Lisbon

Angela de la Cruz

Culturgest

Ten years separate the first and last of the thirty-eight works in this survey show. Ashamed, 1995, is almost unnoticeable, a small textured stonewashed white canvas, battered around the edges, folded on itself and placed in a corner. Untitled (Hold no. 1), 2005, an aluminum box, human scale, hangs from a filing cabinet attached to the wall, in a precarious balance of the two elements. If the initial work declares the topics that define de la Cruz’s practice—the monochrome; the painting as object; the anthropomorphism underlying these “painting-sculptures”—the final one embodies their consequences.

Ashamed inaugurated what remains de la Cruz’s best-known series, “Everyday Painting,” 1995–99. In these works, the artist inflicted innumerable blows to the picture plane, from cuts or punctures in the canvas to the fracture of the wooden frame, the brutality of these gestures echoing the violence of everyday life; for example, in Crash, 1997, two similar paintings collide head-on, one tearing itself into different parts and the other remaining uninjured. Other works from these years, though not part of the series, partake of similar concerns. In Nothing I, 1998, a crumpled-up black canvas lying in a corner, there is the expression of the abandonment of the structure that supports the canvas; in Loose Fit I (Large/Black), 1999, the disparity between both components is proved, given that the latter, being bigger than the former, hangs from it in successive folds.

The series “Ready to Wear” (1979–2003), “Nothing” (1999–), and “Loose Fit” (1999–2003), constitute the so-called Commodity Paintings, identified by serial fabrication, which have occupied de la Cruz in recent years. In Ready to Wear (Large/Red), 1999, for instance, a large red canvas has been separated from its wooden stretcher, illustrating a mix-and-match approach to the components of the work. This strategy initiated a logic of repetition, standardizing the paintings, which became exercises in variation. However, as demonstrated by this exhibition, the main consequence was overproduction. This excess in turn suggested recycling as a creative tool, leading to the “Clutter” series, started in 2003. In these works, the artist incorporates existing paintings into new ones by using one as a container for the other: Clutter I, 2003, for instance, incorporates a large One Painting, 1999. The floor pieces evoke the shrouds that cover the dead; those on the wall resemble body bags.

These works, of which there are many in the exhibition, anticipate the theatricality evident in the sculptural works that close the show. The largest is Clutter Wardrobes, 2004, a set of juxtaposed wardrobes in a precarious equilibrium. However, two other works best demonstrate the intersection between formal properties—as volume—and concerns at a conceptual level. Torso, 2004, is a black box that partially conceals a “Clutter” wall piece. The coffin represented here is repeated in Locker, 2004—nothing more than a black locker fastened to the wall vertically and overlapping almost undetectable fragments of wardrobes. The staging of the death of the painting, made evident in the first work, becomes in the second the funeral of the object into which painting had transformed itself. De la Cruz thus continues her iconoclastic exploration of the space of representation, now within not the pictorial but the sculptural condition.

Miguel Amado