A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker Photography Movement, 1926-1939 examines the period during the history of 20th century photography in which photography joined forces with various worker movements (ranging from trade unionism to the creation of “workers' states” like the Soviet one), motivated by growing working-class consciousness and the idea of taking over the means of production and reproduction of images. By looking at the artistic avant-garde in its interconnection with the political avant-garde, this exhibition challenges hegemonic historiography that focuses primarily on other movements arising in the history of photography, such as the New Vision. The exhibition displaces the importance of mechanical vision and instead considers photography's relationship with social movements, shifting the debate toward photography as a document. It presents photographs (many of which are vintage copies), films and other documents, with special attention being paid to periodicals, the fundamental medium for the circulation of images and the ideas associated with them during these years.
The work of Roberto Jacoby (Buenos Aires, 1944) moves constantly through areas on the very edge of artistic production. Ever since his early years as an artist linked with the famous Instituto Di Tella, which led to the mythical and revolutionary Tucumán Arde (1968), his work has been understood as a never-ending expansion of the notion of artistic activity. Among other tasks, he has written lyrics for the well-known glam rock group, Virus, he has studied sociology and political theory and he has worked as a theatre critic and as a journalist for the underground press. Such versatility has made systematic exhibition of his work a complicated endeavour, something to which this exhibition hopes to put an end.
In large part the work by Asier Mendizabal (Ordizia, 1973) history ceases to be a practice connected to the past and instead reveals the cracks through which history becomes an activity intimately linked to the present. His enigmatic work, not easily deciphered, turns anecdotes into an event that makes the past current; a past in which the history of art and the ideology of shape have a fundamental weight that refers back to their link with social groups and their use as a tool for identification, glorification or repudiation. The media he uses, even considering the weight of Basque sculpture over the 20th century, reveal a range of resources that suggest readings far from reflection on space or the artistic medium and that are thus presented in a way that rejects all metaphysics.
For over a decade, the artist Dorit Margreiter (Vienna, 1967) has been reflecting on modern architecture, on its preservation and its destruction, and on the relationship between visual systems and the economic and social contexts of architecture. Her activity shows a connection with that of a generation of Austrian artists, such as Florian Pümhosl, Martin Beck and Mathias Poledna, who, with the specific condition of the artistic medium as their point of departure, meditate on recent history and on the social and political weight of modernity, thus diluting its formal specificity.
Miroslaw Balka (Warsaw, 1958) came to maturity at a time when certain factions in his native Poland, notably elements in the Catholic Church and in Solidarity, the independent trade union, were beginning to confront the repressive Soviet regime that had prevailed since the end of the Second World War. In the mid-1980s he graduated from the conservative Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw with a body of work that obliquely referenced this turbulent socio-political context. A number of related figurative sculptures, that included Black Pope and Black Sheep, 1987, soon followed. By the beginning of the Nineties, as a more liberal, democratic climate evolved in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Balka’s work underwent a marked change. An abstract iconography, that related to the body through forms of measurement and proportion, replaced the representational imagery he had formerly favoured. Although space as much as the objects that occupy it now became a primary preoccupation, his abiding concerns have nonetheless remained constant: above all, an acuity to the ways that history shapes and governs the present. Since he feels the weight of history as an inevitability, his work is imbued with its shifting valencies. Everyday I walk in the paths of the past, he said in a recent interview, contemporary time does not exist (1).
Atlas is a proposal to put the frame of thought introduced by German art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) into the context of historical knowledge and images. This is not a monographic exhibition on Warburg, but a journey through the history of images from 1914 until the present day, where warburgism constitutes the genius loci.
Designed in close collaboration with the artist, this retrospective exhibition is the first presentation in Spain of the work by Jean-Luc Mylayne (Marquise, France, 1946). For thirty years the artist has devoted himself with tenacious rigour to the photography of birds. Each of his large format images presents common birds (robins, swallows) in their natural habitat. The images are scrupulously theatrical, never random and sometimes made with lenses manufactured according to his specifications in order to create a complex spatial field. His approach combines an accurate conception with formal acuity and infinite patience.
Filmmaker, inventor, poet, graphic artist and hard-to-classify artist, José Val del Omar (Granada, 1904 - Madrid, 1982) is very closely linked to the medium of film as a cursed creator, an eccentric in the context of Spanish film making which does not favour experimentation; over time he has gradually become a cult figure. Val del Omar largely devotes himself to technological explorations, both in aspects concerning cinema as well as the challenges posed in his time (sound film, embossed, colour, widescreen, etc.), such as electro-acoustics, radio, television and educational applications of audio-visual media. Some of his inventions seek practical solutions in Franco's Spain, others venture into the notion of total spectacle, with an unusual visionary instinct, like the overflow of the screen and the pursuit of an acoustic and visual Cubism through diaphonic sound, all involving, and "tactile-vision", with techniques based on pulsed illumination.
Under the premise that the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is an exhibition, collection and communication space, during autumn of 2010 a project is developed and produced involving four artists who intervene in the relationship between the Museum and the public. To do this, their creations occupy a series of spaces that do not normally exhibit work.
This exhibition includes Hans Peter Feldmann’s (Dusseldorf, Germany, 1941) most representative works, from the Seventies until today. Fascinated by the few images that he found around him during the German post-war period, he begins to collect them, cut them out and stick them in albums, something he continues to do. From his earliest pieces, Feldmann organises his images into series and the effect his collection produces is abundant, which leads him to produce numerous series of photographs such as the Time series where he collects, like film photo stills, trivial facts. There is not normally anything extraordinary in them, only the invisible flow of time which has been stopped in order to be examined. Feldmann subsequently expands his reflection in the book 100 Years, a series of 101 photographic portraits of his family or friends who are aged between eight months and 100 years. Feldmann presents images that are materially poor and aesthetically undefined, as if he wanted to force the limits of their expressive qualities, facing social space covered with superlative images and touched up to encourage consumption.
The exhibition held at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicated to Ibon Aranberri (Itziar-Deba, 1969) at the Benedictine Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos), is inspired by the collective memory of humans and analyses how cultural heritage is transformed by history and our industrial culture.
Jessica Stockholder (Seattle, United States, 1959) is one of the most influential sculptors of her generation. Her work spans over three decades and is characterised by a commitment to colour and materials. The interpretation of objects has become the distinguishing feature of Stockholder’s creations, as she participates both in the spheres of conceptualisation and construction, through associations between the recognisable and the abstract.
The heterogeneous proposals of Antoni Miralda’s (Tarrasa, 1942) productions included in this retrospective exhibition, claim knowledge and experiences of other cultures from different perspectives. His artistic production is perishable by nature and develops in spaces outside the art circuit. This artist has investigated the ephemeral art of food for more than four decades. Miralda uses a vibrant and inclusive language, extremely humorous and based on the celebration of the senses. His pieces lack a material presence, he gives them a transient nature and leads them to a collective space, bringing them closer to spectator participation. Many of his actions are documented only in photographs, videos and films.
The exhibition New Realisms: 1957-1962 focuses on one of the most important periods of changes in art during the twentieth century, beginning with the completion of Modernism and ending during the peak of Postmodernism. This period brings together a heterogeneous multiplicity of decisive manifestations and creates a new discourse on art and its contexts, leaving Abstraction and the mastery of painting behind. At this time interest shifts from the conventional art object to processes, while questioning the production systems and the consumption of art; the foundations for a great change in the paradigms of art during the sixties are laid.
Photography and Related Practices 1970s to the present
The use of images of the New York from early deindustrialisation and abandonment of the city during the Seventies are juxtaposed in, and exposed to, the counterpoint of more recent works by artists who, fully aware of the practices of their predecessors, continue finding an aesthetic potential in this area. Mixed Use, Manhattan is based on atime when the city served as an experimentation workshop. In this place fundamental artistic aspects intertwine, such as the future of the performing arts or the relationship between work and exhibition spaces, with other high social significance, such as sexual identity, socialisation modes and uses of public space.
Realismos entre XIX y XXI (Tributo a Juan Antonio Ramírez)
In their efforts to distance themselves from a linear narrative of modernity, The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía addresses the Museum's vision as not merely a container of objects, but as an entity capable of producing new discourses for their Collection and generating new knowledge. For this reason through Two Different Readings of the Collection, two exhibitions have opened at the same time about the meaning of collecting and relating the Museum's Collection from two different points of view. Artists Rosa Barba and Juan Luis Moraza, have made an exhaustive study on the Museum's Collection to then choose a selection of works which can offer the public two alternative visions and proposals on the Collection.
Sobre el futuro de la fuerza colectiva dentro del archivo
In their efforts to distance themselves from a linear narrative of modernity, The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía addresses the Museum's vision as not merely a container of objects, but as an entity capable of producing new discourses for their Collection and generating new knowledge. For this reason through Two Different Readings of the Collection, two exhibitions have opened at the same time, about the meaning of collecting and relating the Museum's Collection from two different points of view. Artists Rosa Barba and Juan Luis Moraza, have made an exhaustive study on the Museum's collection to then choose a selection of works which can offer the public two alternative visions and proposals on the Collection.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
Modern art’s origins have been consistently placed during the rupture with traditional art forms emerging in the late nineteenth century. This has resulted in the fact that European history's inseparability from its colonies, and therefore, centre-periphery relations, has been ignored since the sixteenth century. Principio Potosí a project that rethinks the origins and expansion of modernity based on colonial baroque painting and on colonisation processes. The exhibition establishes a dialogue between the work produced ex profeso various international artists, with numerous colonial baroque art works from between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries that come from mainly Bolivian and Spanish convents, churches, archives and museums.
This exhibition narrates the unpredictable deviations of the many alternative architectural models in Latin America from the mid-twentieth century, confronting the official stance marked by a neo-colonial and Eurocentric discourse. The exhibition facilitates the comprehension of the avant-garde as an attitude that is open to differences, from the recognition of heterogeneity and otherness, not as a judgement of imported and imposed standards.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía offers this retrospective exhibition, the first of its kind in a European institution, of the remarkable drawings by Martín Ramírez (Tepatitlán de Morelos, Mexico, 1895 - Auburn, USA, 1963), considered one of the most notable masters of self-taught art in the 20th century. Ramirez, interned in numerous California psychiatric wards, produced some astonishing work with pictorial materials he himself made. His oeuvre explores the unique iconography that alludes to the bizarre nature between two worlds - the origin of rural and indigenous Mexico and the destination of the USA in a process of full industrial development. His drawings intimate certain narrative and autobiographical elements that preserve his identity and give meaning to an interior and exterior world in crisis.
In The Friar’s Doodle (2010),Tacita Dean (Canterbury, United Kingdom, 1965) portrays the doodles and graffiti that surround the colonnade of the Romanesque cloister of the Abbey de Silos and offers an image of what the monks may have drawn along the centuries. For the first time in this 13-minute, 16mm colour film, Dean uses a rostrum camera to produce animated images in which she closely follows the squiggly drawings - a contrast from the static images that characterise her work. The obstinate way in which Dean uncovers the original image underlines the necessary processes of discovery to decipher the scene as a whole, without letting the camera move back to show the composition in its entirety.
The Palacio de Cristal opened in 1887 with an exhibition on wildlife from the Philippines that formed part of a broader project dedicated to the then important Spanish colony. La saison des fêtes (The Season of Festivities) by Pierre Huyghe (Paris, 1962) was devised especially for the space, freely encompassing and framing its history and past uses. The original exhibition featured exuberant tropical plants with a colonialist ideology behind them; Huyghe's conception, however, distances itself from a strictly Eurocentric perspective.
This exhibition, entitled Retrospección (Hindsight) in reference to the collective vision in the career of Thomas Schütte (Oldenburg, Germany, 1954), spans thirty years and represents his permanent investigations through a critical dialogue with art of the past. Schütte's powerful aesthetics are based on advancing by looking back, subverting the previous modes of his own creation or borrowing from other cultures and other times.
Mario García Torres (Monclova, Mexico, 1975) is one of the most internationally renowned Latin American artists. This is his first individual exhibition in a Spanish institution, and, following a rigorous three-year research process, this Mexican artist living in Los Angeles unearths a new chapter in the intriguing relationship certain artists have with history.
Francisco López (Madrid, 1964) is one of the key exponents of experimental and electroacoustic music. His sound installations acknowledge the power of sound to transcend the perception and emotions of the people that participate in them. López has created Sin título #223 (Untitled #223) for the Museo Reina Sofía, a piece of sound art with specific sounds for a place with metal walls and ceilings and unusual dimensions - it is located in an unorthodox place in the Museo, in a metal corridor in the Edificio Nouvel. López has chosen the location for its acoustic conditions and installs a sound system that invites visitors to become submerged in a virtual sound world with extreme contrasts. He favours the exploration of sound as well as our own interior, hence the rejection of visual aspects as he leaves the installation in almost complete darkness, enabling him to penetrate a “virtual reality of sound” in a kind of ritual that is both collective and individual.
León Ferrari (Buenos Aires, 1920) and Mira Schendel (Zürich, Switzerland, 1919 - Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1988), are two of the twentieth century's most preeminent Latin American artists. El alfabeto enfurecido: León Ferrari y Mira Schendel (The Frenzied Alphabet: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel) is the first retrospective exhibition of their work in Spain. Without meeting one another, Ferrari and Schendel work in Argentina and Brazil respectively, both converging through their work as they advocate the presence of language as visual material and content. In contrast to conceptual artists, who focus on the ideal leading role of language, Ferrari and Schendel do not use this language in their works to produce art as an idea, but rather to express its particular materiality, employing it as a physical medium that can be moulded and sculpted.
The exhibition on Georges Vantongerloo (Antwerp, Belgium, 1886 - Paris, 1965) reveals the influence in his work of the re-conceptualisation of pictorial and sculptural space in abstract art at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition also homes in on the latter stages of his output, which undergoes a series of radical changes after World War Two, enabling him to reach an entirely original and profoundly intuitive artistic synthesis that subsequently transforms the disciplines of painting and sculpture.
The Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos welcomes the exhibition dedicated to Belgian artist Francis Alÿs (Antwerp, Belgium, 1959). The starting point of the exhibition is the work Fabiola (1885), whose whereabouts are unknown since the beginning of the 20th century, by the French painter and academic Jean-Jacques Henner. It looks at the idealised portrait based on the hagiography of the saint published one year earlier by a British cardenal and translated into ten languages, which aslo gave rise to the worship of the saint, thus establishing her “patron image”.
At the beginning of the summer of 1972, the “Pamplona Encounters” were held - the most extensive and significant international avant-garde art festival held in Spain. Imbued with the idea of diffusing art into life, these were ephemeral encounters, set up as an opportunity to subvert the order established at the end of the dictatorship in Spain.