What is art? What is design? What is a poster? Big questions, and pertinent ones too—with one designer boldly attempting to solve them (or at least, open up a big old discussion about them.) That brave person is Rita Matos, who’s based in Lisbon, Portugal, and recently held an exhibition of her personal work in order to root around in such tricky conundrums.
The show, held at the tail end of 2017 at the gallery FOCO, was curated by fellow Lisbonian Joana Portela, who describes it as “part of the desire to bond the universe of design with contemporary art, and to test the boundaries of typography into a more artistic purpose.” It marked Matos’ first solo show in a contemporary art gallery, and features more than 20 unique posters, in which she “has been searching and developing in an experimental way, as a freelancer and in collaboration with musicians and other designers close to her personal and professional circuit,” Portela says.
But why do we need to be examining such questions? From what Matos tells me, the exploration seems particularly pertinent in her home city, where she feels there’s a more pronounced divide between the worlds of art and design than there perhaps is elsewhere. “I’m not starting a movement or anything, but it does feel unusual to see a graphic design exhibition in this kind of contemporary art space in Lisbon,” says Matos. “Maybe in other places it wouldn’t be so unusual, but here it seems a little more odd, so I thought it would be fun.
“I also wanted to use the exhibition to make a statement, that it doesn’t always have to be about the same sort of artists, work, and moods. It was interesting to see a lot of people coming to the show, because suddenly you have a room with all the design people I work with, and my design friends; and also the people who are used to going to that gallery to see paintings and sculptures or something more ‘traditional.’ It was interesting to see these people in the same space, talking about whether it’s art or not. It was our intention to create that discourse.”