In his famous study The Raw and the Cooked (1964) the Belgian anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss develops an anthropological study about the confrontation between advanced and primitive societies through a summary of concepts of culinary culture - on the degree of the complexity in their food - the conclusions of which he extrapolates to a general plan that allows him to state the inevitable tendency of Western societies in the first world to define their identity by comparing themselves to the other, a phenomenon that is not reciprocal. The exhibition curator, Dan Cameron, intends to submit this idea to criticism, offering an alternative -he begins by inverting the terms in the title- and, through the work of fifty-four artists, he highlights how colonialism, in the field of artistic production and within the emerging trends of the Nineties, is based on the exchange of multiple cultural positions. That is, Cameron aims to include art in the debate on cultural identity, to do this, he brings together works in which dehierarchises the speaker's viewpoint and breaks the theoretical and artistic bipolarity that is dominant in the U.S. and Europe.
The exhibition entitled El surrealismo en España (Surrealism in Spain) takes a look back at the output in Spain, between 1925 and the Civil War (1936-1939), of almost fifty artists. The period is defined by, or evolves alongside, French Surrealism. Lucía García de Carpi, the exhibit's joint curator with Josefina Alix, points to two factors that cause so-called Spanish Surrealism to gain so much importance. The first being that within the revival of avant-garde art, the artists start to take an active interest in what is being disseminated by the Surrealists in Paris, going beyond the mere receptive nature of European movements. The second involves an heterogeneous style in Spain in terms of language and conception. Their theoretical, literary, exhibiting and artistic approaches bring at least four locations into the spotlight: Madrid (the residency of students and “Telluric” Surrealists Alberto Sánchez and Benjamín Palencia), Catalunya (the ADLAN Group and Logicofobista Group), Tenerife (the setting for Gaceta del Arte, Óscar Domínguez and the International Surrealist Exhibition organisation in 1935) and Zaragoza (Tomas Seral y Casas and Alfonso Buñuel).
This exhibition, focusing on the artistic and literary production of Salvador Dali (Figueras, Spain, 1904-1989) between 1918 and 1930, traces the configuration of the Dali character, from his first successful exhibitions in Figueras until his immersion into Parisian surrealism, including his move to Paris in 1929. For this, all factors (artistic and family) involved in defining his provocative personality are put on display and he finds in Surrealism the ideal setting for the launch of his "anti-artistic" aesthetic project. In this way, this exhibition is a counterweight to André Breton’s view who, in an edition of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (1928/1968), argued that "when Salvador Dali was introduced in 1929 to Surrealism, his earlier work had not announced anything rigorously personal."
Despite the history of Surrealism being written in French, Spain's role in the movement is significant. Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Óscar Domínguez, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso are some of the most representative artists from the Spanish side. Even though a large part of their work is produced outside of Spain, the nationality of the group is key to causing the active reception of the movement inside Spain and the development of a particular set of characteristics.
Franz Kline (Wilkes-Barre, USA, 1910 - New York, USA, 1962) finds an alternative context for the analysis of his work in this exhibition of work carried out between 1947 and 1961. His critical fortune was built on partial approaches and unresolved paradoxes and for not adjusting his painting to the evaluation and definition norms of American Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting. The exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía proposes the recognition of Kline’s role and pictorial positioning at the origin and development of the New York School, taken as a historical movement or cultural phenomenon located in that city during the post-war years, and whose aesthetic and technical ideas differed significantly from two of its leading figures: Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning. In the words of exhibition curator, Stephen C. Foster, "the exhibition structure is designed to reflect the internal structure of the body of Kline’s painted work, the articulation of a dialogue between the pieces and the nature of the issues raised during the various phases of Kline‘s work and the language designed to address the problems."
Jeff Wall (Vancouver, Canada, 1946) is a leading member of the so-called School of Vancouver which is characterised by the practice of photoconceptualism. Linked by his double status as artist and art historian to the tendency of critical modernity, Wall separates himself from anti-artistic and purist positions preferring to dwell on the expressive possibilities of the figurative tradition. Pioneer in the use of cibachrome mounted on boxes of light - which refer to artefacts from the advertising industry - and based on formal and compositional models derived from the history of painting, his photographs deal with the debate about contemporary culture, human behaviour and the power of images. The starting point of his work, as the critic José Lebrero Stals notes, "is the consciousness of the Hegelesque ’non-truth of apparent knowledge’ that can manifest itself as discomfort and surprise at the ordinary"; also emphasising the fact that there is no distance between fiction and reality. Ilva Rouse, curator of the exhibition, suggests that this tension "comes from the transformation of the seemingly every-day through the dramatisation of people who move on a constructed stage, real and imaginary at the same time."
Under the stage name "Gecé" Ernesto Giménez Caballero (Madrid, 1899-1988), intellectually multifaceted and a key figure in the Madrid avant-garde scene during the Twenties and Thirties, he is also the author of a collection of over sixty literary posters, produced between 1925 and 1927. They all display his poetic, artistic and critical heritage which recognises the visual poetry imprint of Guillaume Apollinaire’s calligrammes; the transformation of the page into a scene of a collage of heterogeneous images in the same futuristic style as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s parole in libertà, and as noted by Martí Peran - curator of the exhibition - the synthesis (and play) between the textual records (verbal) and visual as proposed by Francis Picabia throughout the pages of 391.
Following Artistas Españoles. Obras de los años 80 y 90 en las colecciones del Museo (Spanish Artists. Works from the 80s and 90s in the Museo collections), a complementary exhibition is presented, joining thirty-two works by international artists incorporated in the last three years into the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía's Collection through acquisition, dation or donation. The common denominator of these works, bar the six pieces by Lucio Fontana and one by Barnett Newman, is that they have been produced either in the Eighties or the Nineties; therefore, the exhibition looks to consider these points of contact and connection with the international movements that link Spanish artists.
The Cave (1993) is the joint work of composer Steve Reich (New York, 1936) and the artist Beryl Korot (New York, 1945) that premiered in Vienna; initially as a standard opera, it is now presented as a two-and-half-hour long video installation, with five television screens and an audio tape recording of the four singers and thirteen instrumentalists involved in the original piece. The libretto is made up of interviews made to Jews and Muslims who come from Palestine and Israel and a group of American Christians, all of them questioned by the figure of Abraham, a character common to all three religions. The question, also turned into the theme and title of the piece, originates from the sacred place known as The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, where tradition says the remains of Abraham and his family lie. The text is supplemented with extracts from Genesis, the Qur’an and other holy books.
In Gerhard Richter's (Dresden, Germany, 1932) painting diversity through experimentation takes centre stage. A stranger to the conflicting abstraction versus figuration, due to his belief that both mediums are necessary, Richter paraphrases styles to make them his own. At the beginning of the sixties he bursts onto the scene as one of the artists to break down dominant art hierarchies, following in the footsteps of Joseph Beuys and Blinky Palermo.
Lucian Freud’s (Berlin, 1922-2011) desire to stay out of any artistic movement makes him a painter with only one stage - his study - which convenes the physical nature of mankind onto his canvases. That despite having been attached by historiography and criticism to the so-called School of London with Francis Bacon, Raymond Mason, Michel Andrews, R. B. Kitaj, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, whose common feature is the practice of figurative painting, faced with the abstract movement dominant in North America and Europe in the immediate post-war: Expressionism and Informalism respectively. A childhood immigrant - he arrives in London in 1933 - and frustrated sea-merchant, in the early 1940's he decides his sole purpose is painting and in particular, portrait.
After learning sculpture from Ángel Ferrant and drawing from Josep Mongrell, Antoni Clavé (Barcelona, 1913 - Saint-Tropez, 2005) emigrates to France in January 1939, where he begins his artistic journey, forming part of the post-war wave of Informalism and then veering towards Expressionism in the sixties. His engraving skills appear to form an indispensable part of his work as a painter, developing similar themes and approaches but from different technical perspectives. Therefore, his graphic output spins around two axes: experimentation and tradition that, in terms of language, for Clavé fluctuate between figurative references and abstraction.
This exhibition on Joaquin Torres-García (Montevideo, 1874-1949) highlights his "archetype of the avant-garde" character, as expressed by Miguel Logroño - curator of the exhibition along with Ángeles Dueñas - it is a recognisable quality that exists in every art project he establishes, directs and participates in throughout his career.
Stan Douglas (Vancouver, 1960) creates a work whose purpose is to provide the viewer with a multiple experience, with the objective of igniting a critical attitude about culture and the means of creation and distribution of so-called "cultural events". This exhibition consists of four pieces: Overture (1986), Monodramas (1991), Hors-champ (1992) and Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin BC (1993), all of them are composed of image and sound and produced between 1986 and 1993. The main subject matter of these pieces comes from film and television: these are the media chosen by Douglas but it is also the object of analysis in which he focuses his research on image technologies and the configuration of Western scathing visuals, challenging at the same time that media.
Known as as a traveller, nomad and shaman - as a person capable of transiting through the various levels where human life takes place (sky, earth and underground) - Joseph Beuys (Krefeld, 1921 - Dusseldorf, 1986) defends art as a cleansing nature, based on the principles of suffering, death and rebirth. In the second half of the Forties, Beuys breaks into the European art scene and embarks on a project that questions the role of creativity, art and the artist in the era of post-capitalist and post-socialist socialism. For this he formulates the notion of man-creator and vindicates, as necessary for the achievement and recognition of the free-man in a free world, the principle of social art.
Jose Guerrero’s (Granada, 1914 - Barcelona, 1991) work establishes one of the closest connections Spanish art has to the international art scene, particularly with American Abstract Expressionism. His departure to New York in 1950, after passing through Rome and Paris (1948-1949) responds to his search for the stage where modern art takes place. This exhibition, which starts with Guerrero’s early New York works and continues until his last paintings, is composed of sixty-five canvas paintings and thirty works on paper, and shows the insertion of the artist and his work in the American art world, as well as the strengthening of his technique before and after his return to Spain (1965). In the Seventies Guerrero stands as a reference to a new generation of Spanish painters who defend the recovery of a taste for painting, for his concept and practice of painting, based on experimentation with colour and abstract but not empty of content.
This exhibition, the third project that aims to exhibit the Collection at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía under artists and themes, highlights the fact that one of the defining features of Spanish artistic production during the Eighties and Nineties is plurality. In addition, the artists’ works and careers that are represented reveal the gradual integration and participation of them into international artistic and aesthetic debates. The exhibition is restricted to two areas of domestic production: painting and sculpture, as well as considering the shift from this to installation art.
Carrying the name “Proyectos”, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is launching an exhibition program that aims to exhibit the most recent, or in progress, works of current artists -both domestic and international-, whose importance lies in their unusual and original ideas. The inaugural exhibition is also the posthumous exhibition of last works by Pepe Espaliú (Córdoba, 1955-1993) who makes his homosexuality the pretext for survival in a world (and society) that he knows and feels excluded from.
Spain is key to the development of Surrealism. Although the movement stands out for its artistic expression, there is also an extensive body of literary work. Surrealism is prolific in its manifestos, pamphlets and proclamations from the time André Breton publishes The First Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. In the exhibition, this particular text can be read in Spanish via the translation by Fernando Vela, a collaborator of José Ortega y Gasset, published in Revista de Occidente.