João Vieira

From the Serralves Collection in Palácio da Bolsa
Palácio da Bolsa, Porto
12 MAI - 12 SET 2021
2105 Da Coleção de Serralves no Palácio da Bolsa: João Vieira


The artist João Vieira (Vidago, 1934 - Lisbon, 2009), a key figure in the Portuguese artistic scene since the late 1950s, gained recognition not only in the field of painting, but also as one of the forerunners of performance and installation art in Portugal. His work is characterised by the exploration of the letter as a pictorial symbol, transforming text into image. While in his painting Vieira focuses on the gesture and expression of the calligraphic form, in his installations, happenings, and objects he uses the letters of the alphabet as performative elements capable of questioning language codes in a radical and subversive way.


This exhibition at Palácio da Bolsa presents two iconic works from the early 1970s that expand the artist's research into linguistic signs beyond the field of painting. Relying on chance and on the participation of the public. Caixa Branca [White Box] (1971) proposes the creation of a new language. The work contains a low-tech system of lamps and switches through which the letters of the alphabet can be lit up or turned off, in a playful invention of new words and syntaxes.


The work "A" grande [Capital “A”] (1970) is the only trace, preserved and restored by Vieira, of his first performance entitled O espírito da letra [The Spirit of the Letter]. In this "action-spectacle" he presented a series of large-scale letters that were later destroyed by him and a group of children. By breaking with the limits of two-dimensional painting, Vieira's letters took on a corporeal form and created a physical confrontation with the spectators and with the agents of performative destruction. This action is permeated by an implicit critique of language as the support for discourse.


These historic artworks are presented at Palácio da Bolsa as part of the national touring programme of the Serralves Collection, which aims to make the Foundation's collection accessible to diverse audiences across the country.


Image: Filipe Braga



2105 Da Coleção de Serralves no Palácio da Bolsa: João Vieira
2105 Da Coleção de Serralves no Palácio da Bolsa: João Vieira

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