Antonio Da Veiga Rocha


Antonio Da Veiga Rocha is an interdisciplinary artist and creative writer born in Lisbon, Portugal, and is of Cape Verdean descent. His creative work focuses on personal and shared histories and inquires about our current positions on remembrance and identity. Much of his writing is shared through spoken-word form and many of his exhibitions are performance based - in non-traditional art spaces. He is interested in post-surrealism and is active in discourses about immigration, longing and impermanent cultures.

Solo Shows
2007 The Middle Space. Quotidian Arts & Letter Residency Exhibition, Milwaukee, WI. – USA
Inverted Abyss. “The John Riepenhoff Experience.” The Green Galley, Milwaukee, WI – USA
Jettisoned Crew. Community College of Rhode Island, Lincoln Campus Gallery, Lincoln, RI – USA
2004 Developing Underdevelopments. New-Gen Gallery, Providence RI, USA
Selected Group Shows
2015 Sabadell Obert – Sabadell Museum – Sabadell, Barcelona - Spain
2012 Jettisoned Crew Dance Performance – NunArt Festival, Barcelona. Catalonia - Spain
2012 Internal Transmogrification (jump rope) – Accio Cultural Metropolitana – Nauestruch. Sabadell. Catalonia – Spain
2010 Internal Transmogrification (writings) – Online exhibition – Cape Verde
2008 Assomada to Praia, Diretu. CICER-08 Residency Exhibition. Palacio Di Cultura. Praia, Santiago – Cape Verde
Texturas Da Cidade. Fundacao Di Amilcar Cabral. Praia, Sao Tiago – Cape Verde
2007 “Platforming.” Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee, WI – USA
Here and There: Stories of Immigration. Art Works Gallery, New Bedford, MA. – USA
Urban Renewal. South Side Community Art Center. Chicago, IL – USA
Watching War. Brown University Gallery. East Providence, RI – USA
de/construct. 150 Gallery. Jewelry district, Down City, Providence, RI – USA
2006 Open Art. Studios Exhibition. Goldsmiths College, London – UK
Jettisoned Crew. Goldsmiths Masters in Fine Arts Degree Show, London –UK
2005 I’m Good at That. Tudor Road Gallery, London – UK
Goldsmiths Postgraduate Exhibition. Studio C, London – UK
I must defeat I must. AS220, Providence, Rhode Island – USA
2003 Accessions (featured visual artist). Century Lounge, Providence, Rhode Island – USA
Accessions Fashion Show. Providence, Rhode Island – USA
What Lies Be “N” eath – Visual Manifestations of a Troublesome Word. Foster-Tanner Gallery. Florida A&M University. Tallahassee, Florida – USA
2002 Human Conditions. Gallery I.N.S.A.N.E. Providence, Rhode Island – USA
Accessions (Performance Art). Century Lounge, Providence, Rhode Island – USA
BFA (Bachelor in Fine Arts) Show. Gallery 2, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL – USA
2004-2006Masters in Fine Arts, Goldsmiths College, University of London
1998-2002Bachelors in Fine Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

‘…the oceans offer 99% of the space where life can develop on earth… The deep sea, which has been immersed in total darkness since the dawn of time, occupies 85% of this space….’

-Jacques-Yves Cousteau-

To Swim a New Risk: Antonio Rocha’s Invitation to Meet a Jettisoned Crew in a Blended Space

-Sara Fowler-

Do black paintings open or close the discourse of the medium? Ad Reinhardt’s work argued the death of painting; black is the end of that. But stand in front of one of Antonio Rocha’s paintings and this postulate is reversed in a new and intricate blended space. Conditions of blackness are explored in terms of materiality, experience, culture, narrative and action through lenses of history and imagination. His interdisciplinary practice has given way to a thrilling proposition, this generously blended circumstance (what is an encounter with these paintings) is proving that black is a beginning. Look how much it can hold.

The input spaces pertaining to black and blackness that inform these paintings and create the metaphorical blends are both allusions and metaphors. They include imagined narrative and West African mythology, art historical precedent (black is death), materiality and the experience of looking at the piece, and the challenge and proposition that black can be an open space, can be and hold a beginning.

The subjects of these paintings are the spiritual lives of the Jettisoned Crew Casualties of the Slave Passage. It is a West African myth that the souls of those who commit suicide in the ocean persist in a writhing state of collective, perpetual unrest at the bottom of the sea. Although the histories of these real people has been obliterated Rocha honors the narrative of the ignored by imagining it anew, again. By beginning a new dialogue in and on Black through the language of painting, Rocha takes advantage of the capacity of blended space and takes responsibility of these possibilities.

Additionally, the narratives of this Jettisoned Crew are fleshed out in word. Rocha’s interdisciplinary program includes the composition of poetic profiles of these people. The results are specific and felt; in light of the abstract nature of the paintings and the experience the viewer is wrapped up in regarding how the picture and content reveals itself this profiling process expressly grounds the image and makes it accessible.

In considering the material choices of Rocha’s paintings the invitation stands to approach the black paint as a metaphor as well. The identity of the painter and a larger people is being talked about in terms of the manner in which all pigments are mixed together to make black. As in: experiences ad up and create meaning. That life is a mixture of important events and that Black can meet and encompass this variety leaves all the room in the world for creative imagination and further supports the painted proposition about black being a beginning.

In part these paintings come out of a critical discourse that can be traced to the work of Ad Reinhardt from the 1960’s. This man produced a body of “black” paintings that had to do with ideas of an absolute. A gesture in such terms is qualified as proposing the end of painting and perpetuates the standard metaphor Black is Death. Rocha’s stake in and experience with Black is altogether different from Reinhardt’s; he relates to this term on a more holistic level, taking into account the effects of nature, culture, and aesthetics/phenomenology when considering this color and state. His practice proposes a complete reconfiguration and reversal of this metaphor. Black is a Beginning. This is the source of his questions and answers.

Rocha’s Jettisoned Crew paintings are fascinating objects to behold. Additionally, his objective: to create a confrontational installation is an open challenge for the viewer to pass back and forth in front of and through the work (as though it is related to cinema and to a window). This process is in direct response to the materiality of the pieces. The way the pieces draw the viewer into a new world (that requires a compassionate suspension of disbelief and critical eye to fully engage) is only a result of our conceptual systems that are advanced enough to hold disparate inputs/images/ideas in mind so as to play - back in response to the choices the painter has made to propose his agenda. (Such is art.)

Created with flat latex paint, enamel exterior oil paint and collaged (canvas) elements on canvas there is literal play with depth and reflectivity that distinguishes a variety of textures, forms and spaces in the painting. But the image retains an abstract nature, at once indicating and illustrating the narrative of the Crew and maintaining a formal ambiguity conducive for establishing plural meanings in this blended space. In some pieces the abstraction gives way to a space that is primarily atmospheric and emotional; specific characters are more difficult to decipher however the charged uncertainty of the writhing ‘abyssal planes’ Rocha is (re)presenting gives way to an exciting, problematic space for the viewer to inhabit. In a painting like Mother Half Breed (2006), for example, the figure -ground compositional relationship is complicated through the overlapping of collaged forms that have a glossy and/or matte finish. The tumult of biomorphic forms - some sourcing vertebrae or seaweed - sets up a specific mood and space although the exact silhouette of the portrait (of the character after which the painting is named) is difficult to determine. To this end the pieces really do not risk redundancy but instead embody the proposition about black paintings being a plural, open-ended situation.

A metaphor that is taken for granted in many art practices and instances of art consumption has to do with the visual field. The notion of Seeing is Understanding is really wrapped up in ideas of representation and assertive imagination. In this case Rocha’s gift of a window into the deep is not easy because this act of seeing - that synthesizes disparate input spaces and provides the space for new understanding - is meant to be confrontational and political. It’s also wretched, considered and beautiful.

To the same end, another rich play occurring in Rocha’s project has to do with a visual field metaphor involving illumination, the relationship between lightness and darkness and seeing and understanding. Rocha calls up the problematic of the verbal as his paintings are capable of holding the multiple (literal and figurative) meanings of Black simultaneously in one image.

On this point the Jettisoned Crew themselves speak out poetically:

Some say we are the dark here. The fact that others can’t see, but we are just an element of truth, we have all always been dark. We just allow the assurance that darkness is not blackness, that one neglects sight while the other induces it.

Even though these lives in the paintings take place (in part) in a space where there is theoretically no light, the act of bringing the narratives out onto canvas is a gesture owed to Seeing is Understanding.

Identity vacillates in the paintings - between being a fictional and generative, contained narrative enacted by a set of imagined characters and an encompassing, confrontational narrative involving an optical experience in which the viewer is transported. Roles and space are problematized when an image is capable of delivering simultaneous questions in the form of a blend. And so Rocha maintains the postulate about black being a beginning, a new space for more understanding.

Water is ink, is skin, is liminal space, is deep, is a new dead, is black, is honor, is paint, is light.

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