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Inside and outside. The two faces of Spanish Informalism in the Museo Reina Sofía Collection

This exhibitions looks at Spanish Informalism, contrasting the work created inside and outside of Spain, with four of its most representative artists: Antonio Saura, Antoni Tàpies, José Guerrero and Esteban Vicente.

Antonio Saura (1930-1998) and Antoni Tàpies (1923-2012) worked inside the country, the former in Madrid and the latter in Barcelona, while José Guerrero (1914-1991) and Esteban Vicente (1903-2001) went to the United States.

Saura and Tàpies embody the development of this informal painting, the dominant trend in the Spanish plastic arts scene in the 1960s. It takes the form of action painting, done in an instinctive, spontaneous manner, with roots in the methods used by the surrealists, in the case of Saura. In the case of Tàpies it is opaque and physical material painting, featuring dense impastos that create wall-like forms. These are two positions that feed from the same source: a profound reflection about the very essence of what Spain is, particularly in relation to España Negra, which culminates in Spain’s tragic contemporary history.

Far from the peninsula Guerrero and Vicente work in the context of American abstract expressionism, the abstraction of which defends an emphasis on the visual principles of painting and on work specific to that medium: the colour and bidimensionality of the canvas. The affirmation of a visual experience free of any material or social conditioning marks the work of Guerrero and Vicente, in which expressivity and the plastic meaning of the pictorial gesture - in Guerrero - and light and colour taken to their maximum purity - in Vicente - constitute a personal and independent form of painting in the context of North America, with the shared characteristic of allusions to Spanish cultural and pictorial traditions. José Guerrero returns to Spain in 1965 and three years later goes back to New York, thereafter alternating periods of time in the two countries. Esteban Vicente, however, stayed in the United States for the rest of his life.

The works that make up this exhibition, by these four creators, exemplify the two ways to paint. The work of Guerrero and Vicente is associated with an abstract language that enables the artists to express their aspirations for absolute autonomy and creative freedom, whose renunciation of representation underlines the role of colour, its expressivity and the light it brings with it. The work of Saura and Tàpies is introspective and linked to a reflection about the ethical roots of individual freedom. It contains gestural and material characteristics in a chromatic range limited to different tones of white, black and earth colours.

These two ways of painting inside and outside of Spain project the light and shadow that are the identifying features of the two faces of Spanish Informalism.

 

 

 

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Itinerary:
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo: 2 October, 2013 - 5 January, 2014
Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, Nagasaki: 17 January - 9 March, 2014

Organised by: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Acción Cultural Española