José Guerrero

February 28 - May 9, 1994 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 1
José Guerrero. Composición, 1956. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid
José Guerrero. Composición, 1956. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

Jose Guerrero’s (Granada, 1914 - Barcelona, 1991) work establishes one of the closest connections Spanish art has to the international art scene, particularly with American Abstract Expressionism. His departure to New York in 1950, after passing through Rome and Paris (1948-1949) responds to his search for the stage where modern art takes place. This exhibition, which starts with Guerrero’s early New York works and continues until his last paintings, is composed of sixty-five canvas paintings and thirty works on paper, and shows the insertion of the artist and his work in the American art world, as well as the strengthening of his technique before and after his return to Spain (1965). In the Seventies Guerrero stands as a reference to a new generation of Spanish painters who defend the recovery of a taste for painting, for his concept and practice of painting, based on experimentation with colour and abstract but not empty of content.

In New York, the progressive abandonment of his artistic and cultural knowledge (figurative remnants) coincides with the theoretical-aesthetic debate regarding Abstract Expressionism, encouraged by the crossfire of American art critics, Harold Rosenberg: Action Painting (1952) and Clement Greenberg's article, "American Type Painting" (1955), which heralds the start of the second stage in American avant-garde painting whose representatives emphasise colour and trend. Because of his friendship with and the stylistic reference from Mark Rothko, Franz Klein and Robert Motherwell, and commercially linked to Betty Parsons’ gallery, Guerrero bursts onto the stage in 1954 with a painting that submits to a gradual process of abstraction and simplification of shapes, visible in Presencia del negro con ocre y azul (1957). These works announce the shift to the supremacy of chromatic masses spread over the surface, which reveal an approach to gestural painting and his vocation for mural painting, as in Green Variation (1962), Brecha negra (1963) or Sacromonte (1963-1964).

While not exactly an artist in exile from Franco and painting works that have no relevant themes or dramatic pretensions, Spain and Granada appear as the subject in his pieces in the years before his return, as exemplified by Andalucía aparición (1964). The formal references to the Granada landscapes and the increased tension of the brush, mark his work until 1970, evident in Brecha de Víznar (1966), Tanto monta, monta tanto, (c. 1966) or Levante (1969). That year he begins a new phase, the inflection point is the series Fosforescencias, which is followed by a series of works with the theme (and the motif) of the arch. Later, the compositional order, the control of the colour stain and his idea of painting as wall architecture become the foundation of his work, as shown in Canciones de color (1990)

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Marta González Orbegozo. Co-curator, Belén Diaz de Rábago
Exhibition Tour: 

Hospital Real y Centro Cultural de la Caja de Ahorros de Granada (May 20 - July 20, 1994); Sala La Granja, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (October 21 - November 19, 1994); Centro de Arte La Regenta, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (November 25, 1994 - January 8, 1995)