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.
The trip through Benjamín Palencia’s career is marked by critique and the Spanish art that occurred during those years. In this way, this exhibition documents the inclusion of Palencia in the artistic and intellectual scene in Madrid in 1919 at the hands of Juan Ramón Jiménez, who advocates a return to order and a new classicism, as shown in El encuadernador (1919). The exhibition also includes his participation in the Exhibition of the Iberian Artists’ Society (1925), when his work holds itself to a refined figurative tradition and a late-cubism style that is found in Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Daniel Vázquez Díaz his immediate references, such as Bodegón cubista (1925) and Altea (1926). Also in this exhibition Palencia’s long stay in Paris is reflected (1926-1928), which carries a real and stylistic proximity to Picasso - lithic shapes that are suggestive of prehistory, such as Tauromaquia (1933) - and Miró, as well as his work - considered an example of lyrical abstraction - being published in such magazines as Cahiers d'Art. Similarly, this exhibition highlights Benjamín Palencia’s role in the establishment of the School of Vallecas; his contact with Joaquín Torres García during the implementation of his Groupo Constructivo in Madrid (1933) and by 1934, the radical shift towards a figurative language sustained in: mathematical geometry, the number and a realistic meticulousness, as exemplified by La espigadora y dos muchachos (1936).
The tilt between language and his Parisian experience (André Masson, Pablo Picasso) leads, in the late twenties, to the formulation of an original language which is a return to nature and in this way he rethinks the problem of painting from the beginning, without theoretical loads. As well as a theme, he assumes Nature as a principle, which results in material still lifes such as Dibujo en la arena (1930) and in settling for an abstract and synthetic vocabulary with organic and primordial forms as well as pictographs like Paisaje geológico (1931). This syntax, like the palette and textures he uses, underlie his Castilian landscapes as in the case of Tierras silúricas (Las perdices) (1931) and are supported by the aesthetic appreciation of the nature of land.
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13 June 2018 – 7 January 2019
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From November 22, 2017
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20 June – 1 October 2018
Lost Modernities: Bauhaus and SpainBiblioteca y Centro de Documentación