In 1997 the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía presents an exhibition of collages by Gerardo Rueda (Madrid, 1926-1996), a painter who is essential to the history of Spanish abstraction and founder with his friend and fellow-painter Fernando Zobel and Gustavo Torner of the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in Cuenca.
For this retrospective, a set of one hundred and eighty works are gathered reviewing the artist's long career from his figurative beginnings to his final creations. The exhibition begins with the copy Rueda made in 1941 of Souvenir de Mortefontaine (1864) by Camille Corot. At this early stage there are many landscapes of architectural volumes and a three-dimensionality on which he places such an emphasis that it becomes a constant throughout his production.
From the late forties, Rueda gradually enters Abstraction through geometries. His compositions still retain clear references to his early landscapes, but his final foray into pure abstract forms begins in the Sixties. The appearance of the monochromes is a turning-point in his artistic career. Rueda is attracted by Italian spatialism, which he is introduced to first hand on his trip to Italy in 1960 as the Spanish representative for the XXX Venice Biennale. From then onwards he develops a painting that has more to do with Italian, French, German and American monochrome paintings than with his compatriots engaged in Informalism. The French group Support-surface and the work from Italians such as Lucio Fontana, are a clear influence for Rueda at this stage.
After this period the painter begins to construct on canvases structures that use canvases and frames as material to which he then adds colour making monochrome reliefs. The background of the painting is transformed over time into a wooden panel, to which Rueda adds geometric elements in painted wood. Although he doesn’t use fabric, Rueda keeps using paper and cardboard for the productions of most of his collages.
The three-dimensionality of his work increases when, during the late seventies, the artist incorporates a variety of left-overs from carpentry which he sticks directly to the surface of his pieces. The differences in material, texture or colour of these "humble materials" deeply interested Rueda who also starts using them in his sculptures from the late seventies. The materials vary from stone, metal, clay, wood or synthetic elements as seen in the thirteen sculptures in the exhibition.
At the end of his life Rueda points out four artists as influences evident in his work: Kurt Schwitters, Giorgio Morandi, Joaquín Torres Garcia and Paul Klee. In the works in this exhibition we can find homages to them all. The show concludes with his last piece, El gran relieve (1995-1996), made with sheet metal and industrial parts and where the refined realm of spatiality that reaches the artist is apparent.
Museum Kampa, Prague (February 7 - March 31, 2002); Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest (April - May, 2002)
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