Corpus at Jeu de Paume, Paris
Corpus. No other word could better embody the oeuvre from Portugal’s unsung heroine of performance and conceptual art. Stubbornly exploring the question of how body and movement succeed in becoming an artwork on their own, Helena Almeida (°1934, Lisbon) do so radically consistent, highly poetic and tangibly vivid. Registering, occupying and defining space, her body – although clearly universal – is both object and subject, signifier and signified. As a site of political and personal expression, inflected with a feminist stance, it shifts and changes (appears and disappears from the plane of the image) throughout the different phases of her 50-year career, with all its knowledge and experience, and corresponding emotional and psychological depth.
The exhibition Corpus is a retrospective presentation of her body’s absorption, from her earliest pieces dating from the mid-1960s up until recent work. The body as the absolute truth allows disciplines to transcend. Almeida’s early abstract paintings clearly reveal a process of confronting traditional artistic media and the language of painting. It is as if each canvas is deconstructed – often through the use of photography – and reconstructed as a gesture implying movement. Her series of sculptural drawings, with horsehair leaping out into a 3D universe, continue on this same flow of freedom in medium and space, creating a veritable porosity between all artistic media. As the artist once explained: “I never made my peace with the canvas, with paper or with any other medium.”
Throughout the 70’s Almeida increases the performative aspects in her artistic practice. Chosen materials become an extension of her body. Almeida’s photographic series show self-presentations (shying away from self-portraits), which focus on the relationship between body and space, playfully retracing her every move into a carefully staged summary. Whether painting, drawing, photography or video, the artist’s body always plays center stage. In more cinematographic images as seen in Ouve-me [Hear Me], Almeida’s shadow is pressing prints, screaming the air out of the white canvas or sucking it into visibility. Her more recent (and ever more) choreographic studies further develop the emotive and affective potential of ‘her’, meaning every woman’s body.
09.02 – 22.05.2016
Place de la Concorde, 1
This exhibition is organized by Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, in collaboration with Jeu de Paume, Paris and WIELS, Brussels – where the exhibition will be on view from 10 September through 11 December 2016.
Images courtesy of Jeu de Paume; Fundação de Serralves, Porto; MNAC – Museu do Chiado, Lisbon; Núcleo de Arte da Oliva Creative Factory, S. João da Madeira
Photography: Filipe Braga, Mário Valente and Aníbal Lemos