Joao Maria Gusmao and Pedro Paiva

By Pancotto, Pier Paolo | Artforum International, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Joao Maria Gusmao and Pedro Paiva


Pancotto, Pier Paolo, Artforum International


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The works in "Onca Geometrica" (Geometric Ounce), the recent exhibition by Joao Maria Gusmao and Pedro Paiva, take their inspiration from daily life, literature, philosophy, and the artists' own fertile imaginations. In this, they are much like the duo's earlier films, photographs, and sculptures, such as those included in the 2009 Venice Biennale, where the pair represented Portugal, and the most recent one, cura ted by Massimiliano Gioni. The artists' eclectic repertoire of sources ranges from Sextus Propertius and Plautus through Victor Hugo and Alfred Jarry to Jorge Luis Borges and Rene Daumal, from whose 1938 novel A Night of Serious Drinking they've borrowed the term ahyssology, the study of the abyss, applying it to their creative practice. The subjects Gusmao and Paiva examine manifest many more meanings than might initially meet the eye, attesting to the dense semantic network that hides beneath the images and stories under consideration.

This show was inspired by a fanciful event described by the two artists, an account halfway between news story and surreal fantasy. The protagonist is the artists' cat, Mimi, who, violently expelled from her home, becomes intent on seeking revenge for the wrong inflicted on her by her owners. She returns accompanied by another feline: the insidious ono pintada, the jaguar--but one with geometrical markings. The installation that lends the show its title (all works 2013) is made up of five 16-mm projections presenting a sort of geometrical abstraction--spinning circles of painted glass. Each projection shows a somewhat different view of this same whirling motif. …

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