Considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain, for over four decades Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona, 1942) has been creating projects that foment critical reflection about key issues in the configuration of contemporary experience. His aim is to detect and decode the control and power mechanisms through which hegemonic ways of seeing are built, exploring the decisive role played by the mass media in this process. In his works, which always have a clear processual dimension and often make a direct call for viewer participation, Muntadas uses a number of media, languages and discursive strategies, from interventions in public space to video and photography, from the publication of printed material to the use of Internet and the new digital tools, from multimedia installations to the organisation of multidisciplinary, collaborative research projects.
Having studied primary structures at the Computing Centre in Madrid, Soledad Sevilla (1944) creates installations that transform geometry into a subtle reflection on experience, matter, colour and light, intersecting sensitive and specific elements in her sculptures. Written on the celestial bodies, her largest work to date, is a site-specific piece that reproduces the vault of the Palace itself, recreating the image of the night sky.
The exhibition Locus Solus. Impressions de Raymond Roussel is dedicated to the body of work by the French novelist and poet and its influence on modern and contemporary art. Roussel (1877-1933) was the author of a literary opus made up of rich worlds, filled with spectacle, masks and phantasmagoria and built around the mechanisms and double entendres found in language. In its consideration of Roussel, Locus Solus is also taking a furtive glance at the history of 20th century art.
Multifaceted and complex, the work of René Daniëls (Eindhoven, Holland, 1950) reactivates and reformulates certain key elements of the historical avant-garde movements, attempting to connect the visual arts to literature and to daily life. Irony, ambiguity and double-entendre play a major role in his work, which is also rife with the frictions between abstraction and figuration, between reality and representation. Closer to René Magritte, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers than to the neoexpressionist artists of the 1980s with whom he is frequently associated, Daniëls understands painting to be something like fleece, like a play of appearances and disappearances, while at the same time believing that a work of art cannot be detached from its social context and that artists must avoid any inclination towards hermeticism and self-absorption.
Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), who identified with arte povera early in his career but soon distanced himself from this movement, was a prolific, unclassifiable artist who, trying to avoid any form of artistic self absorption, explored different modes and degrees of collaboration throughout his career. His oeuvre can be placed within the context of relational aesthetics and in his art notions such as multiplicity, duality and division play a key role (thus his decision in 1972 to starting signing his work Alighiero e Boetti) and a balance is sought between the intellectual and the sensible, order and disorder, individuality and collectivity. Fusing conceptual rigour, a vocation towards the experimental and a playful spirit, Boetti always allows chance and coincidence to influence his work. His work, strongly poetic and iconic, uses a wide range of techniques and tools – from drawing and painting to mail art or the production of handicrafts – and it conceives of the spectator as an accomplice or even a playmate.
This exhibition features a selection of magazines acquired on the occasion of the exhibition A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker-Photography Movement, 1926-1939. The magazines show the link between documentary expression and working-class consciousness, exploring the importance of images in the founding of a new political and social ideal and suggesting that the struggle for power begins with the struggle for representation.
The work of Elena Asins (Madrid, 1940) reflects both the constructive tradition of 20th century avant-garde movement and as well as practices arising out of the computation and information theory of the 1960s.
In the tradition of the Flemish primitives, the body of work by Lili Dujourie (Roeselare, Belgium, 1941) establishes an intellectual and sensory connection with the viewer, at the same time that it presents a critical reflection on specific ideas and categories in art history.
The sculptural interventions of Leonor Antunes (Lisbon, 1972) build their meaning from within their dense materiality, without making reference to a specific symbolic content, transforming the places in which they are installed and making visible the tensions and energy that exist in such places. Her work vindicates the material autonomy of forms and also a certain autonomy of meaning, the strength of the pure gesture. Notions such as measure, scale or proportion also play a key role. For Antunes, who lives and works in Berlin, restriction is something that articulates her proposal. Like artists such as Duchamp,
The work of Lygia Pape (1927-2004) arose in a setting very much characterised by a spirit of renewal. In Brazil, one of the most innovative art contexts in the second half of the 20th century, the tensions inherent in the arrival of modernism coexisted with the opposite extreme: dictatorships, false economic miracles and cultural movements based on local considerations, yet doomed to live in exile.
The work of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (Matsumoto, 1929) unfolds in the international art scene that began at the end of the 1950s and is the origin of today's globalisation. Her career, spanning almost six decades, started with her earliest solo exhibitions at the age of just 23, in Japan. She crossed international borders in 1958, heading for New York, which by that time was the unquestioned epicentre of art worldwide.
The art of Leon Golub (Chicago, 1922 - New York, 2004) challenges the dominant model of the development of art from the 1950s onward. Oblivious to the media experimentation taking place in most artistic production during these decades, Golub's work is based on a pictorial renovation in which genres believed to be exhausted, such as historical painting or portraits, once again show unexpected expressive and critical capacity.