Pedro Cabrita Reis

Galerie Joost Declercq

Rainer W. Fassbinder once said that he hoped to “build a house with his films. . . . Some of them are the cellar, some are the walls and some are the windows. But I hope in time there will be a house.” This additive sense that gives so much meaning to his work also seems to operate in the case of Pedro Cabrita Reis, where each successive manifestation may be seen as both an autonomous work and as a part of a cumulative effect that is a result of previous pieces. Formally, these pieces are linked by the use of gesso, as well as by the recurrent repetition of the word “casa” (house) in the titles.

A Casa da Ordem Interior (The house of interior order; all works 1990) is a white, open structure that resembles a cross section of an aqueduct or a well. Strikingly situated within the white gallery space, the work’s plaster covering gives it a rough, almost improvisatory feeling that contrasts with the architectural spareness of the construction.

These works all touch on the notion of functionality. The references to water-carrying structures are particularly evident. In A Casa de Ordem Interior Reis extends the idea of taking water from an original site to a secondary location by the construction of radiating spokes leading out from the center. Yet, in fact, the process that is implied in the piece is rendered illusory by having each duct lead to a dead end. What seems to be an intricately designed set of passages is a series of false moves in which function can only be implied, never effected.

Three additional works, situated in another room, cover much of the same terrain. In each, however, the white plaster covering is disrupted by another element, such as copper piping or rubber hosing. The most successful of these pieces is Ascensão (Ascension), in which five white rectangles are placed next to each other on a wall. The hoses originate at the far right end of the piece, extending along its length to a white cube on the adjoining wall. Again, the piece does not function in any kind of predictable manner. Rather, it implies relationships between its constituent parts.

The other two pieces in the show are less successful. There is a danger of Reis’ work becoming too literal or, at the same time, too willfuly mysterious. The cylindrical Ut Cognoscant Te (In order that we know you) is a case in point. These works are too close to the order that is referred to in the show’s title. They lack the austerity of the other works in which the artist’s signature is both evident and displaced. In the best of Reis’ work, we see these pieces as sculptures, but we also see them as objects within a system. In this house, order and disorder exist side by side.

Michael Tarantino