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Solo show: Julião Sarmento (over)

17 May 2013 until 3 July 2013
  Julião Sarmento
  Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art

Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art
Rua Santo António à Estrela 33
1350 - 291 Lisbon
Portugal (city map)

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tel +351 (0)21 395 95 59

Due to the great successes the exhibition is prolonged from June 22th. 2013 to July 3th. 2013.

Julião Sarmento offers us recurring themes and surprising innovations in an exhibition made of small independent, dialoguing sets. We are able to recognize house plans, images and shapes conjuring feminine bodies, reflections on painting and drawing, and the use of photographs made by others, direct and indirect references to Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Rodtchenko, Barnett Newman, Bart van der Leck, Edgar Degas, Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman; the sum of all these elements forming a small panorama that stands out like a plastic autobiography. This happens with some of its elements, where we can observe a peculiar melancholy, oscillating between color ful exuberance and lead gray, the color that usually accompanies this state of mind. However, in the traditional iconography this color is often associated to melancholia generosa, referring to invention, research, and curiosity as well as to contemplation and moments of emptiness and speculation that could certainly be one of the explanations of the celebrated formula by Delacroix: «L'ennemi de toute peinture est le gris.» (Gray is the enemy of all paintings). This theme is represented by a set of works displayed on a gray wall, in front of which we can see a startling sculpture or a strange object (First Easy Piece, 2013), an interpretation (not a copy) of Edgar Degas' Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. When it was first shown, in an Impressionist exhibition in 1881, the statue was received with surprise and amid scandal because of its realism (real clothes and hair, and painting imitating skin color) and eroticism. Julião Sarmento emphasized the traits of this young nymph, almost a woman, further eroticizing them - formed breasts, nudity - while transforming the statue into an object, a dehumanized material. The paintings displayed behind contain all that: emptiness, abstraction, objects and materials, constructions and speculations, including a diagram explaining how to draw ellipses.

We find other ellipses in certain paintings, especially in one (Thing White Plants, 2013) where a drawing unfolds as if it was a plant or a flower blooming, and that, because of its shape, forces us to think of certain photographs by Karl Blossfeldt in his Wundergarten der Natur (1932). We can also find an interpretation (also not a reproduction) of Duchamp's Why not sneeze Rose Sélavy? (Parce Que Rose, 2013), a work whose title we can find inverted and modified in a painting behind the ballerina. If we bend down a little, we can read part of title under the cheese maker - reproducing the device of the piece Duchamp made in 1921. If Julião Sarmento's work denotes other duchampian elements - the small rectangles, the thermometer, and the cuttlefish bone - it is not a Dadaist or Surrealist statement, nor is it another ready-made. It can be seen as an ironic reference to a certain dehumanization of Art, necessary to the evanishment of forms and to their perpetual renovation. Thus, most important in this exhibition is the formation of forms, how a form forms itself and how that form comes to being. If we look at the hanging forms (142 Silicone Leftovers, 2013), it is as if they were in a butcher shop - they look hard and ceramic, but are just made from silicone - we are lead to think of animal parts, and they are precisely that: molds of human body parts.

More clearly than in other works, this exhibition exudes the theme of human finitude, and in a cold, baroque extension, the dialectic between nothingness and being, between past and present, ending and becoming. This circulation from form to formless, from dissolution to reformation, appears clearly in these pieces as they interact, transposing lines and colors from one to the other; or between these works and others that could even have had been made with different materials, if we think in the films Parasite (2003) and Jolie Valse (2007). Therefore, we are allowed to see in this collection a great composition in the form of a still life, a vanitas where each element tells us the same thing: time flies. This is what is expressed by the flowers shown (One Too Many (Yellow), 2013 / House Plan White Plants, 2013 / Estoril Yellow Plants, 2013) and represented in gray tones. The small golden model (Templo), exhibited in a glass case as if it was an object of great value, reveals this want for eternity; desiring to be a monument for posterity while presenting itself as ruin, fragment, not unlike the numerous images of modernist architecture used by the artist. The piece Yellow Secret (2013), much like a reliquary, a small transparent box containing wonder fully colored small feathers, sits just beside the cast of a venter and a small yellow monochrome painting - a color that channels our attention to further yellow sur faces that we can find in other pieces. Differing from what happened during the Baroque period, we cannot affirm the presence of a narrative or a symbolic, at least not one as strong as the ones existing in that historical representation system, where everything signified and always referred to other meaning. However, bodies, lines and colors are as present as they are impermanent, and the ballerina appears to defy us in time and real space, as she is out there in a place and moment we will never grasp. The forms are present, but beyond our reach. In the monochromes (Five Frames, 2013) there is no image but the colors are lively, strong, and dense. The foot's movement is fixed - we can see the drawing in the wooden stand - and it's gone. Just as Sarmento's ballerinas resumed a gesture and remained in a lost temporality, and as such were always fleeting forms, this exhibition resembles a large hourglass with its sand trickling down. If we turn it over, everything recommences. Ending resumes.

Jacinto Lageira


Julião Sarmento was born in 1948 in Lisbon, Portugal and lives and works in Estoril, Portugal. He studied painting and architecture at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts. Throughout his career, Sarmento has worked in a wide range of media - painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, video and installation. He has had numerous one -person and group exhibitions throughout the world over the past four decades. Julião Sarmento represented Portugal at the 46th Venice Biennale (1997). He was included in Documenta 7 (1982) and 8 (1987); the Venice Biennale (1980 and 2001) and the São Paulo Biennale in 2002. His work is represented in many public and private collections in North and South America, Europe and Japan such as Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, U.S.A.; MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; MOMA Museum of Modern Art, New York, U.S.A.; Musée National d'Art Moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, U.S.A. and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Holland, among others.

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