This exhibition retrieves the enormous work by Ricardo Gutiérrez Abascal (Bilbao, 1883-Mexico, 1963), better known by the pseudonym of Juan de la Encina, in his dual role as art critic and promoter of New Art in Spain and director of the Museum of Modern Art during the Second Republic, between 1931 and 1936.
At the same time, the exhibition is an important contextualisation of Spanish art in the early decades of the twentieth century. Juan de la Encina is a member of the generation of thinkers and intellectuals who live with the legacy of The Crisis of 98 and who work for the cultural and political modernisation of the country. Notable among that group are José Ortega y Gasset, Eugenio d'Ors, José Moreno Villa, Miguel de Unamuno, Ramón Gómez de la Serna and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán.
Juan de la Encina transforms his journalistic activities -first in Bilbao, from the pages of El Liberal, Nervión and Hermes and later in Madrid, from the newspapers España, La Voz and El Sol- into the means of participating actively in the intellectual life of the nation, with attacks on a criticism that was then sacred.
Miriam Alzuri -curator of the exhibition together with María Dolores Jiménez-Blanco- says that Juan de la Encina, from his position as critic, "due to his moderate, modern, artistic taste, committed to modernity but not with a radical avant-garde aesthetic, is invited to sanction and validate ventures of all kinds." In this way he contributes to the diffusion) of Basque art as well as supporting many initiatives, such as the Exhibition of the Iberian Artists’ Society (Exposición de la Sociedad de Artistas Ibéricos ) (1925) in Madrid. In parallel with and from the pages of El Sol he follows the artistic policy of the various Republican cabinets and, as noted by Alzuri, once appointed director of the Museum of Modern Art, the newspaper becomes a platform for the promotion of the museum and reforms carried out by his team.
The role played in Spanish intellectual life as a critic is shown in this exhibition with a large documented corpus (magazines, newspapers, correspondence, photographs, etc.) Moreover, the nearly twenty paintings and four sculptures by artists such as Benjamín Palencia, José Gutiérrez Solana, Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa, Josep Clarà, Francisco Iturrino, Pablo Gargallo, Darío de Regoyos, Ángel Ferrant, Alberto Sánchez and Ignacio Zuloaga refer to acquisitions made by the Museum of Modern Art under his management.
As a result, from the life and works written by Juan de la Encina a reconstruction of the founding moments of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao can be drawn, two institutions that host this roaming exhibition and in which Gutiérrez Abascal’s seed actively participates.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (October 19 - December 13, 1998)