Percepções e Movimentos: group exhibition at Galeria Presença

Percepções e Movimentos, curated by Constança Babo and held at Galeria Presença, is based on Kinetic Art and Optical Art – mid-20th century modernist avant-garde currents -, introducing their notions and aesthetic principles to contemporary times in a dialogue between works by Angelika Huber, Diogo Pimentão, Isaque Pinheiro, Roland Fischer, Marisa Ferreira, David Magán, Lia Chaia and Carlos Mensil. Through careful, coherent and refined editing, the exhibition addresses issues of oticity, movement, space, form and colour, whilst also drawing on minimalist thinking and artistic practices.

The curator, in the exhibition text, states: “The exhibition Percepções e Movimentos comes from the intention of bringing together and, to a certain extent, reviving the areas of action and expression developed and shared by op art and kinetic art. We recognise, nonetheless, the historical timing and the formal, visual and plastic particularities of both artistic currents. Consequently, although the exhibition project adopts them as a starting point and background, it does not limit itself to their specificities. Rather, it offers a broad and current discourse and approach.”

Starting from the 1960s, according to Western art history, some artists, influenced by the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, such as Dadaism, Futurism, Constructivism or Abstractionism, as well as the ideas of the Bauhaus School, turned to a notion of dialogue between art and technology. Kinetic art was an artistic movement from the second half of the previous century, pioneered by a group of artists in the context of the exhibition The Movement (1955) at the Denise René Gallery in Paris. Influenced by research into psychology, Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1905-1915) or Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s study Phenomenology of Perception (1945), their creative approach was to prioritise the movement of water, wind, light or magnetism. CYSP 1 (1956) by Nicolas Schöffer, Homage to New York (fragment) (1960) by Jean Tinguely, or Ballet de Luz Automática (1962) by Otto Piene are notable for how they stretch the pieces in space and time, introducing a new layer to the viewer’s experience, but also for the way they embody mechanical movement, allowing for an analogy between the human body and the machine. Op art, or optical art, was most widespread in painting, where artists made purely geometric shapes to create optical effects, inspired by Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810), Merleau-Ponty’s psychology of perception, but also Georges Seurat’s pointillism, Robert and Sonia Delaunay’s paintings, as well as those of Josef Albers. Vega 200 (1968) by Victor Vasarely, Corrente (1964) by Bridget Riley, or Grande Parede Panorâmica (1966) by Jesús Rafael Soto are outstanding for their contrasting geometric figures and colours, pushing our eyes to perceive two contradictory elements, resulting in a sense of movement, convexity or concavity, in short, an optical illusion, constantly renewed as we move through the artworks.

In Percepções e Movimentos, Angelika Huber presents In Motion, walk again’ (2024), a ready-made based on three split-flap dials. Recontextualising these devices usually seen in airports or train stations and featuring alphanumeric text, the Austrian artist makes their movement, sound and temporality stand out in the exhibition space. Next door, Diogo Pimentão’s proposal, Eversion (inversion) (2024) emerges from the gallery wall as three radiating blocks, as if they were graphite lines extending beyond the paper, providing an optical illusion, a 3D notion to the drawing, but also an idea of movement, as we move around the space. Across the hall, Isaque Pinheiro shows Memória #2 (2019) and Eis quando a pedra manipula a linha sob sedução da tela (2024), a continuous gesture in her body of work, either through the way she gives the illusion of subtlety and fluidity to marble, harking back to classism, or by taking it back to contemporaneity through abstract, conceptual and geometric compositions. Meanwhile, Roland Fischer, one of today’s most important German photographers, presents Uniqlo, Osaka (2014) in the second room. This is a detailed photograph of the Japanese building, enhancing its geometric features, stripping away its context and returning to its purest lines. By contrast, Marisa Ferreira shows us Expanded Series (blue) and Expanded Series (yellow), inspired by minimalism and the memories of vacant industrial buildings in the Ave region. Marisa’s pieces are permeated by juxtaposing geometric figures, by the serial nature of the shapes, but also by the illusion that their three-dimensionality gives us, by how lively the primary colours are and by the notion of rhythm as they pass through. David Magán’s Halo Series 05 v 03 (2023) suggests light halos in space by digitally printing layers of primary tones in gradation, protruding from the wall of the exhibition space like pulsating colours, shapes and light. Finally, Ethereal Trace 18 (2022-2023) is on display in the gallery window.

The last room shows Diogo Pimentão’s video Retornar (2012), in contrast to Lia Chaia’s video Átomo (2020). Both emphasise circular motions, magnetism and the action of physics against the elements, following on from Carlos Mensil’s pieces: Sem título (2016), a triptych structure in stainless steel, starting from the wall and creating different shapes as one moves around the gallery, and 16:9 (2022), a suspended drawing-object made from the same material but using a motor, a wooden box and light, hypnotising us with its circular flow and the new forms that emerge, especially the light reflections in the exhibition area.

Overall, the exhibition, based on the contemporary artistic works it exhibits – namely its geometric shapes, colours, abstraction, optical illusion, but especially the way it encourages the viewer to move through space, reshaping formats, rhythms and perceptions – restores to the present some of the premises of kinetic art, optics and minimalism, in an act that is itself contemporary, by continually reformulating, stating or updating previous artistic practices.

Percepções e Movimentos, curated by Constança Babo, is on show at Galeria Presença, in Porto, until March 9, 2024.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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