Rodrigo Oliveira at Galeria Diferença

The exhibitions Architectural promenade; Águas Livres e uns quantos Blocos Afluentes I and Slogan by Rodrigo Oliveira is on show at Galeria Diferença until November 25.

The artist works with different media and material sources to experimentally operate and manipulate suitable forms of architectural and urban rhetoric from the modernist period. The issues of Lusotropicalism and Lusocentrism, particularly and arguably the hallmarks of Rodrigo Oliveira’s exhibition, stem from a convergence of efforts and multiple dimensions. It brings us back to worlds shrouded in principles of ethnocracy or, in other words, ethnic groups claiming supremacy over others. It reinforces the existing imbalances, in varying degrees, with its social, political and racial disparities.

The serialism and repeating elements, often structured in their origin by referencing architectural structures alluding to modernism, establish a relationship with social archetypes and formal utopias reflecting long-held Western beliefs. In Walter Benjamin’s age of technical reproduction, the author pointed out the strong relationship between production and the social realm: “As we know, social conditions are affected by productive conditions”.

This exhibition once again features the artist’s usual approach. A continuous interconnection between colour, form and image can be seen, as Luiza Teixeira de Freitas described the artist in 2015.

In Sculpture in the Expanded Field, Rosalind Krauss discussed the ideology of the new and its connection to the past. Rodrigo Oliveira’s work reflects this sinuous nature, salvaged from a nostalgic sense of a predominant ideological past, which harboured the certainty and illusion of a single, universal, superior and hegemonic mindset, prevailing over all other ways of seeing and thinking.

The artist’s works also recapture minimalist principles, rooted in ambivalent supports and media, but whose tenets are deprived of their original assumptions. They are based on other features.

Rodrigo Oliveira’s pieces move through the room, sporting their optical-effect colours, either standardised or using shapes and elements exhibiting their orthogonality, repeating themselves, slanted, on the gallery walls.

The exhibition’s various pieces employ references to leading figures in the cultural field.

The work Slogan, the first we meet when we enter the gallery, projects images modified from the work Espelho, an Almada Negreiros painting, as part of a video made by the artist between 2017 and 2023.

Fernando Pessoa’s likeness and all his objects have been stripped from the image. The images shown are backed by the sound of a piece called Moteto, a 1967 work by Gilberto Mendes, conceived from a Décio Pignatari concrete poem, Beba Coca Cola, 1957.

In the work/installation Modulor/Mikado, (corta vento), 2020-23, a giant Mikado formed by several coloured sticks leaning against the wall (and, as suggested by the exhibition sheet text, in which a Portuguese-speaking tropicalism is mentioned), one can hardly help but revisit images of an exotic, overseas nature.

Together with surrounding structures that lead us to consider the “diaspora of political, economic, social and cultural models”, as the exhibition text says. It refers to past times still gripped by ethnocratic thinking.

Meanwhile, the exotic nature of the Módulo/Mikado piece is matched by the chromatic lushness of Quebra Sol, rendered possible by the colour play found in the striped plastic fabrics from the beach chair seats.

Deslocado, a cement-lined pattern, bears witness to the spell of modernist architectural works conceived during a modernist era and alluding to the works of Bartolomeu Costa Cabral and Nuno Teotónio Pereira, the latter of whom was in charge of the Galeria Diferença project.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

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