Joana Vasconcelos: Time Machine, Manchester Art Gallery

Joana Vasconcelos’s vibrant and tactile art will be on display at the Manchester Art Gallery between the 15 February and 1 June. Joana Vasconcelos: Time Machine showcases 20 of the Portuguese artist’s most significant sculptures, including brand new and site specific installations. Renowned for her sculpture, Vasconcelos also produces installations, performances, video and photography. Her work is known for its use of vibrant colour, extensive use of mixed fabrics and detailed craft. Vasconcelos’s work is garish and loud, and often combines unexpected structures with flamboyant decoration. One such work in the collection is Lilicoptère (2012), a helicopter covered with pink ostrich feathers, Swarovski crystals, gold leaf, rugs, walnut wood and wood grain painting.

Vasconcelos refuses to shy away from colour or size and her pieces often dominate the entire gallery space. A site specific piece for the Manchester Art Gallery highlights this. The gallery’s hall and staircase will be taken over by brightly coloured forms flowing from the exhibition galleries, cascading down the stairs and over the balconies into the atrium. This impressive piece is made of a patchwork of crochet, silks, recycled clothes, industrially produced textiles and other materials, and is embellished with Portuguese tassels, crystals and beads.

The unconventional presentation of Vasconcelos’s work is a key element to the exhibit. As well as the collection within, the sculptures Tutti Frutti (2011) and Fruit Cake (2011) will adorn the outside of the gallery. The giant ice-cream cone and cupcake made of plastic toys will greet visitors as they enter the building. Further blurring the boundaries of the exhibition space, some of her works will be placed within the permanent collection as interventions. Inspired by the Manchester Art Gallery’s Victorian room, new work for the Cement Sculptures series responds to Francis Derwent Wood’s sculpture Atalanta (1888) and the painting Eve Tempted (1877) by John Spencer Stanhope. Vasconcelos’s sculpture engages with classical statues of the female body, yet in the tradition of her work, it is cast in cement and painted in bright colours and covered in crochet and net. These pairings create an unexpected and humorous focal point within the gallery.

Since her debut at the Venice Biennale in 2005, Vasconcelos’s international reputation has flourished and Joana Vasconcelos: Time Machine is the first chance to see many of her works in the UK.

Joana Vasconcelos: Time Machine, 15 February – 1 June, Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M2 3JL.

1. Joana Vasconcelos, Full Steam Ahead (Red #1), 1/2, 2012 Photo: Peter Mallet / Courtesy Haunch of Venison.