Galeria Francisco Fino presents Planes of Escape by Portuguese artist Gabriel Abrantes. Consisting of an animation, five paintings of computer-generated characters created by the artist and a sculpture composition, Planes of Escape is a bold presentation of the artist’s most recent works created with recourse to digital models and state-of-the-art visual effects programs used in the cinema industry for processor intensive tasks such as fur, liquid and particle dynamic simulations. The characters that show up in the paintings are primordial creatures most at home in a virtual environment, and seem equal parts tragic and comic, simultaneously archaic and of the future. These occupy worlds that hark back to art history, while simultaneously existing in a representation of a digital post-human AI dominated future where materiality, gender binaries, and physicality are no longer prescient.
Abrantes’ work often focuses on questions relating to politics, art history, artificial intelligence, and intersect with modes of representation in popular culture, namely in the aesthetics of Hollywood cinema. His new series of paintings’ focus on similar themes, bringing together digital technologies used in visual effects heavy films and art historical references. He connects the use of this visual effects’ technology and reference to Hollywood cinema, with a reflection on art history alluding to a wide range of sources, from archaic Mesopotamian votive sculptures all the way to Modernist and post-modernist paintings, bringing to life characters which are equal parts googly eyed Pixar characters and historical artefacts. These characters or creatures seem to be tenuously in place, composed of platonic solids haphazardly floating in space, creating unstable figures, that suggest ‘cuteness’ on the surface, but reveal themselves to be unstable and potentially disturbing at heart. These abstract figures simultaneous project a silly, infantile glee as well as modernist notions of ‘anxiety’, and postmodernist notions of fragmentation and loss of the self.
In this sense the installation at LISTE Art Fair 2021 interweaves the new and the old, contrasting a dense network of post-net references with art historical references: memes collide with Holbein’s portraits; the diamond patterns of Commedia dell’Arte are intersected with references to Pixar films; the abysmal gradients of Ed Ruscha are mixed with post-net notions of the “post-human”. This layering suggests a reevaluation of the aesthetic regimes of pre-internet art and how they have been transformed by the post-net era where ‘the cute, zany, and interesting ‘have become the dominant aesthetic categories, symptoms of a society consumed by the anxiety of a permanently networked attention economy.