Bruce Nauman’s (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1941) work involves the acquisition or attempted control of the spectator’s viewing experience to an event, action or situation. The sixty-three projects that make up this retrospective exhibition, made between 1965 and 1990, are a tour where the artist proposes (and hopes for) psychological reactions and perceptive suggestions from the spectator, and in many cases includes the creations of image and sound cacophonies. The public becomes both the object and the audience faced with a piece that is about to happen, as can be seen in Get out of my mind, get out of this room (1968) or Clown Torture (1987). In his pieces he gives prominence to the body and physical action, in addition to the assumption of human scale as an artistic measure, as is evident in his pieces Neon Templates of the Left Half of my Body, Taken at Ten Inch Intervals (1966). Furthermore, because of his training as a sculptor, throughout his career, space retains a fundamental perceptive and psychological role.
Agnes Martin’s (Maklin, Saskatchewam, Canada, 1912 - Taos, New Mexico, 2004) work is determined by the rotation which the notion of the sublime goes through, ranging from landscape painting to abstract in the second half of the twentieth century. Shaped within the New York landscape and influenced by Abstract Expressionism in the Fifties, Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko become her main artistic references, recognising that in both painters "geometry could be at the service of spiritual contemplation," as noted by Barbara Haskell, curator of the exhibition hosted by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Following the example of other European contexts which, at the turn of the century, sees a renewal of language, practice and systems in artistic production; in the early twentieth century Vienna extends its attitude of renewal and modernisation of the romantic and historicist model to all fields of artistic expression.
Pablo Picasso (Malaga 1881 - Mougins, France, 1973) works with prints throughout his entire career, however the practice intensifies from the Thirties onwards. At this point he consolidates his language and a change of style can be seen, when he gives prominence to graphic aspects. In the aspect of Picasso as a print-maker an emphasis on issues related to classical literary tradition, or influences of it, appear, which are more prone to narrative. The painter’s theme and the model or the myth of Minotaur is then incorporated into the Picasso’s iconography; it appears on a recurring basis during his career and finds its parallels in painting.
For Spanish art, the year 1957 is a turning point towards the renewal and internationalisation of artistic languages. In this year El Paso in Madrid and Equipo 57 (1957-1962) in Paris (also based in Córdoba) are established; groups that propose very different and even opposite ideas that invigorate the local art scene and create links with the international mainstream (Informalism and Geometric Abstract Art). In this way, the exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía offers a partial reconstruction of the history of Equipo 57, ultimate example of Radical Geometric Abstract Art in Spain and whose work, in both practice and theory, defends an art of social commitment.
The exhibition Magnum. 50 años de fotografía celebrates fifty years of photographic production from this celebrated photo agency, known for its role in the history of visual culture from the second half of the twentieth century and whose work makes up the graphic memory of the modern world. Founded in 1947, Magnum begins to make itself known in the Thirties with its work and theoretical-aesthetic purposes defended by its founders -Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David Seymour "Chim"-, especially with the work they produce as reporters in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. With these photographs the foundations of modern photographic reporting are laid, based on two principles: the need for extreme closeness to what they were reporting, which Robert Capa demanded, and the theory of the "decisive moment" (images à la sauvette) developed by Cartier-Bresson and published in 1952, which is for many the programmatic text for photojournalism.
Under the premise that video can make the invisible, visible, Bill Viola (New York, 1951) addresses the complexity of human experience. In the twelve works that make up this exhibition he aims to break the predetermined view man has of the world. In the seven video installations made in 1992 and the five videos dated between 1976 and 1991, Viola offers the public a set of visual narratives that consist of pure images - that exist outside the metaphor - that manage and organise space as if they make up a collage. With these he aims to make the viewer reflect, through their connection, their opposition or their fusion, as happens in the video Heaven and Earth (1992).
The possibility of a realistic painting where there is no myth nor illusion, but which is taken as its content and background, is the practical idea of Robert Ryman (Nashville, Tennessee, 1930). Self-taught, his first and crucial contact with twentieth-century art is produced over the years he worked as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1953-1960). From all that he sees there, it is Rothko who gives him the ultimate lesson regarding the consideration of painting as an integrated entity. "What is radical about Rothko - the artist says in 1986 - is that there is no allusion to any representational influence. There is colour, there is shape, there is structure, surface, light - nudity with nothing else." Ryman bursts onto the American art scene in the second half of the fifties with a piece based on the colour white. His pictorial direction is immediately defined as a strict realism, he distances himself from Minimal artists’ analytical radicalism, rejecting any symbolic or metaphorical content in his paintings and focusing on material issues relating to painting and the pictorial surface. This line of research has continued into his most recent work, as exemplified by the series Versions (1991-1992), which employs an interference colour which is opalescent and varies according to the light.
For the exhibition dedicated to Daniel Vázquez Díaz (Nerva, Huelva, 1882 - Madrid, 1969) the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is commissioning a project aimed at presenting the entire collection that it preserves for a determined artist. In the case of Vázquez Díaz that number reaches eighty works, and includes paintings, drawings and engravings, a large number of which are on loan to the Museo Provincial de Huelva. The strong desire of this artist to study at the Academy of San Fernando, settling in Madrid in 1903, marks the start of a career whose next step is Paris, where he learns how to submit representation to a geometric synthesis from Paul Cézanne. His assumption of cubist language turns him into one of the leading revivalists of landscape painting in Spain, developing his career both on Spanish territory and in Paris.
Everyday landscapes, understood in the broadest sense, are the core theme running through the painting of Antonio López (Tomelloso, Toledo, 1936), the representative par excellence of the wave Spanish realists in the second half of the twentieth century. They shape the painter's imagination, and include not only cityscapes - either the streets of his home town or the streets Madrid, the dominant location from 1960 onwards - but also the corners of his house, his garden and his family. This anthological exhibition, made up of sixty works including paintings, sculptures (free-standing, reliefs and three-dimensional reliefs) and drawings, traces López' career, from his early works combining figure and fantasy, such as Mujeres mirando los aviones (1954), to the strict realism that becomes his permanent language in the seventies, seen in Nevera de hielo (1966), and maintained right up to his most recent work.
The works that make up the exhibition Visiones paralelas. Artistas modernos y arte marginal (Parallel Visions. Modern Artists and Marginal Art) encompass questions on the limits of art and the nature of artistic activity - while incorporating romantic traditions and examining the same definition of what art is, this debate looms over twentieth century culture. The studies of Sigmund Freud devoted to the artistic-therapeutic production of psychiatric patients at the beginning of the century and the publication of doctor Hans Prinzhorn's book Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (1922)(Artistry of the Mentally Ill), which includes a collection of art created by the mentally ill and serves as an introduction to their images, form the primary foundations of the search and defence of a new model and paradigm of artistic creativity throughout the first half of the century, expounded by an ongoing reinvention that is not tarnished by established or received culture and traditions. By way of a chronological journey through twentieth-century art, and through premises of dialogues on formal analogies and historical relations, this exhibition endeavours to render the close relationship and interchanges between modern art and the artistic output of marginalised, alienated, mentally ill, self-taught and compulsive visionary figures.
Beyond the influences of Abstraction and Informalism from his first phase, Joan Hernández Pijuan (Barcelona, 1931) defines and bases his own pictorial syntax on the reconsideration of space, understood as an element of composition that stems from the positive consideration of emptiness. The idea of the void is consolidated as a pictorial space through landscape painting, represented in the pieces, and the accompanying selection of graphic works, that comprise this exhibition, realised between 1972 and 1992. This collection bears witness to the language the painter uses, leaning towards the virtually abstract simplification of the motifs and intimate spaces represented.
Poetry is the model from which Joan Miró's (Barcelona, 1893 - Mallorca, 1983) unique artistic language stems, particularly from his connection to the poets and artists from the sphere of the Surrealist movement - André Masson and Michel Leiris, or those they admired such as Conde de Lautréamont (Isidore Lucien Ducasse), Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé and Guillaume Apollinaire. Visual poetry and the freedom of the use and arrangement of words in verses enable him to “deconstruct” the artistic language. On the hundredth anniversary of Miró's birth, this exhibition endeavours to look back at the origin and evolution of his unique artistic syntax, revolving around the series Constelaciones (1940-1941); the exhibition's curator, Margit Rowell, defines the near one-hundred-work exhibition as the, “genesis and evolution of the constellated syntax.”
At the end of the fifties, with the waning dominance of North American Abstract Expressionism, numerous artists start to find in Asian art a new medium with which to revive abstract art. The exhibition of Brice Marden (Bronxville, New York, 1938) typifies this new road to abstraction whilst also showing how the works exhibited here represent a radical turnaround in the artists output. Marden undertakes the project Cold Mountain (1988-1991) at a time of personal crisis and artistic maturity, he is drawn towards calligraphy and Chinese poetry and is influenced by Abstract Expressionist approaches and the work of Jackson Pollock.