João Louro (b.1963) is one of the most original Portuguese artists of his generation. One of the best, I venture. “ABOUT TODAY” is the individual exhibition that zet gallery thought and created with him and that shows the premonitory and reflective character of his work. In a selection of about ten and a half works, produced between 1995 and 2019, in its generality of exclusively display (or almost), and which call for different media, although it cannot be denied that the two-dimensionality and pictorial nature of painting are the guidelines of the proposals, the exhibition reflects a universe of personal references by an artist who has long been used to his questions and his restless and attentive gaze on the world. The time interval is, in fact, given by “História do Crime” (History of Crime), a work that is almost an anthology of the importance of manipulation and the use of the word in all its visual production. That is why we dedicated a room to the collection of works in this series or were it not a path of almost a quarter of a century. João Louro, one might say, likes enigmas and to invest his creations with reading layers that allow freeing the difference that Michel Foucault (1926-1984) spoke of:
In order to liberate difference, we need a thought without contradiction, without dialectic, without negation; a thought which says yes to divergence; an affirmative thought of which the instrument is disjunction; a though of the multiple – of dispersed and nomadic multiplicity that is not limited or confined by constraints of similarity; a thought that does not obey the academic model (that falsifies the already made answer), but that addresses insoluble problems, that is, a multiplicity of extraordinary points that are discovered as their conditions are distinguished and that insists, subsists, in a replay game.
João Louro has an academic background in architecture and painting and when he uses photography, installation or expansion of his objects to a third dimension, he is permanently relating to the space-time that contextualizes the action and the moment and, above all, his thinking. Idea-art, concept-art, in their minimal expression, are starting points, but the arrival is on the spectator. It is he who concludes the work, who defines it, who interprets it and makes it extrapolate the hermetic space of the studio where it was born. Looking at João Louro’s work is a full invitation to emancipation and his images are thoughtful, starting this time from Jacques Rancière (b.1940):
Supposedly an image does not think. We commonly assume that an image is just an object of thought. Thus, a thoughtful image is an image that contains unthought thought, a thought that is not susceptible of being attributed to the intention of the one who produces it and that has an effect on the one who sees it, without it linking it to a specific object.
The art of the aesthetic era did not fail to bet on the possibility that each medium could offer to mix its effects with the effects of others, to assume its role and thus create new figures, awakening sensitive possibilities that had been exhausted. The new techniques and supports offer unprecedented possibilities for such metamorphoses. The image will not stop being thoughtful so quickly.
João Louro’s artworks, his images, are thoughtful, thinking, true philosophical theories. Not only do they contain the author’s semiotics, but they actively challenge us. There is no possible passivity in the dynamic contemplation that we do and each one is a possibility for learning, for reflection and, in many cases, if not all, there is the premonitory sense as the one we see in the work “The Plagues“, from 2001. In the year of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, a turning point in the history of mankind, João Louro makes the prognosis, if we want, of what culminates in this strange year of 2020. But the future lasts a long time, we need to believe that it is true, and it is in justifying the metaphor that we confront the plagues with yet another work in which words hide references and other authors. “L’Avenir Dure Longtemps”, from 2003/4, borrows a name from a book by Louis Althusser (1918-1990) that constitutes a kind of autobiography of a philosopher, French but of Algerian origin, associated with Structural Marxism.
“ABOUT TODAY” is born from this first awareness of João Louro’s journey: his chilling contemporaneity, given, on the one hand, by the reading and use he makes of the means and technologies that his time puts at his disposal, which makes him travel between pure painting exercises and works in which he uses light, as is the case of the work “Love” and that corresponds to one of his paths and explorations in recent years; and, on the other, for the relevance of their thematic suggestions. I would venture to quote the song by “The Beatles” that tells us that love is all we need (“All You Need Is Love / Love is All You Need”). And speaking of songs, “About Today” is the title of a song by “The National”, released in 2004, in which the story of a couple, like so many others, who was distracted from love in the comfort and everyday accommodation, and lost the affections, the urgency to take care. Love, liquid or not – in the recovery of the vision of Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) – is the theme of all human existence, transversal to each and every one of us and, therefore, it is always current, from now and in the morning.
In her “Misunderstanding in Moscow”, written around 1967, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) approaches the cause of “The National”:
“Is it true what they say that we can’t communicate, that nobody understands anyone?” Nicole asked herself. She looked at André, sitting on the Macha’s divan, with a glass of vodka in her hand, and thought that she had to review all their common past. They had lived with their backs to each other, each for themselves, ignoring each other instead of being united, transparent. Before leaving the room that morning, André looked at her hesitantly, wanting to give her an explanation. She had opened the door, he had followed her, and in the taxi, they remained silent. There were no explanations to give. The words would shock against that anger, that pain, that hardened heart. How much neglect, how much indifference! In front of Macha, both represented a polite farce throughout the day. How am I supposed to tell him that I’m leaving before André?
On one of the visits I made to his atelier, in Lisbon, at the moment we chose the works that would be part of the exhibition, João Louro tells me that he wants to dedicate this exhibition to Women. Crossing this idea with my musical reference, mentioned above, we choose the works together, having privileged some that were withdrawn in the intimacy of the artist and that had not yet had the opportunity of emancipation, of being thought, with the public. Among them is one of those that was in Venice, in 2015, when the artist represented Portugal in the oldest Biennial in the world and, without a doubt, in the most relevant event of the global contemporary art system. We chose “Cover #18 (Dylan Thomas)” for the symbology of the trip and for expressing the path of excellence of an artist with hundreds of exhibitions held, represented in the most important collections, public and private, in Portuguese context and abroad. And we returned to focus on Women and the rest of Humanity. It is for this reason that “ABOUT TODAY” is the exhibition that, since April 2014, most changed the white cube which is the zet gallery and that everything starts in a huge blue corridor where “Et Dieu Créa la Femme”, 2011, announces, above all, that women created God. Let’s go back to philosophy to engage in the curatorial exercise.
In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published “The Second Sex”, an existentialist work in which, for the first time, the condition of women is addressed, seeking the introduction of a moral revolution that would promote female economic independence and gender equality in the access to education and the content of that education. In this work, the French philosopher openly addressed issues related to female sexuality and was a reference for a vast number of women’s liberation and emancipation movements across the West. Despite the conservatism of American society at the time, the book was quickly translated into English and published in the USA where, in 1947, Simone de Beauvoir had spent 116 days, having travelled through 19 states and 56 cities and carried out a series of lectures, especially in academic contexts, in which she also addressed these themes. The work would make its way and induce a revolution, also feminine, in progress and whose contours would reach a climax in the conquest of freedoms, rights and guarantees in the late 1960s. In Portugal, we would need the end of a dictatorship to feel its effect, but, as we know, the profound emancipation is yet to come, with an uneven domestic daily life, in general, and with a weak concrete expression of the woman-leader, with few impacts on professional contexts and not representative of what they are today, for example, the reality of universities and their best.
In 1956, the French director Roger Vadim (1928-2000) presents, in an Italian-French production, “Et Dieu… créa la femme”, the film that catapults to the stardom, Brigitte Bardot (b.1934) that plays the young Juliette, whose sexual desires are on edge. Bardot presents herself as a sex-symbol, full of awareness of her body and her power, not letting the camera film her as the origin of evil, the original sin that distorts man from his path. We remember her dancing barefoot on the table and the face of the character Michel Tardieu (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) perspiring and salivating. The scene is considered one of the most erotic in the history of cinema until then. The film was censored in many countries of Catholic tradition, causing an immense controversy. In the United States of America, the work was even condemned by the League of Catholic Decency, so is not surprising that, in 1955, the naive lifting of the dress of Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), in Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch”, much more contained than BB’s choreography the following year, has been the subject of an equivalent scandal. “Et Dieu… créa la femme” was, despite censorship, a huge box office success, as well as “The Seven Year Itch”. It was the woman-object, the sex-symbol woman, the woman-body, which pop art will help to accentuate, as a kind of first and dangerous step towards such emancipation. The first corsets that burst, although keeping their attention on the beautiful and making these women eunuchs of thought, beings of not considered intellect. We will have to wait for Jean-Luc Godard (b.1930) for the protagonist woman to be filmed from her point of view and with a focus on raising awareness of her social condition and the urgency of repositioning her role in the society that was being built.
João Louro makes us think about all this and the hidden semiotics of the works, of a more minimal tendency, which he presents in this exhibition, inscribes us in subtle messages. “From Left to Right #7”, “Clockwise from Abose #2” and “Blind Image #221” are three acrylic works on plexiglass that complete the alphabet.
“ABOUT TODAY” by João Louro is our way of saying goodbye to this tremendous year of 2020 and entering 2021 with one of the best. It was a war and the “Arte” (art), a 1995 work that starts the “História do Crime” (History of Crime) series, was our weapon. For this reason and finally, a reference to another war, this time to World War I with the work “Le Mort Homme #1” that takes us to Cumières-le-Mort-Homme, a commune in the east of France that, after the Battle of Verdun, in 1916, was completely destroyed and uninhabited. An omen of the end. Or not. The human being is made of scars and we still had to mention one more unprecedented, which we expose here, in Braga, through our hands: “Man Is a Being Made of Scars”, from 2017. But, as Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) wrote: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.”
Helena Mendes Pereira
 FOUCAULT, Michel – Nietzsche, Freud and Marx. Theatrum Philosoficum. Porto: Anagrama publications, 1980. Page 63.
 RANCIÈRE, Jacques – The Emancipated Spectator. Lisbon: Orpheu Negro, 2010. Pages 157 and 190.
 BEAUVOIR, Simone – Misunderstanding in Moscow. Lisbon: Quetzal Editores, 2015. Page 75.