The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is dedicating this exhibition to Juan Soriano (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1920 - Mexico City, 2006), on the occasion of the 2005 Velazquez Prize. This exhibition was preceded by Juan Soriano. Retrospective. 1937-1997 which the Museum dedicated to him in 1997.
Soriano first exhibited in his hometown when he was 14 years old. A year later he moved to Mexico City, where he established relationships with Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and the literary group of Los Contemporáneos, as well as a very young Octavio Paz, with whom he would maintain a constant and fruitful dialogue. Shortly after, he come into contact with the Spanish exiles such as Maria Zambrano, Ramón Gaya, Luis Cernuda, León Felipe or Giner de los Ríos. Throughout more than seventy years of creative activity, including drawings, paintings, prints, set designs, tapestries, ceramics and sculptures, Soriano becomes a Mexican "living legend". His work is a successful merging of tradition, poetic fantasy and visual imagination.
From a young age, the artist refused to paint murals and preferred to paint with absolute freedom. He soon gained the respect of Rufino Tamayo and the recognition of the Ruptura Generation. Along with Leonora Carrington, León Felipe and Octavio Paz, he establishes the theatre group Poesía en Voz Alta (Poetry Out Loud) (1956). His work was regularly exhibited in Mexico, but also in the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Russia, China and Belgium.
Until the Fifties still lifes, portraits, self-portraits and dreamlike paintings make Soriano an unclassifiable painter, the classic composition of his paintings are shaken by the expressionist daring of the colours he uses. From his first visit to Rome and, significantly after a trip to Crete, mythological themes abound, and are treated with all the conquests of abstraction. Afterwards, he enters a calmer period in which floral motifs, animals and the sea emerge. During the last years of his life, he dedicates an almost exclusive attention to monumental sculpture for public spaces.
In this exhibition, birds are his only motif, which act as a common thread. Many birds are present in his "Bestiario” by Guillaume Apollinaire and the "Animalario” by Alfonso Reyes as well as in his paintings and sculptures.