The Palacio de Velázquez in the Retiro park, Madrid, opens a new exhibition space with a display of work devoted to José Manuel Broto (Zaragoza, 1949). The exhibition features the development of his work spanning the last ten years of his career (1985-1995), defined by his time in Paris. During the period his painting moves towards abstraction, reaching new levels of colour, expression and poetry.
As a founding member of the group Trama (Barcelona, 1976), Broto is one of the advocates of pictorial Abstraction in Spain with the Support-Surface approach and champions the possibility of abstract art that goes beyond the strictly gestural, opposing the formalism inherited from American Abstract Expressionism. Broto formulates a pictorial language based on colour and sharp contrast, loaded with lyricism whilst rejecting the loss of an ultimate reference. This trend can be seen in his canvases as a poetic sign, or a reminiscence of a real form, seen in works such as El ovillo (1985), La ciudad (1987), Personaje en la noche (1988) and Paso (1991)
Once settled in Paris, he immediately moves away from the period dubbed “Abstract Expressionism” at the beginning of the Eighties, freeing himself from certain aspects and, following his trip to Italy (1982), incorporates others in his iconographic and chromatic repertoire, giving rise to a series of markedly romantic paintings.
With the use of large formats, the second stage of his work is the recovery of abstraction with a strong chromatic presence and he advances in the spatial definition of his canvases, as seen in Capricho (1987) and La misión (1988). During this period his work becomes enriched with double meaning; in terms of visual language Broto's painting develops a dialogue between natural organic forms and other simple geometric forms, evolving like gauzes of mineral crystallization, visible in the tryptich J.S.B. (1988) and in Juicio (1991). From a lyrical perspective, Broto takes inspiration from music and literature and uses them as a source and motif in his work, as illustrated in Pour Olivier Messiaen (1989).
In this vein, the series devoted to San Juan de la Cruz, Al aire de su vuelo (1991), represents a turning point as Broto embarks on his interest in Spanish mysticism and asceticism, using it to delve deeper into principles of levity and the austerity of signs. The series Sefarad (1992), which references the writer Edmond Jabès and his book Libro de las preguntas, and the series Los Libros, Las Fuentes and Los Prodigios illustrate how colour becomes a means of expression in his painting, which grows increasingly darker and more inscrutable in its formal resolution.