Joana Vasconcelos (1971) is known for her sharp sense of proportion, masterful use of colour and exceptional choice of materials. Directly and ironically she denounces contradictions. She transforms everyday utensils into surprising metaphors, such as a pair of giant stiletto heels made up of stainless steel pans, a sofa covered with aspirin strips, a heart of red plastic cutlery, an engagement ring made of whisky glasses and car rims and a six-metre-high chandelier made of 14,000 tampons. Behind the apparent cheerfulness of her work lie social and socio-political themes such as oppression, human rights, identity and gender issues.
In her work Vasconcelos examines various forms of identity - including that of women - and the dichotomy that can often be found in them. She directly and ironically denounces social contradictions and draws inspiration from a multitude of influences from the music, literature and traditional crafts of her homeland. She appropriates well-known Portuguese icons and gives them a twist, such as the heart-shaped jewel from Viana do Castelo and the series of ceramic animals by the Portuguese artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, which she covers with crocheted textiles.
goddesses of battle
A showpiece is the 23 meter long 'Material Girl (2015)' from her 'Valkyries' series, named after the goddesses of the struggle in Norwegian mythology. Organic in shape and constructed from various textiles, traditional crochet and embroidery and LED lights 'Material Girl' stands for the creative and militant spirit of women. In order to make the production of her sometimes extraordinarily complex works possible - many of her sculptures and installations move, make sounds or lights - a team of sixty permanent employees assists the artist in her studio in Lisbon. I'll Be Your Mirror (2018), a Venetian mask made of mirrors encased in bronze, was designed especially for this exhibition. Visitors can see through the gigantic mask from all sides, but will never escape their own image, reflected in the many mirrors.
The exhibition is organised by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in collaboration with the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art and Kunsthal Rotterdam.