Limbo is a sculpture in wood and plaster representing an aqueduct or waterway. It appears to be half way through its construction; the joins between the panels of wood and the nails used to hold them together are visible, giving the impression that the sculpture is unfinished or an architectural prototype. The title Limbo refers to a semi-state between two places. The work was originally made in 1990 but was destroyed due to poor storage conditions and water damage. It was subsequently remade by the artist for an exhibition in 2009, using the original specifications. Limbo belongs to a series of works that Pedro Cabrita Reis began to produce in the 1990s of fountains, canals and aqueducts. This body of work can be characterised as being large in scale, stark white and minimal in appearance.
Limbo’s formal properties highlight the interplay between sculpture and architecture. By re-interpreting and reducing an architectural structure to a gallery-based sculpture, the artist places the work in dialogue with art historical precedents such as minimalism and post-modernist sculpture. The architectural quality of Limbo also explores the occupation of space by the artwork and the viewer. Curator Peter Pakesch has noted about Cabrita Reis’s work, ‘he occupies space, comments on space, narrates space’ (Kunsthaus Graz 2008, p.7). The work physically demands space, as well as time spent in the gallery, in order to examine and experience it. Pakesh goes on to sum up this duality inherent in the work: ‘the questions that arise involve construction and deconstruction, continuity and dis-continuity, play and the opposite – in short, a symphony of visuality and spatiality’ (Kunsthaus Graz 2008, p.7).
Pedro Cabrita Reis’s art is characterised by the use of industrial materials and the theme of construction is a consistent motif in his sculpture. An encounter with his works often leaves the viewer uncertain as to whether or not they are completed art works. Critical discussion surrounding Cabrita Reis’s practice is often situated within a discourse about sculpture. However, according to the artist, his works should be read in relation to painting. In explaining this stance, he has stated:
I have extended painting to other levels, by doing sculptures, installations, appropriating space … the perception we have of them is built upon, and comes to us, as only painting could. When I use glass or fluorescent tubes, plaster, wood, steel or poured paint, it’s still about the vocabulary of painting. The materials I use, like glass for example, imply formal and conceptual qualities of transparency, opacity, light, verticality, dealing with, and incorporating in the way they are used, the lexicon of the classical approach to painting and I want to be understood as that.
(Quoted in Kunsthaus Graz 2008, p.35.)
Pedro Cabrita Reis: True Gardens, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthaus Graz 2008.
Pedro Cabrita Reis: One after Another, A Few Silent Steps, Ostfildern 2010.