Celebrated Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos creates vibrant, often monumental sculpture, using fabric, needlework and crochet alongside everyday objects from saucepans to wheel hubs. She frequently uses items associated with domestic work and craft to comment from a feminist perspective on national and collective identity, cultural tradition and women’s roles in society.
Within the Underground Gallery, the exhibition contains works that celebrate the artist’s unbridled imagination. The monumental 12-metre-long Valkyrie Marina Rinaldi (2014), which hangs suspended from the ceiling, is one of a series of dramatic works that represent ‘valkyries’, female figures from Norse mythology who selected warriors on the battlefield worthy of a place in Valhalla. Made from multicoloured woolen crochet, fabric and flamboyant embellishments with tentacle limbs that reach across the gallery, Valkyrie Marina Rinaldi embodies the power of these figures through a dynamic mass of texture and colour that is intended to be both menacing and protective.
Vasconcelos’ work has been recognised with major exhibitions at the Palace of Versailles, Paris (2012), where she was the first woman and youngest artist to present a solo exhibition; and Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (2018), where she was the first Portuguese artist to present a solo exhibition. The exhibition at YSP coincides with Wedding Cake a major new commission by Vasconcelos for the rose garden of Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire from 13 June.
The hand-crafted versus the industrial is reflected in one of Vasconcelos’ most energetic and colourful works, Pop Galo [Pop Rooster] (2016). Inspired by the image of the Portuguese rooster, Pop Galo brings historic and modern methods of making together, fusing handmade ceramic tiles and LED light technology, to create a contemporary pop art statement which celebrates the rooster of Barcelos – the most popular piece of the country’s traditional pottery. At over nine-metres-high and covered by 17,000 glazed tiles, by day the work traditionally represents the pop culture icon. At dusk, Pop Galo becomes animated by 15,000 LED lights, illuminating the historic parkland. Programmed alongside the lights, a composition by musician Jonas Runa plays from the rooster.
Also in the open air is Solitário [Solitaire] (2018), a seven-metre-high ring made of golden car wheel rims topped with a huge diamond crafted from crystal whisky glasses. Representing the stereotypical ambition of our society to acquire wealth and material possessions, the work unites symbols of luxury – cars, jewellery and alcohol – which bridge social classes. Sited at one of the highest points in the Park and drawing attention to one of the most wonderful views across the landscape, Solitário will entice visitors uphill and create delight in the discovery of its fabrication.
The Hepworth Wakefield is an art museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, which opened on 21 May 2011. The gallery is situated on the south side of the River Calder and takes its name from artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth who was born and educated in the city.
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