Joana Vasconcelos (b. 1971) is one of Portugals leading artists and was the countrys representative at La Biennale di Venezia 2013. Her work engages in an investigation of gender, class and national identities through the media of sculpture, installations, assemblages, video and photography, all the while remonstrating against the routine of everyday life. In her works, she expands upon the principles of American Pop art and European Nouveau Réalisme, as well as the use of found objects by Marcel Duchamp in a manner compatible with the contemporary discourse.
Vasconcelos art is based on appropriation, decontextualization and subversion of preexisting objects. She disrupts and breaks out of the boundaries of deeply rooted cultural dichotomies such as private/public, traditional/modern, artisanal work/industrialization, feminine/masculine, high/low. Her use of a variety of materials (textiles, plastic, ceramics) and the techniques of displacement and imitation serves these ideas, which are also realized in grandiose site-specific works, like this one.
The artist conceived Lusitana from within a dialogue with the unusual geometry of the 27-meter-high twisted atrium in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
s Herta and Paul Amir Building, which refracts natural light into the buildings various levels. The title Lusitana (Lusitanian woman) references the Lusitanian people who lived in the Roman province in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula and are considered symbolically to be the origin of the Portuguese nation. It echoes the development processes of gender identity in Portugals traditions and culture. Lusitana is part of Vasconcelos series called Valkyries (female figures from Norse mythology who hover over the battlefield and control the outcome of the conflict and the fate of the warriors). She has been engaged since 2004 in this series of suspended textile works that have a central body and outcropping arms in strange organic forms.
This unique work that reflects the artists idiosyncratic style is composed of soft textiles and ornaments that originated in Israel and Portugal. Vasconcelos combines industrial fabrics and handmade techniques some universal, such as crochets, and others local, such as traditional felts from Nisa (a town in the Alentejo region in the south of Portugal) into a spectacular, colorful and sensuous performance that penetrates the space of this contemporary digital architecture and dominates it.