Alexandre Melo

  • “Um Oceano Inteiro para Nadar”

    THIS YEAR MARKS the quincentenary of the European discovery of Brazil. The official commemorations engendered violent polemics focusing on topics central to discussions of postcolonialism. Descendants of the indigenous peoples whose communities were destroyed have condemned the ethnocentrism of the very idea of such a “discovery.” Oilier groups denounced the Portuguese colonial heritage of violence, slavery, and discrimination, which even today can be linked to the brutal inequalities of Brazilian society. Perhaps for this reason, the curators of “Um Oceano Inteiro para Nadar” (Spanning an entire

  • Julião Sarmento

    “Flashback,” curated by James Lingwood, was one of the most important exhibitions in Julião Sarmento’s career, affording a retrospective view of twenty-five years of the artist’s work. As the title suggests, it links his “white paintings” of the ’90s to earlier phases of his work, specifically to his use of photography and cinema in the ’70s.

    This admirable installation of 121 works occasioned a complete (if temporary) architectural reorganization of the Palacio de Velázquez. The open space was partitioned into twenty-seven rooms laid out in an almost symmetrical fashion around a small, dark

  • Paula Rego

    The evocation of tension—social, sexual, emotional, and fictional—is the thread that runs through Paula Rego’s work. These tensions unite figures who appear to be rooted in the intimacy of domestic life, yet Rego’s visual narratives often eschew realism in favor of allegory and dream, giving her art an archetypal quality.

    Born in Portugal, Rego has been living in London since the ’60s, where she has gradually emerged as a significant voice in contemporary European painting. Throughout her career, she has embraced a wide range of styles, beginning with the art brut of Dubuffet in the ’50s. She is

  • Cristina Iglesias

    Madrid’s Palacio de Velázquez, a former palace located in the center of a park, was an appropriate site for Cristina Iglesias’ traveling retrospective, given her predilection for playing games with interior versus exterior spaces. The show’s centerpiece, for example, was Untitled (Hanging titled ceiling), 1997, an enormous sculpture that was suspended from the ceiling in the museum’s main gallery, dramatically reconfiguring the space. One felt a powerful urge to reach up and try to touch this hanging platform in an effort to determine how it was made. Closer examination revealed a surface formed

  • “The Louisiana Exhibition 1997”

    “The Louisiana Exhibition 1997: New Art from Denmark and Scania,” the first in a series of quadrennial shows intended to highlight work produced in Denmark and southern Sweden, brought together new projects by fifty-two artists. While the exhibition focused on regional activity, it also evinced a global perspective. As a catalogue text affirmed: “Whether you live in Cologne, Copenhagen, or Katrineholm is becoming less and less significant. The [important] thing is how you use the potential of navigating freely between the global and the local.”

    The eclectic selection of works made a systematic

  • Rigo 96

    The artist Ricardo Gouveia, who was born in 1966 on the island of Madeira, signed all the work he made last year “Rigo 96,” the diminutive “Rigo” recalling names adopted by graffiti artists. Rigo’s recent show staged the intersection of various elements in Portuguese society, which is experiencing powerful contradictions between still-vital traditions and cultural globalization.

    Rigo’s work bears the traces of numerous peripheries and displacements, with all of their corresponding contradictions. First, there is the distance between Madeira and Portugal, which is only magnified by the distance

  • Lisbon and Porto

    If the films of Portugal’s most famous cineast, Manoel de Oliveira, are any indication, the Portuguese national character is distinguished by a melancholic romanticism and a propensity for sorrowful passions, mourning, and contemplation. In movies like Amor de perdição (Doomed love, 1978), O Convento (The convent, 1995), or more recently Party, 1996, de Oliveira has mined this territory to compelling, sometimes humorous effect. More recent cinematic efforts, such as Joaquim Sapinho’s first feature-length film Corte de cabelo (Haircut, 1995), which recounts the misadventures of a young couple on

  • Cildo Meireles

    A black leather case divided in half, containing two symmetrical pockets; at the bottom of each pocket, earth. This carrying case holds the memory of a performance by Cildo Meireles that took place in November of 1969, in a border zone between the provinces of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Meireles’ performance consisted of digging a hole on either side of this virtual dividing line and exchanging the earth that had been dug from each. Mutações geográficas: fronteira Rio-São Paulo (Geographical mutations: Rio-São Paulo border, 1969) was perhaps one of the most subtle pieces in this retrospective

  • José Pedro Croft

    One of José Pedro Croft’s main avenues of inquiry is the delimitation of what is external and internal to each form. This question is developed both in the internal structure of each piece and in its articulation within the surrounding space. In his more recent works the dominant form has become the box, more specifically the box-arch, taking over from the box-tombs and box-houses. The horizon of the artist’s formal references stretches from the field of architecture into the field of everyday objects in which the arch joins with the table or the bowl.

    This exhibition illustrated a particularly

  • Jene Highstein

    In his recent show, Jene Highstein presented two sculptures and a series of drawings. The sculptures are part of a set of around fifteen pieces that Highstein has been producing in Portugal since 1989. Highstein began by selecting a series of marble blocks according to previously defined critera. Then he gave them a certain orientation by defining the side which would be the base. Finally, he adapted the shape to his intentions by hewing away certain areas and building up others with inlaying. The degree of transformation of the initial shape of the stone may be more or less marked, and in some

  • Perejaume

    Perejaume’s exhibition,“Two Geographies,” combined recent works and some from past years. The selection produced a systematic and somewhat didactic tone, and the analytic tendency clearly overshadowed the ambiguity otherwise characteristic of Perejaume’s works.

    The central theme of his work is the problematic relationship between art and nature, seen through an analysis of the landscape. Nature, through landscape, provides an already created background, a virtual fountainhead of artistic images and objects. But the movement from “natural” to “artistic” implies the intervention of the artist. In

  • Pedro Portugal

    Pedro Portugal’s ambitious project grows from his analysis of games and constructions—for example, the cube. A tool used in the perceptual training of children, it teaches them forms, colors, and manual dexterity, as well as stimulates their visual memory. The idea of the teaching cube was developed here in different ways. In Lisbon, at the center of the gallery on the floor, the artist presented a large flattened cube in the form of a cross; into its sides he cut 16 openings. The different forms of these openings correspond to marks of style of some of the 20th-century’s most famous artists: