Fresh from her success representing Portugal at the 55th Venice Biennale, Joana Vasconcelos brings her seductive, subversive large-scale sculptures to Manchester for her most ambitious UK exhibition to date.
Exclusive to Manchester Art Gallery, this major new show features over twenty of the Portuguese artist’s most significant sculptures, which fill the gallery's major exhibition spaces, adorn the exterior of the gallery and permeate the whole gallery building. It includes new and recent works - most on show in the UK for the first time.
The exhibition also features the world premiere of a monumental new textile work, specially commissioned for the show. This site specific installation invades the glass atrium in the very heart of the gallery. The organic forms, made from brightly coloured textiles, cascade down 3 floors of the glass atrium in an explosion of suspended, swelling forms, textures and colours. The work is created from garish knitting and crochet, fine silks and velvets, recycled clothes and industrially produced textiles and embellished with tassels, crystals and beads in a riotous patchwork of patterns, shapes and textures.
For the first time, three of Vasconcelos’ large-scale vehicle works are being shown together. Lilicoptère 2012 is a Bell 47 helicopter adorned with pink ostrich feathers and Swarovski Crystals and crafted with gold leaf, fine needlework rugs, walnut wood, and wood grain painting. War Games, 2011 is a black Morris Oxford car covered in toy rifles and LEDs, and filled with brightly coloured cuddly and plastic toys which squeak and move endlessly. www.fatimashop 2002 is a tricycle van filled with factory made luminous statues of the Portuguese Catholic religious icon Our Lady of Fatima, accompanied by the video Fui às Compras (I Went Shopping).
Three of Vasconcelos’ sculptures entitled Full Steam Ahead are also being shown together for the first time. These kinetic sculptures in the shape of water lilies have steam irons for petals which open and close to mimic the movement of real flowers. Red, yellow and green (the colours of the Portuguese flag), the sculptures slowly unfurl one after the other, hissing and releasing steam to create a dramatic, hot and humid robotic flower garden.
Vasconcelos is also selecting a number of her smaller works for inclusion within the gallery's collection displays. These carefully placed interventions create unexpected, humorous and thoughtful connections with both the historical architecture of the building and with works of art from the city’s collections.
Important sculptures such as Maria Pia, 2013 (from the Bordalos series) and Big Booby #2, 2011 is being shown in the UK for the first time. While new works are also being realised specifically for the exhibition, such as a new addition to the three-dimensional series of Crochet Paintings, produced in response to the 18th century works on display.
William de Morgan wall tiles on display in the Pre-Raphaelites gallery are referenced in a new piece from Vasconcelos’ Tetris series (made with tiles, crochet and various fabrics), while a new work for the Cement Sculptures series has been created in response to the gallery’s sculpture Atalanta (1888) by Francis Derwent Wood and the painting Eve Tempted (1877) by John Spencer Stanhope (both on display in the Victorian gallery). This new work, a female figure, cast in cement, recalls classical statues of the sensual female form and is vibrantly painted, then decorated with crochet and hand-made net.
Joana Vasconcelos’ new exhibition opens at Manchester Art Gallery on 15 February 2014 and runs until 1 June 2014.
Lilicoptère, 2012, Joana Vasconcelos. Luís Vasconcelos/© Unidade Infinita Projectos
Trafaria Praia, 2013. Joana Vasconcelos. Luís Vasconcelos/© Unidade Infinita Projectos
Trafaria Praia, 2013, Joana Vasconelos. Luís Vasconcelos/© Unidade Infinita Projectos