This exhibition, organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, is dedicated to Manuel Millares (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1926 - Madrid, 1972), a key reference point for understanding Spanish art in the second half of the 20th Century. It follows on from the retrospective dedicated to the artist in 1992. From 1949 onwards Millares begins to work with abstract painting, using sacking, sack-cloth and rope that he sticks objects to, materials that are later covered with layers of dripping paint. In 1955 he moves to Madrid, and is one of the co-founders of the El Paso group in 1957.
Millares traces and dissects man as he looks for an answer to his suffering. Concerns with the universal questions on the meaning of life lead him to produce works that reflect and vilify in his own language. This sense of tragedy, veiled in his early period through magical surrealism, bursts out at the end of the Fifties with dark compositions with torn sack-cloth. This humble material, knife-torn and re-sewn, speaks of the need to destroy in order to construct something better. They are manifestations of, in his words, “... an art of explosion and protest, a passionate means of expression that destroys itself so as to rebuild itself ipso facto from its ruins”. His work is dominated by white, black and red, colours that enable him to reach full expression. Yet in his later works, as seen in Silos, white starts to displace black, accentuating the ephemeral nature of life.
The exhibition brings together a selection of his later pieces carried out with a mixed media technique on sack-cloth, produced from the middle of the Sixties until his death. These works constitute a selection of the iconography fashioned by the painter to represent man, renouncing historical atrocities; they feature the theme of war with the aim of condemnation but from a perspective of hope and with references to death and the archaeological world. These works, which interrogate and renounce suffering and human absurdity, gain particular meaning in the halls of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos. Bodies riddled with bullets in front of a wall, or fallen in the trenches; panic and death lined with sack-cloth. The remains, joined in their power for reconstruction, appear in the message transmitted by his works.