 2015 Venice Biennale. This work emphasises Louro’s literary references and the deconstruction of contemporary imagery, redesigning the cover of the respective book; L’Avenir Dure Longtemps (2003/4), an acrylic on metal letters and title of the book of the same name by the French philosopher Louis Althusser, which means ‘the future lasts a long time’. This expresses the various dimensions of time and the way we perceive it; The Plagues (2001), where the author rewrites on signboards, in a neo-Dadaist gesture, the plagues that could devastate humanity, in a foreshadowing of the current-day pandemic. The signage, a set of signs recognisable by the common gaze, is involved by a strangeness, where the usual referential is missing. That way, it can be read according to the spectator’s perspective. It becomes an open work, a concept explored by the Italian philosopher and writer Umberto Eco.

The last moment of the exhibition presents the project History of Crime (1995), where João Louro builds a new dictionary, redefining several words. The entire space was designed to present the work, which is the culmination of the author’s investigation into his artistic practice. Art was the first word to which Louro sought to give a new meaning, reminding us of Joseph Kosuth’s conceptualism or the collective Art & Language. In an interview with Helena Mendes Pereira, the artist states: “The invention of the word is the mechanism that I consider most sophisticated in human creation (…) I was convinced that the world had abused words, disqualifying them. It was a revolutionary project against the decadence of the world (…) the testimony of that crime”.

João Louro states that “art is synonymous with freedom”. In About Today, at zet gallery, the visual artist allows us to get to know his work, his time and his world a little better, at the same time allowing us to think about our past, present and future, and also our look before all the symbols that surround us. We shall conclude with his words: “My creative process always starts from time, my time, the time in which I live! It solves and fills everything. And what does time ask? That is the question that is always asked without asking”.

Given the current lockdown, which has interrupted cultural activities, zet gallery allows the exhibition to be visited virtually, and in several tours guided by the curator available on social media [4].

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) holds a degree in Cinema by the ESTC-IPL, Heritage Management by the ESE-IPP and has a Masters in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies by the FBAUP, with a thesis on “O Cinema Exposto – Entre a Galeria e o Museu: Exposições de Realizadores Portugueses (2001-2020)”. She was a researcher in the Projeto CHIC - Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content based on the artist film integration from Plano Nacional de Cinema and the FBAUP’s content creation for the Catálogo Online de Filmes e Vídeos de Artistas Portugueses. She had a fellowship by the inED - Centro de Investigação e Inovação em Educação, and was involved in the production, communication and cultural event support areas. She collaborates in the filed of Art Direction in cinema, television and advertisement. She’s one of the founders and curators of the Coletivo Hera. She writes for Umbigo magazine.

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