Darío Villalba (San Sebastián, 1939) is a benchmark reference in the development of art after the period of informalist abstract that developed in Spain in the late fifties. In the mid-sixties Villalba develops a very personal and radical language through the use of photography as artistic support. This unusual use of photography distances him from the Pop Art and Conceptual Art trend of using image. Villalba decides to adopt the photographic frame as a painting, as a support suitable for collecting emotions and impulses that he needs to transmit, through paint strokes, fragmentation and modification of frames or hiding or revealing images. These images are taken from files or magazines, or from photographs taken by him; they are selected, fragmented and decontextualised, and used as an iconographic source, allowing him to break free from manual execution and become more involved in the intention than the action, always with a huge linguistic freedom.
In 1970 Villalba exhibits at the Venice Biennale his "encapsula-dos rosas", sculptures with a pink and transparent, methacrylic splendour which hosts characters inside them, achieving international acclaim. In 1973, and with photography as the protagonist, he is awarded the International Prize for Painting at the XII Bienal de Sâo Paulo. In the early eighties Villalba’s artistic process becomes more complex, he uses images of defenceless, solitary human figures that are shown manipulated, repeated and turned into symbols. They are the subject of some of his paintings that, as he himself declares, sometimes endure even more stress than reality itself. In the Seventies and Eighties relevant exhibitions succeed each other in major museums around Europe and the United States. In 1983, Villalba is awarded the National Arts Award "for his ability to integrate synthetic into on-going dialogue with avant-garde trends." In 2002 he is appointed intellectual fellow at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid and that same year he receives the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts.
This retrospective exhibition highlights Villalba’s important, pioneering role as a leader, visionary and precursor to the latest aesthetic attitudes and his difficult and rewarding relationship with the avant-garde, while at the same time showing his radical reflection on photography as a medium that opens up and allows a return to the spirit of painting.