The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is presenting the works of Portuguese artist, Alexandre Estrela, in the fourth floor studio, from November 4th 2023 to January 7th 2024. This exhibition, titled Flat Bells, is a first for Estrela in New York; his works have previously been featured at venues such as Travesía Cuatro in Mexico City in 2022.

Estrela was inspired to create Flat Bells after finding a set of old 1980s-era printing plates which had been left over in an abandoned press not far from his former Lisbon studio. These remnants of a past age evoked for him the “waning legacy of modernism,” intriguing as unintended expressions of geometric abstraction and as technologically obsolete objects from the early period of an incipient digital age. He repurposed these objects into an art installation consisting of four engraved hanging screens and a large-scale centerpiece projection.

One of the qualities that Estrela uncovered when handling these printing plates is that, when “played” as a gong or a bell, they emit a clear sound. Flat Bells plays these sounds off the screens using an algorithmically-generated pattern which the artist has integrated into this work, creating an ever-shifting rhythmic dialogue of tempo, color, and timbre in the studio.

Estrela draws observers to immerse themselves in this innovative soundscape, surrounded by video animations which emphasize the dual nature that these metal screens possess – serving both as projection screens and acoustic elements. The artist has drawn on his long experience of self-generating artworks, ranging from automated computer graphics to kinetic sculpture to urge us to consider forms of artificial life and to ask timely questions about whether objects have agency and how we, as humans, perceive them.

This exhibition was organized by Sophie Cavoulacos, Associate Curator in the Department of Film together with May Makki, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented as part of The Hyundai Card Performance Series, with funding provided by the Jill and Peter Kraus Endowed Fund for Contemporary Exhibitions. More information about this exhibition and other events at MoMA can be found here and here.

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