Joana Vasconcelos is a Paris-born, Portuguese artist. Her works vary between the ultra-girly, the dangerous and the statement making, with most being a combination of all three. Her feminist inspired, sometimes sexual pieces have been controversial at times. But the whimsical quality of her work is truly what sets Vasconcelos apart, with pieces like 2011’s “War Games”, a Morris Oxford outfitted with toy rifles and filled with plush animals, holding their own against pieces like 2010’s beautiful “Garden of Eden [Labyrinth]”. Material World, an overview of some of Vasconcelo’s work throughout the years, delves into this quality.

Material World is a collection of works Vasconcelos has created throughout her career. “Material Girl”, one of the frontal works of the exhibit, is a large-scale, eye-watering bright magenta piece that appears to be adorned with pearls and targets. With parts featuring twined rope and long fringe hanging in dips on other parts, the grand piece resembles something like a piñata. Also included in the exhibit is “Kromiusa”, which is what appears to be a brightly colored, knitted chandelier, ornamented with beads, sequins and tinsel. Each section of the chandelier is its own unique creation, making for a wildly distinctive piece. Vasoncelos’ animal works too have their place in the exhibit. The animals, which range from frogs to horses, are realized in ceramic and covered in hand-knit crochet. This gives them a beautifully delicate look, taking a bit of fear out of a menacing bull and providing a sense of calm to a howling wolf. Additionally featured are some of Vasoncelo’s “crochet paintings”, which consist of knitted forms in a frame. “Heart Break”, which bursts out of its gilded ornamental frame, is layered with bright white heart lights that give a sense of feeling to the work.

Vasoncelos’ playful yet moving work deserves its moment in the spotlight. Material World runs until August 28th at Phillips, London.

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