Mauro Cerqueira
Casas num Beco
18.04. - 23.06.2024

The open doorway is a time machine

In an audio message, Mauro Cerqueira recalled the whistles that beckoned him onto the street in his childhood. As if it were my own, a memory of distant sounds of boys exhaling air through their lips, like birds calling out to friends for a stroll, was crafted. Voices of youth, once lost in the inhospitable recesses of memory, echoed forth, along with the sound of the ball hitting their ankles. From this audio message, emerged a time when the city's sonic landscape was not as hostile as the constant cacophonous hum of construction machinery — like the one heard as I write.

The open doorway of Mauro Cerqueira's studio is a time machine capable of reconstructing this memory that persists deep in the mind, almost turned into fiction now. Through it, the street permeates his work, contrary to the notion of the hermetic studio, outside of time and space. Reconnecting with an experience of the public space practically extinct, from the malodorous alleys to the lives that occupy the streets in ghostly wanderings, the material of his practice is the everyday life of the forgotten corners of the city of Porto. Within them, objects are gathered for his creation, the substrate that nourishes a wavering relationship, simultaneously affectionate and rebellious, with the reality that surrounds him.

For many years, his work has been witnessing the transformations that time imposes on these spaces—sometimes as a nearly silenced eyewitness, portraying life "out there" with unparalleled frankness, and at other times, stemming from an insurgent impulse and acute criticality. In the series of painting-collages presented in the exhibition "Casas num Beco," real estate signs that fiercely populate the streets of Porto are stolen from the balconies of houses to be transformed through pictorial gestures. Through appropriation and artistic intervention, these objects are removed from their usual circulation in public space to the walls of the gallery, undergoing a radical semantic revaluation. Upon their surfaces, assemblages are also created, incorporating metal chains, wire strands, small shards of glass, pieces of plastic—"treasures" left behind in the ebb and flow of the street—along with quick sketches, drawn on improvised canvases made from packaging materials and scraps of wood.

Sublimated within the aesthetic the experience of contemporary cities, which are increasingly consumed by real estate speculation and gentrification, makes the language created by Mauro Cerqueira border on universalism. This is evident in the film "Soltar a Cadeia," which, when exhibited in MALA, serves as a mirror pointed toward the street. Brought into this space, the boarded-up storefronts of the Ajuda neighborhood become part of it, as do the houses with dust-covered curtains due to abandonment, the stifling afternoons under obscured sun, the muffled barks of dogs at distance, and the tourists with vacant expressions who traverse as if they belonged to the scenery.

Privileged by the direct link that this exhibition space maintains with the street, the film inaugurates a dialogical relationship that blurs the boundaries between the impassive portrait of Porto, created just over a decade ago, and the obscure shadow that clouds the tomorrows of Lisbon's neighborhoods. However, even as it touches a sore spot left in the social fabric of cities, the vision proposed by the work is not moralistic; rather, it is a wager on the relentless force of reality.

In the reminiscences of the streets, Mauro Cerqueira makes abrupt gestures upon materials, operates incisions on posters, and wanders with a scrutinizing gaze in the surroundings of his studio, coexisting with the inherent ambiguities of life in a city that reveals itself as increasingly hostile. Striking a very fragile balance between the expression of latent anger and affectionate nostalgia, "Casas num Beco" convulses the idea of time travel—harkening back to the past of the streets as spaces of camaraderie and the manifestation of a lost liberty, while painting an opaque layer that obscures the horizon of the future.

Paula Ferreira

Mauro Cerqueira lives and works in Porto, where he maintains the artist-run project "Uma Certa Falta de Coerência" (A Certain Lack of Coherence). His work has been exhibited in numerous national and international institutions, including: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Museu Coleção Berardo, Caixa Cultural do Rio de Janeiro, Sala de Arte Santander, Centro Federico Garcia Lorca, La Casa Encendida, MAC Elvas, CAV Coimbra, Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Vigo, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Galeria Nuno Centeno, Galeria Graça Brandão, Casa Triângulo, Palais Carli Marseille e Galeria Nogueras Blanchard.

The exhibition Casas num Beco by Mauro Cerqueira is part of Futuros da Liberdade, with support by:

Photo: Beatriz Pereira, Courtesy of Mala, Galeria Nuno Centeno and the artist.