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Moon Foulard by Rodrigo Hernández – Culturgest Porto

In Rodrigo Hernández’s (Mexico City, 1983) exhibitions, the spectator is touched by magnetism and attraction. This is a consequence of a recognisable and identifiable art and formal vocabulary, where experimentation and the examination of images stimulate our curiosity, imagination and ability to question. His sculptures, installations, murals, reliefs, paintings and drawings are signs waiting to be deciphered, as are the titles – poetic and enigmatic – that the artist gives to his exhibitions.

The eclecticism that inspires and characterises his work is based on and translated into aesthetic references. These include Mesoamerican iconography, Japanese printmaking, European modernism and the Italian avant-garde. And even the importance Hernandez attaches to literature – poetry, essays in philosophy and psychology – and fashion as sources of inspiration. His will to know, to question the world and to provide us with new ways of seeing it is reflected in the combination of disciplines and references. For this, the artist carries out intense research and investigation efforts. Rodrigo Hernández’s questions, beyond the studious and archival character of his projects, are in his most recent exhibition Moon Foulard. At Culturgest Porto until December 5, it is the result of a profoun work of analysis and research on the Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci (1914-1992). Curated by Bruno Marchand, and part of the Reação em Cadeia cycle of Culturgest and Fidelidade Arte, Rodrigo Hernández shows us, after the presentation and passage through Lisbon at Espaço Fidelidade Arte, the second part of Moon Foulard. This second moment stems from a project adaptation specifically designed for Culturgest.

When we enter the venue, we notice the importance that scenography has for the curator and the artist. We see an exhibition design that leads us through an environment whose chromatic pop character immediately conquers us. As in a dive in the island of Capri, source of inspiration for Pucci in the choice of colours, themes and textures for his creations, we are taken to the Mediterranean and the Italian designer’s palette: the blue of the Blue Grotto, yellow, orange and terracotta.

Notably bypassing the architectural specificities of Culturgest Porto, Moon Foulard is perfectly balanced with the space, in a simple yet attention-requiring exercise. In the centre of the building’s octagonal atrium, lit by the glazed skylight, the visitor is drawn to the explosion of colours on the walls of each of the arms of Culturgest’s cruciform blueprint. Using the gestalt principle of simplicity, Rodrigo Hernandez brings the viewer’s eyes to the centre of the walls’ coloured surfaces. The white marble friezes, as if they were centres of balance, run from the ceiling to the floor and are the support for the pictorial objects created by the artist.

As Moon Foulard’s main pieces, with prominent places in Rodrigo Hernández’s cheerful and colourful staging, the four sculptures in cardboard, papier-mâché and oil paint represent ties which Emilio Pucci designed with great interest. On the one hand, we highlight the importance attributed by the Mexican artist to the tie as an ornamental object, almost like a painting – for this reason, the perfect surface to conceive an image; on the other hand, we note that Hernández is keen to attribute to the tie a meaning of freedom and irreverence within men’s clothing. Entitled Moon Tie #1; #2; #3; #4 (2021), and topped by a moon that smiles at us, perhaps the same one that Henández questions in the title of the publication What is the moon? (2014), the body of each tie is a chromatic field that presents an object-centred, playful and dynamic approach to painting, which forsakes its traditional format. Suspended on the walls, we highlight Rodrigo Hernández’s decision to present them in their extended form. This shows a profusion, exploration and experimentation of images. Respecting the Pucci style and the patterns that made the designer famous, the ties are the result of a combination of figurative and abstract motifs, where vibrant colours predominate. The vegetal elements, which take us to underwater environments; geometric compositions, orphic discs, graphic and reticulated motifs; flowers, curved lines and psychedelic patterns; we have before us an inexhaustible semantics, where shape and colour are the key characters.

After the joyful, festive and luminous universe in the first moment of Moon Foulard, the journey moves on to the second act dedicated to the life and work of Emilio Pucci. As we descend the stairs of Culturgest Porto, we see a room in the building’s basement, whose intimate character – provided by the scenography and lighting – underlines an atmosphere of study and work. Five white tables, carefully arranged in the space, each illuminated by a lamp suspended from the ceiling, display drawings as if they were a documentary collection. Protected by glass, in a possible allusion to the shop windows where the accessories, scarves and ties created by Emilio Pucci are displayed, we see drawings in coloured pencil, acrylic paint, watercolour and China ink on paper. This is the result of Rodrigo Hernández’s interest and research work on the Italian designer’s archive. In Moon Foulard (Emilio)1-5 (2021), the artist draws a narrative of Pucci’s professional life with that same archive. We recognise illustrations of geometric patterns and kaleidoscopes of colours that made the prince of prints famous; the reproduction of Toni Frissel’s photograph for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with the revolutionary ski suit designed by him; the interest in sports and accessories to which he devoted special attention – scarves, socks, swim caps – and which extended to ceramics. Images of Mediterranean beaches, the source of inspiration for his collections, which are presented to us as postcards; a fashion session on the roof of the Pucci Palace, where he established his studio and from which we see the dome of the Santa María del Fiore Cathedral; the three-bird logo he created for the Apollo 15 space mission, where man first stepped on the moon; Emilio’s handwritten signature, which he added to all his prints, reinforcing the work-of-art status of his creations.

Like an artist’s office, the second room of Moon Foulard brings together Pucci’s aesthetic and intellectual universe. It is a kind of backstage, where Rodrigo Hernández shows drawings as postcards and illustrations, presenting the work methodology and creative process that was at the origin of the exhibition.

A living repertoire, composed of inventions and timeless colour experimentations, Moon Foulard translates the contemporary relevance of the Pucci brand and its creator. It simultaneously promotes a debate on the ideas of ornament, freedom and fantasy within contemporary fashion and creation.

Until December 5, at Culturgest Porto.

Mafalda Teixeira, Master’s Degree in History of Art, Heritage and Visual Culture from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. She has an internship and worked in the Temporary Exhibitions department of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. During the master’s degree, she did a curricular internship in production at the Municipal Gallery of Oporto. Currently, she is devoted to research in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art, and publishes scientific articles.

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