Abysses and escapes
It was roughly four years ago that António Bolota (b.1962,Benguela, Angola) opened the exhibition “A última luz do dia” [The last light of the day], at Museu da Cidade, in Lisbon, curated by Nuno Faria. I wrote in this supplement a text that highlighted the viewer’s experience in the space and architecture. Close to the building, a rectangular-shaped wall blocked our passage, irrupting from the museum. It was a barrier, but a barrier that connected the exterior to the interior, this way also giving us the idea of a bridge or rather an entrance, not so much for the viewer but for the architecture itself or the everyday (in the exhibition). When I visited the exhibition prior to writing that text, the (natural) light wasn’t the last of the day, so I hardly noticed the absence of light in the museum: besides the shadow areas, there were also (many) areas of light. That particular time of day showed, or rather, made the sculptures. In António Bolota’s new exhibition, at Quadrado Azul gallery, in Lisbon, the works were also constructed with light, but nature intervened less directly in what restrainsor in the unpredictability that characterizes the experience of a work of art. The connection that the artist proposes is determined by the light/darkness with which he “drew” his sculptures, as well as by the architecture. In the main room, two volumes displayed side by side reconfigure the gallery in such away it makes it “disappear”. They create in its place: passages, abysses, escape routes. Spaces created under the effects of light and darkness, of geometric lines. Illusions and vertigo. In the back, we have the glimpse of anexit, but it’s fake: the sculptures touch at the extremities, preventing movement and passage. One of the volumes turns into what seems to be a ramp but the material, the scale and the step (a barrier) demotes the viewer from making anyrash or daring gestures. We should underline that António Bolota’s “walls” are not parks or playgrounds, or sets of a film-noir (even if this analogy is nottotally far-fetched), but rather densities or apparitions with which the visitor is confronted with. From that confrontation, from the memory of the places (underground spaces, tunnels, corridors), and from the paths in those spaces, could come one of the possible epilogues, because António Bolota’s work is born from the city, from the construction in the city. He is not the only one, however. In the volumes, in the surface of the walls there is a haptic dimension: the texture of the reinforced concrete (plastered with pigmented black mortar, manually polished with a smoothing trowel) is tactile as if it allowed the revelation of the mystery. More over, curiosity is a feeling that the exhibition awakens: we feel like peeking, going up walls, seeing what they hide. To run your hands through the skin of the walls. However, in another room, the impossibility of that gesture is personified in a sculpture, a black cube suspended between the ceiling and the wall. The tension with the architecture of the gallery, between gravity and weight, and the possibility of a fall, disturb and unsettle us. With its mute strangeness, the sculpture emerges as an intruder, which the body cannot access. The viewer is left alone before abysses, closures, openings or the escape routes that this exhibition creates. In the same way they face situations, spaces and possibilities that constitute reality.
in Ípsilon, November 7th 2014, newspaper Público, p.29.
If every exhibition can and should be seen with the whole body and all senses, then an exhibition by António Bolota (b.1962) is superlative in that way of seeing, and, this exhibition at Quadrado Azul more so than others. Let’s say, it demands a body choreography; first, in a lateral space, by the scare or surprise, or by the threat of a solid body, an intruder coming out of the wall, that strikes us even before we touch it, if we dare to touch it; then, in the main room, currently with its entrance partially hidden by a wall built to cover what is happening in the convergence of two prisms (or their fragments) that simultaneously welcome us and limit our access, forcing us to practically rub against the walls, except in the vertiginous and a cute converging space that is drawn between them. There is a clear high contrast between these two spaces: the first confronts us and can scare us, while the second seems to devour us, making us part of its own being. I can’t forget a 1960s expression not in use anymore, “primary structures”, and the reason it was forgotten: the thing is, these structures can be primal as a scream, and trigger, in bodies that try them and see them, a complex series of emotions, of emotional sketches, before any organized thought; this way completely fulfilling a primordial function of the work of art through the fusion between the apparent simplicity of the shapes, and the questioning, still nameless, that receives them.
José Luís Porfírio
in Revista Atual nº 2192, November 1st 2014, newspaper Expresso p.32.
António Bolota’s latest solo exhibition treats formal issues as a science and articulates how sculpture can transform the way in which space is perceived. Here, the artist fills two rooms with three massive blocks of brick or brick and iron that resemble polyhedrons and are covered with concrete mixed with black pigment, giving them the appearance and texture of coarse sandpaper (all works Untitled and from 2014). Situated as hulking, dark forms in a sparse gallery, two of these pieces resemble hunks of charcoal against the surrounding paper-white walls. One sculpture could potentially be climbed by way of a ramp-like platform, enabling a viewer to touch the gallery’s ceiling. In an adjacent room, a nearly claustrophobic engagement is demanded by another towering work, which appears to plunge in the spectator’s direction as if on the verge of collapsing. Bolota’s work has always focused on having sculpture test and challenge the limits of perception, and these pieces go a step further by using the whole exhibition space as a material support. Displaying a keen, site-specific focus on the presence of a body in front of monumental form and the attending sensations it provokes, physical phenomena—including gravity, weight, attraction, balance, tension, and rigor—contribute to Bolota’s search for a vertiginous and almost dramatic experience of sculpture.