This exhibition is a selection of works recently included in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía collection and has been organised especially for their exhibition at the Wifredo Lam Center in Havana. The work of young artists who represent a range of techniques and disciplines that are current trends on the Spanish art scene have been chosen for the occasion. The selected artists assume in all cases a high degree of experimentation and innovation applied to different media present in the exhibition: painting, sculpture, installation and photography.
The myth of Jewish princess Salomé has a particular impact on the visual arts in the last third of the nineteenth century until the triumph of Art Déco in the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs (Paris, 1925). This is because it feeds off one of the myths inherent in the new century: that of the femme fatale and triggers a taste for ornamental profusion based on the arabesque which it makes its own and with which finisecular Symbolism identifies.
José Luis Fernández del Amo (Madrid, 1914 - 1995) was the first director of the new Museo de Arte Contemporáneo between 1952 and 1958, a time that represents a significant change in the definition of modern and contemporary aspects of Spanish society and culture. Now he is the focus of the second documentary exhibition series entitled Plataformas de las vanguardias en España (Avant-garde Platforms in Spain), organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Plunged into crisis, the ideas of the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century -including proposals of its own such as Ultraísmo- Spanish criticism faces the first years of the Twenties with the need for a renovation which would involve the insertion of Madrid into the international art scene. The Iberian Artists’ Society was born in late 1924 with the purpose of both renewing art as well as its relationship with the public, because, as highlighted by the signatories in the first Manifesto (Alfar, September 1924): "the horizon of artistic activity is yet to be configured. The sole possible referee is an informed public." In addition to exhibitions, conferences and many specialised magazines, they participated in the revival of Spanish art at a time when one of the main objectives is the transformation of Spanish political cultural defined under the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923 - 1931)
Taken as a point of reference, the 1987 exhibition La Imagen Sublime. Vídeo de creación en España (1970-1987), which took place in the then Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, is equally dedicated to video art in Spain. The aim of this new exhibition is twofold: firstly, it aims to show the latest video creations produced in the country and, secondly, to evaluate the evolution this new discipline has experienced during the eight years between the two exhibitions.
Amadeo Modigliani's (Livorno, 1884 - Paris, 1920) brief but intense career underpins the origin of his reputation as an accursed artist. This exhibition endeavours to rise above the myth, instead revealing an unknown artist by virtue of the collection of four hundred drawings that belonged to his good friend Dr Paul Alexandre.
Frank Stella (Malden, Massachusetts, 1936) breaks into the New York art scene at the same time the second generation of Abstract Expressionism begins to be recognised. In his early work, artists like Barnet Newman, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock and Ad Reinhardt form the basis of Stella’s career which, in under two years, reaches the subversion of that heritage. For him, "abstraction is creating a habitable illusion, where the spectator can enter into and be willing to participate in the activity of the painting." The forty-five works, created between 1958 and 1994, which make up this retrospective exhibition proves the achievement of this artistic principle. His series Black Painting (1959) - painted with a dark palette and the use of the line as a repetitive structural element, which appears later in colour bands - is the turning point in both his fledgling career and the history of painting of the Sixties: works such as Delta (1958) and Bethlehem's Hospital (1959) are considered the earliest examples of Minimal painting. This exhibition illustrates Stella’s shift from Minimalism to maximalism, which concludes his series Moby Dick (1984-1994) in a certain monumental baroque.
The renewal of Spanish art in the first third of the twentieth century goes through the figure of Benjamín Palencia (Barrax, Albacete, 1894-Madrid, 1980), who with his meandering path, reflecting the spirit of the age that aims to combine art and tradition, participates in the diversity of settings, languages and themes that make up the Spanish Art Nouveau. Advocated by José Ortega y Gasset, Moreno Villa and Manuel Abril among others, he refers to "the link between art produced within the Spanish territory with the avant-garde and the European Modern Movement", as noted by art critic Eugenio Carmona. The exhibition organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía presents Palencia’s painting as the main debate. From over a hundred works (oil paintings and works on paper, including collages and photomontages which show their conceptual proximity to surrealism and the influence of Miró), intended as an aesthetic and critical review of the artist, placing him in the centre of a scene where Spanish modern art was emerging in the years before the Civil War.
Ana Prada (Zamora, 1965) leads us down the path which contemporary Spanish sculpture takes. In her work, manual labour is a process which constitutes a poetic act that transforms objects and materials extracted from everyday life (curlers, hair clips, baby bottle nipples, nylon stockings or plastic knives). In the words of teacher and art critic Estrella de Diego, these elements are "entities that expand with the appearance of objects, where things are instruments at the service of mechanics, of progression". The fourteen pieces in this exhibition are for projects designed in the past six years and illustrate the phenomenon of the poeticisation of objects, like in Gusano geométrico (1994), 20 costuras (1994) o Trenza azul (1994).
Pre-eminent in the wave of conceptual art that emerges in Catalunya at the end of the Sixties, Eugènia Balcells (Barcelona, 1943), forging her career in New York, is one of the Spanish pioneers in the use and adoption of video as her primary medium and artistic support. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía presents Sincronías, five installations that explore video art practices but differ from the artist's previous projects involving social, cultural and anthropological order, instead placing humans at the very centre. Out of the five works, the piece that lends it name to the exhibition has been created exclusively for the occasion, while the rest date back to 1993. The exhibition is concluded with the projection of her first films, shown within the experimental Cinema Exhibition organised by the Museum, a presentation of two sessions with performances of her visual scores, in collaboration with the musicians Peter Van Riper and Llorenç Barber.
This exhibition makes up part of the season Plataformas de la Vanguardia en España (Avant-garde Platforms in Spain), organised by the Centro de Documentación of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, with the aim of re-examining galleries and the most salient names in the study and dissemination of contemporary Spanish art. On this occasion, a large number of documents (photographs, journals, catalogues, etc.) have been brought together to facilitate the reconstruction of the undertakings of the Madrid gallery Multitud (1974-1978) and the exhibitions it housed.
The work of Brassaï, the pseudonym of Gyula Halász [Brassó, Hungary (now Romania), 1899 - Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, 1984], is considered a crucial part of the visual culture and modern poetry that comes out of Paris in the interwar years. Following a period in Berlin, Brassaï settles in the French capital in 1924, with the city and the marginalised inhabitants alienated from established conventions quickly becoming the focal point of his work.
During his short artistic career, started in the main in 1955, Yves Klein (Nice, France 1928 - Paris, 1962) fully gives himself over to markedly experimental practices replete with the poetry of the void and a clear undercurrent of spirituality. His work perpetually challenges notions of the value of art and radically reconsiders the role of the artist and viewer. For the exhibition's curator, Sidra Stisch, Klein's work, “not only submits a dialogue of art by developing innovative alternatives, it also highlights the ties to philosophical debates, technological advances and the cultural and socio-economic climate in the post-war period in the middle of the Fifties.”
In the Spanish art scene of the second half of the twentieth century, Pablo Palazuelo (Madrid, 1915-2007) advocates and practices an analytical art and represents a willingness to explore the material and symbolic universe through geometric language.
The exhibition Luz del Norte (Northern Light) looks at the differences and convergence of the main art centres and the Nordic countries at the turn of the century. The stylistic trends and pictorial languages developed between 1878 and 1912 unfold to reveal one hundred paintings created by forty six artists from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
Contemporary sculpture is characterised by a radical process of revival that starts at the end of the Fifties. This revival occurs through three main avenues: the reconsideration of traditional materials and the inclusion of other everyday objects, the defetishisation of the sculptural object and the involvement of other spacial values, scale and occupation. Tony Cragg (Liverpool, 1949) participates in the sculpture revival via the three routes mentioned above and employs the Minimal artists, the expression of Arte Povera and Richard Long as his points of reference, as he states that, “without adhering to previous forms, they have created a language of new forms and have been able to achieve reflection that is driven by the same formal aspects.”
The career of the artist Julio González (Barcelona, 1876 - Arcueil, France, 1942) is defined by two periods separated by the years 1927 and 1929, the time he begins his collaboration with Pablo Picasso. The first of these periods is significant for his training as a metalsmith and his painting, while the second is characterised by his ultimate devotion to sculpture.
Owing to his hunger and disposition for constant learning, Joan Miró (Barcelona, 1893 - Palma de Mallorca, 1983) is able to widen his field of creation by working with various mediums and supports - painting, sculpture, ceramics and engravings. Following on from previous exhibitions devoted to his sculptures and paintings, Miró grabador en los fondos del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Miró Engraver in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection),this exhibition focuses on his graphic works, bearing witness to the consideration of Miró as a multifaceted artist. By the same token, it emphasises the stylistic correlation between works on the fringes of Surrealism and Abstraction created with different techniques throughout his career. The exhibition is made up of a selection of one hundred of the four hundred engravings conserved by the museum and sixteen of his illustrated books, which stress the huge significance of poetry in his work.
The protagonist of the Nativity exhibition Navalón (Valencia, 1961) is designed and made expressly for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It follows the path laid down in an earlier work: Lugares de ausencia (1991), on the representation of the density of absence, defined as an invisible presence. Now that AIDS is a reality -the issue on which this installation is based- the notion of absence is reserved for the forgotten, the neglected and marginalised. Navalón uses a conceptual practice based on metaphor and ellipsis, and presents a project that combines the emotion of death and the poetics of obscurity with the solemnity of the memorials.
The work of Robert Irwin (Long Beach, California, 1928) can be defined as the transition from richly textured gestural paintings to the exploration of the limits between art and perception. This retrospective exhibition sets forth an analysis of the route he has taken, with the artist himself dismissing links to Expressionism, Minimal Art, architecture and urbanism.