Pedro Portugal

Galeria Atlantica

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: Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Robert Smithson, Jannis Kounellis, Sol LeWitt, Kasimir Malevich, Francis Picabia, and Julian Schnabel. On the walls, six panels of six canvases each—one for each side of the cube—repeat the structure and cuts of the flat cube. From panel to panel the colors of each side vary within a chromatic scale limited to red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and purple.

The Porto exhibition presented a large assembled cube, with cut-out openings; the floor of the gallery was covered with corresponding pieces that fit into the cube’s apertures. On the walls, a group of drawings repeated the same forms. The accompanying catalogue reproduced the drawings and paintings and included a series of tear-out forms that can be colored, cut, and constructed into cubes. Thus, Portugal underscores the didactic character of his project. He confronts the distinction between children and adults, between the ignorant and the cultured, between those who are knowledgeable and those who are not. Here the fundamental ambiguity of Portugal’s project becomes visible. Is an artist’s mission to teach art to the ignorant? Or does the artist intend to show the knowledgeable that all they know about art is a child’s game? Portugal questions what is knowable and what is not, what is art and what is not. The form through which he elaborates and exposes these questions demonstrates a capacity for joy, for the spectacle of staging, and, in the pleasure of the chromatic games, Portugal brings to his work an aspect of playfulness that informs the pedagogic dimension.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from the Portuguese by Silvia Sardeira.