Pedro Cabrita Reis

The Unnamed Word #1


Not on display

Pedro Cabrita Reis born 1956
2 metal scaffold towers, 62 florescent lights, painted glass, painted wood and electrical cable
Displayed: 2495 × 4340 × 1810 mm
Purchased with funds provided by EDP - Energias de Portugal, S.A. 2012


The Unnamed Word #1 is a large installation of two metal scaffold-like shelf units that are placed side by side. Fluorescent lights and sheets of painted and unpainted plastic animate the otherwise austere structure. The electric cables for the lighting are left visibly dangling down the sides of the structure and trail in a pile along the gallery floor. The work has an architectural appearance, resembling a scaled-down group of industrial buildings still under construction. There are four works in this series, numbered sequentially. Each uses similar materials to create structures of a similarly architectural nature, illuminated by fluorescent lighting. The title ‘Unnamed Word’ refers to theological discussions around the naming of God and, as with many of Cabrita Reis’s works, resists definitive interpretation, leaving the viewer to consider the relationship between the title and the work. This is a deliberate strategy throughout his practice. (The artist in conversation with Tate curator Kyla McDonald, November 2010.)

Since 2003 Cabrita Reis has worked with industrial materials, such as heavy steel bars and window frames, and many of his works incorporate fluorescent strip lighting. Like The Moscow Piece 2006 (Tate T13493) and Unframed #3 2008 (Tate T13650), The Unnamed Word #1 is characteristic of this body of work. The use of light is an important medium in Cabrita Reis’s production and is used frequently to divide, define and illuminate space. The theme of construction is a consistent motif in his art. 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.)

Further reading
Pedro Cabrita Reis: True Gardens, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthaus Graz 2008, reproduced p.108.
Pedro Cabrita Reis: One after Another, A Few Silent Steps, Ostfildern 2010, reproduced p.313.

Kyla McDonald
September 2010

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like

In the shop