Juan Soriano. Retrospective 1937-1997

4 february, 1997 - 2 may, 1997 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 3
Exhibition view. Juan Soriano. Retrospective 1937-1997, 1997
Exhibition view. Juan Soriano. Retrospective 1937-1997, 1997

We can see the poetics that characterises Juan Soriano’s (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1920 - Mexico City, 2006) work in his early paintings, where Mexican popular culture and poetic and artistic projects led by the renovators of Mexican art, the European and American avant-garde, particularly Surrealism (Lola Álvarez Bravo, Orozco, Sequeiros, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Octavio Paz, Agustín Lazo, Xavier Villaurrutia), and by Spanish artists and intellectuals in exile in Mexico (Ramón Gaya, José Moreno Villa, José Bergamin, María Zambrano) all converge. For the writer and poet Octavio Paz, "the work of Juan Soriano is the fortunate fusion of the three powers of art: tradition, poetic fantasy and visual imagination."

With over one hundred pieces, this exhibition offers a journey through Soriano’s sixty-year history. His beginnings in figuration and imaginary realism lead to an attempt at abstraction dominated by a vibrant palette, which can be seen in pieces such as El pez luminoso (1957) or Viaje a Creta (1958). A second long stay in Italy begins in 1969 and the decision to settle in Paris (1975) results in the recovery of a serene exercise in painting and a return to figuration supported by drawing. To this, allusions to popular culture and dreamed up figurations transformed into pictorial images are added, and we have such pieces as Esqueleto con flores (1978) or La muerte enjaulada (1983).

Without participating directly in the critical currents that break onto Europe and the United States scenes in the middle decades of the century, Soriano continues producing paintings that are marked by Mexican sensitivity. In addition, the artist shows a certain classical enthusiasm which is confirmed by the practice of tempera, as shown in Recreo de Arcángeles (1943), by compositions that refer to, in concept and resources, Italian Renaissance painting, like in El jardín misterioso (1942); and by a definite volumetric consciousness, as in the case of La negra de Alvarado (1944). Thanks to his skills as a portrait artist, he pushes visual and psychological investigations of the "I" and the "other" to the limits in works such as Retrato de Diego Mesa (1941), Retrato de Lupe Martín (1945), Retrato de Lola Álvarez Bravo (1945). This is not an obstacle to creating a symbolic portrait, like in Retrato de una filósofa (María Zambrano) (1955) or exploring the infinite variety of human features, like in the series of Lupe Martín portraits in the Sixties.

Besides portrait, his painting is primarily concerned with three themes: mythology, childhood scenes, everyday matters and dead nature. The exhibition includes a considerable selection of drawings and a set of sculptures, with which the artist manifests suggestions of the three dimensions present from his early paintings. In them he develops different languages: abstract, biomorphic, figurative, he visualises shapes and gives them a strong monumental character.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
José Miguel Ullán
Juan Soriano