The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía exhibition dedicated to Manuel Rivera (Granada, 1927 - Madrid, 1995), in the Benedictine Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, acknowledges the poetic dimensions of his metallic fabrics and the lyricism manifested in the mysterious geometry of light and colour. It can also be added to the exhibit dedicated to Rivera in 1997.
Two of the most well-known aspects of Rivera's work are the dramatic and the lyrical, converging and alternating throughout his career. His beginnings are firmly rooted in figurative tradition, particularly portraiture, which then move swiftly on to abstraction. The pursuit and fight for leaving traditional pictorial material in search of space culminates in the use of metallic fabrics from 1956 onwards. This is the year Rivera is chosen to represent Spain, together with Millares, in the IV São Paulo Art Biennial.
The most tragic side of Rivera's work is widely disseminated through the famous El Paso group, founded in Madrid in 1957 by Rivera along with other painters such as: Antonio Saura, Manuel Millares, Rafael Canogar, Luis Feito, Antonio Suárez, Juana Francés and Pablo Serrano, and the critics Manuel Conde and José Ayllón; the group represents a revolutionary shift in post-war Spanish painting. In 1958 Rivera is selected for the Venice Biennial, then in 1981 he receives the Medalla de Oro al Mérito de las Bellas Artes (The Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts) and in 1984 he is named as a Member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) in Madrid. From his first Metamorfosis pieces to the last Mutaciones works, Rivera expresses a sense of pain, the most violent emotions and drama, through broken lines, spaces of concentration/expansion and forms of tension, spreading a range of blacks across the surfaces of the pieces.
This exhibition highlights how this tension moves towards the sublime as well as the need to transcend, and how Rivera's work is subtly imbued with spiritually. Thus, the thirteen works exhibited, belonging to different creative periods, together with the Hymn Book from the Creation of the World, underpin the most spiritual side of the artist's creations.