Body Capital: José Pedro Cortes
Body Capital, José Pedro Cortes’ second exhibition at Galeria Francisco Fino, features a broad selection of new works centered around the themes of the human figure, nature and architecture. Cortes’ return to these visual references allows viewers to recognize the pictorial gesture that gradually takes shape here. A gesture that results from a relationship with the photographic device in its incompleteness and establishes the viewers’ experience and gaze as fundamental to build a relationship between apparently scattered images. In this exhibition, images lay out a material and symbolic territory from which emerges still lives, suspended bodies, and delicate or crumbly architectures that create an atmosphere at once beautiful and fragile, which manifest the artist’s desire to relate to the moment we live in.
A recurring motif in his photographs, the evocation of the natural landscape is staged - in its framing, lighting, arrangement -, while it simultaneously seems to capture the everyday confrontation with this “environment”, with its unexpected eruption and with its abandonment. The photographs Wood (Arrow), or Nature (I) and Nature (II), are testimony to an exhausted nature – a nature morte (still life) in the literal sense –, which nevertheless gives proof of its material quality: the light and colour of these remains reinforce its corporeal quality, which can be felt and smelt. At the same time, this nature manipulated by humankind along with its imperfect remains allow, as the artist writes, “to transform this seeming fragility into a possibility for observation, generating moments to learn its banality and make it beautiful”.
The incomplete aspect of natural elements is also punctuated by the presence of human artefacts. In Fragile Wood and Plastic or in Batteries and Wood, Cortes insists on the game of visual oppositions which characterizes much of his work and here calls for the inscription of these images in the ongoing debate of environmental issues and its varied terminology – Anthropocene, Plasticocene. In these landscapes and in this play with natural elements, Cortes refines the documental character of these photographs and reinforces his desire to create a shared narrative, insisting in the recognition of a certain time, with its places, objects and people.
The human figure and its devices are other topics reinvigorated by this exhibition. Either as relational reference or as quasi-abstract scale, the body is almost always fragmented, placed under stress or suspended. In Muscles, which features a weightlifter, the bodies contraction and the paraphernalia create a correspondence between the iron and the regular lines of the training machine’s architecture and the physical effort of a body captured in mid-motion. A mid-motion that appears in several images, as if the body brought here by Cortes refuses to be fully apprehended; or rather, as if these bodies always came to a halt in the incompleteness of what they show and do.
Aside these various returns, the central composition in this exhibition is the new series Make this your Home. Created by digitally manipulated home sales advertising, these small-scale images were cut out from daily papers received by Cortes at home during 2020. These images depict the ambivalence of a period marked by the pandemic and the strengthening of the luxury real estate market as manifestations of a particular time in which the aspirational messages conveyed by these adds expose the conflict between the safety associated with the home and preservation (of the body) and the more commercial aspect of capitalist discourse. With this set of photographs, Cortes is interested in exploring the idea of everyday, but not necessarily domestic, space. A banality made of common objects and similar bodies shaped by the friction of movement and of a shared time.