Adriana Molder

Fundação Carmona e Costa

Since her first solo show five years ago, Berlin-based Portuguese artist Adriana Molder has developed a singular language and imagery, dominated by her technique of India ink on tracing paper and her adherence to a consistent set of references. She uses video and occasionally photography as well, but her use of these media is subordinated to her drawing, as she utilizes tracing paper both as projection surface and for printing photographs. In conceptual terms, her output analyzes the usage of the face as a symbol in contemporary imagery. Her portraits are inspired by multiple iconographic sources, with subjects ranging from pinup girls to criminals to soccer players, but her primary focus is figures from classic American cinema.

A madrugada de Wilhelm e Leopoldine” (The Dawn of Wilhelm and Leopoldine), Molder’s latest solo show, consisted of twelve large-scale drawings that continue her established project but expand it by adding cityscapes to her imagery. The artist has already dealt with interior spaces in recent series such as “Hôtel” and “Encontro marcado” (Appointment), both 2006; however, in this body of work the extension of her range beyond portraiture attains a new complexity. Molder took her inspiration from Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Spiel im Morgengrauen (Night Games, 1926), especially two of its young characters, Lieutenant Wilhelm and Leopoldine, and their mutually dependent relationship. The artist combined the fin-de-siècle universe of this tale with the modernist urban imagery of the period between the two world wars, seen in the Expressionist cinema of the ’20s, such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). Thus, in the gallery the faces of Wilhelm and Leopoldine, whether isolated or coupled, were mixed with fragmented panoramas of cities. The combination of these images generates a psychologically dense narrative. Love and death are the subjects of Schnitzler’s work, as the writer himself said, and Molder takes them up in this series.

Molder has based her depictions of Wilhelm and Leopoldine on Rudolph Valentino and Katharine Hepburn. In her drawings, the serene man contrasts with the exuberant woman, whose spirit comes across in an annihilating sidelong gaze or a proud pose. The views of buildings come from high- and low-angle photographs of New York and Budapest taken by the artist. The rather ornamental facades are set off against a compact network of buildings, as in a work showing the Chrysler Building, or against geometrical lines. However, the effects of light and shadow achieved through various tonalities of black, white, and gray, juxtaposed with precise but telling brushstrokes, give the drawings a stylistic consistency and atmosphere. Molder associates Leopoldine with a vision of the future and Wilhelm with the decadence of the past; creating her own allegory, the artist depicts diverse levels of reality in a sophisticated structure. In the end, the morning of the exhibition’s title emerges as the principal character of her story, a metaphor for the transience of life.

Miguel Amado

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.