The Modern Collection presents the first retrospective exhibition devoted to the painter José Escada (Lisbon, 1934–1980). This exhibition shines a spotlight on an artist who produced a highly unique body of work that continuously oscillated from abstraction to figuration, and moved between painting, drawing, collage, cut-out reliefs and illustration, as well as painted and sgraffito murals.
The start of José Escada’s artistic career in the mid-1950s was marked by great promise, intense activity and collaborations with architects, often within the context of MRAR, the Movement for the Renewal of Religious Art. He also collaborated on magazines and journals, both as an illustrator and as the author of interesting critical texts on contemporary art and artistic education in Portugal.
Between January 1960 and December 1961 he began living in Paris on a grant awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. During this time, he intensified his forays into abstraction and was also active in the KWY group with his compatriots René Bértholo, Lourdes Castro, António Costa Pinheiro, Gonçalo Duarte, João Vieira and the international artists Christo and Jan Voss.
His Parisian period, which continued until 1971 and was the longest and most active phase of his artistic career, also saw him create dense and complex figurations of outlined figures. This, in turn, led him to produce three-dimensional cut-outs and collages, some of which have a Pop aesthetic. In the 1970s, he intensified his work around representations of the afflicted, oppressed and, finally, liberated body – a political body in union with the history of a country which, in 1974, threw off the shackles of a dictatorial regime.
Towards the end of the decade, shortly before his premature death, José Escada´s work tended to focus on more figurative and autobiographical themes; genuine testimonies to the simultaneously tragic and poetic condition of the man and his oeuvre.
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