Lisbon

Fernanda Fragateiro, Architecture, a place for women?, 2016, stainless steel, architecture magazines, 8 5/8“ x 13' 9 3/8” x 5 1/2". Photo: António Jorge Silva.

Fernanda Fragateiro, Architecture, a place for women?, 2016, stainless steel, architecture magazines, 8 5/8“ x 13' 9 3/8” x 5 1/2". Photo: António Jorge Silva.

Fernanda Fragateiro

Museu De Arte, Aquitetura e Tecnologia

Fernanda Fragateiro, Architecture, a place for women?, 2016, stainless steel, architecture magazines, 8 5/8“ x 13' 9 3/8” x 5 1/2". Photo: António Jorge Silva.

Fernanda Fragateiro’s recent exhibition, curated by Sara Antónia Matos and titled “Dos arquivos, à matéria, à construção” (From Archives, to Matter, to Construction), was a good example of a selective anthology of works of a midcareer artist. In a fluid and clarifying manner, it juxtaposed pieces from as long ago as 2002 with more recent ones, some of them made for this exhibition. At the entrance was Demolição 2 (Demolition 2), 2017, an assemblage, in a huge panel, of masonry fragments collected from a renovation project in downtown Lisbon. The work showed how the artist conceives of her process as one in which construction and destruction succeed each other according to a cyclical logic: Construction materials lead to constructed form, which gives way to decomposition or destruction and the gathering of residue or rubble, which is then reorganized and becomes the raw material for a new process of construction. The driving force behind the sculpture is the exercise of these principles in relation to forms in general, to architecture, and to urban space.

Fragateiro’s method of realizing her art was immediately revealed in Laboratório de Materiais 4 (Laboratory of Materials 4), 2017, which seemed to reproduce the arrangement of objects in her studio, bringing together sets of plywood boxes and various works, research materials, and mock-ups of pieces to be found nearby. Works and space became almost indistinguishable, mutually reinforcing our understanding of both. The logic of the layout of the exhibition was particularly appropriate to the museum’s purpose as one exploring the intersections of art, architecture, and technology, and to a gallery space whose physical particulars create multiple challenges to mounting shows. Here, these challenges were transformed into opportunities.

Existe um substituto para a experiência? 2 (Is there any substitute for experience? 2), 2002, for example, had to cope with the overhead space and the peculiar characteristics of the ceiling of the central hall. By installing on the floor a long rectangular mirror over which she placed a “carpet” of narrow steel bars, Fragateiro created a kind of abyss in which space duplicated itself and opened to infinity.

Books emerge as references, contents, and objects in many of Fragateiro’s works. Biblioteca (Library), 2016/17, consists of a structure of painted wooden frame and metal mesh inspired by the bookcases in the main reading room of the public library in Évora, Portugal—a reminder that for this artist, architectural practice is inseparable from research and theoretical reflection. Books are also used in their pure physicality as geometric solids—parallelepipeds, so to speak. These replace the equivalent forms we are accustomed to encountering in wood, metal, or concrete. Except that, because they are “books,” they also bear their own meanings and contents. It is important to underline the presence in the show of books by female architects (Lina Bo Bardi, Denise Scott Brown, among others), whose work has long been undervalued by historiography. In Built (looking at Lina Bo Bardi, MASP, S. Paulo, 1957–1968), 2011, a central body composed of books balances on four narrow steel pillars, a direct homage to the famous building by one of Latin America’s greatest architects.

A work that synthesizes central questions of the exhibition is Architecture, a place for women?, 2016, for which the artist used copies of the magazines Abitare and Domus to construct a low barrier between two existing walls. Books, just like cement blocks, stones, or bricks, are materials that can be used both to construct and to destroy partitions or walls—such as the seemingly incomplete Muro (Wall), 2017, installed in the middle of the main hall. One couldn’t tell whether it was being built or demolished.

Alexandre Melo

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.