Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao II: Joana Vasconcelos.


04/10/18 - "I’ll Be Your Mirror", an enormous Venetian mask, made with mirrors, is the latest artwork by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. This is a key piece in the exhibition entitled "I’ am Your Mirror", a reference to the classic pop song of the 60s by German singer Nico. The cover of that album was made by Andy Walhol and Nico, who knew fame and oblivion, had to battle her addictions and died very young, in Ibiza, due to a heart attack while riding her bike. Vasconcelos refers to this hedonistic generation which was also revolutionary both socially and aesthetically. And although the artwork was inspired by a song of the past century, it reflects images from today. The mirror is a mask or the mask is a mirror? The images are not pure and can be manipulated…
The use of common objects is seen throughout the exhibition. For example, the monumental "Marilyn" is made with stainless steel pans, forming a huge pair of stilettos. Vasconcelos uses them to give them a new meaning, tied to luxury and power, as opposed to its usual role as “accessory” of the housewives. The artwork visually presents the conflict between illusion and reality

Marilyn (PA), by Joana Vasconcelos (2011)
Materials: stainless steel pans, cement / Measures: 2 pieces of 297 x 155 x 410  cm each.
Lilicoptére, by Joana Vasconcelos (2012)
Materials: Bell 47 helicopter, ostrich feathers, Swarovski crystal, industrial paint, wood / Measures: 300 x 274 x 1265 cm

"Lilicoptére" is such an extravagant object that it comes as no surprise that it was inspired by Marie Antoinette. Vasconcelos, who believes the Queen to be a precursor of gender equality, explains that she tried to cope with her marriage issues letting herself go in a world of luxury. The piece was made to be on display at Versailles Palace.
Full steam ahead Red (2012) / Full steam ahead Green (2013) / Full steam ahead Yellow (2014), by Joana Vasconcelos
Materials: BOSCH steam irons, PLC gearmotor, microprocessor-based electronic control unit, low pressure hydraulic system, stainless steel, demineralized water.

There's three versions on display of the readymades of readymades made with steam irons. The shapes look like robots, but also like some sort of carnivorous plant ready to devour its prey. Its rhythmic movement (up and down) can resemble that of a woman when she irons.
Corazón independiente rojo, by Joana Vasconcelos
Material: plastic cutlery

Duchamp's "presence" is also felt in the red heart made with thousands of plastic forks and knives.  Artificiality, luxury and also banality is what we see in this sculpture that pretends to be an enormous jewel to be carried around the neck of a woman.

Egeria, by Joana Vasconcelos
Material: knits, fabrics, steel wires / Measures: 3000 x 3630 x 4496 cm

"Egeria" was made for the atrium of the museum and it's impossible to grasp it completely from any point of view. Its size and tentacular shape own the space and force us to walk looking to the ceiling. Although the shape is abstract, it feels organic, as if it were the gigantic digestive system of an alien. All the structure is covered by colorful knits. Knitting is one of the oldest human activities and have many symbolic meanings, like creation and life, conservation and multiplication. As all the previous pieces, this one catches our attention not only for its visual attractiveness but also for its sense of humor and Vasconcelos' skills as an artist. All these sculptures have a double meaning: metamorphosis and mystery.

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