João Paulo Feliciano

Centro de Artes Visuais

Since the early 1990s, João Paulo Feliciano has exemplified the link between music and art in Portugal, a connection that in this country has seldom gone beyond marginal experimentalism. The rock band Tina and the Top Ten, of which Feliciano was the founder and leader and which was active from 1989 to 1998, and his work with Rafael Toral as the duo No Noise Reduction since 1990, define his musical career. His artistic output has often incorporated references to this world: The seminal installation Minding, 1991 (not in this show), presented in an old, darkened cistern, combines a phosphorescent wall painting of four brains with grindcore and death metal sound tracks at high volume, randomly interspersed with silence. Crash Music, 1991/2008, is made of the remains of fifty LP records broken when the artist smashed them against a wall, accompanied by a text with fifty-six possible interpretations of the piece itself. Sweet Music, 1992, a color photograph of candy superimposed on 7" records, was used as a cover for the CD Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star by Sonic Youth. The Big Red Puff Sound Site, 1994, consists of a red tarpaulin mattress that occupies an entire room bathed in blue light; earphones hang from the ceiling playing the songs of Teenage Drool, the sole release by Tina and the Top Ten. With their performative nature, mythologies of the cultural underground, and relational aesthetics, these works are emblematic of Feliciano’s fusion of the visual and aural.

The exhibition “The Blues Quartet” also included other works related to music in general and to the blues in particular. Kaleidoscopic Blues Machine, 2007, joins a televison monitor and a cone- shaped structure of blue acrylic to show a silent, black-and-white video mixing footage of famous and obscure musical performances, focusing only on the performers’ hands and instruments as they play. The core of the exhibition, however, was the work from which it takes its title, The Blues Quartet, 2004–2007. This sculpture is composed of a table divided into four areas by vertical sheets of blue acrylic whose corners house four colored lightbulbs that blink on and off in response to musical stimuli—here an iPod whose playlist was selected by the artist and other musicians. Understanding this work as a simulacrum of an actual blues quartet, Feliciano developed other projects associated with it—for example, The Blues Quartet Poster Series, 2007, based on the appropriation of preexisting album covers, manipulated in accordance with the graphic identity imagined for the Blues Quartet, and which hung billboard style on a long wall of the gallery. Even the idea of a touring band was replicated in the dynamics of the presentation of “The Blues Quartet,” with Feliciano having prepared a series of shows in different institutions throughout Portugal, such as the Museu do Chiado in Lisbon, often including live performances, some involving guest musicians. By bringing together objects, images, and sound with the collaborative ethos of musical performance, this exhibition encapsulated all that has made Feliciano’s work distinctive on the Portuguese artistic scene.

Miguel Amado

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.