Julio González (Barcelona, 1876 - Paris, 1942) is one of the preeminent Spanish sculptors, laying the foundations for the wave of modern sculpture from the Thirties onwards. Based on Assemblage and construction through lines, layers and empty spaces, the movement started by González is in contrast to the work of other sculptors such as Brancusi, a key figure in Modernism, whose work is based on the principle of construction by the composition of masses and expression through moulding.
González, born in Barcelona, moves to Paris in 1899 where combines his work as a painter and sculptor with his metalwork, a trade learnt as a child in his father's workshop in Barcelona. His metalsmith work is important for understanding the development of his artistic output since it is these works that give him the technical mastery and lead him to collaborate with Brancusi and Picasso at the end of the Twenties. Yet although Julio González' metalwork evolves within an established stylistic repertoire and shows a polished and conventional technique, his sculpture represents hugely ambitious creative and innovative work.
In his unique and personal language González synthesises the fundamental contradictions between Surrealism and Constructivism, the figurative and the abstract, in academic conventions and the avant-garde present in the Parisian art scene. He refers to his work as “drawing in space”, the volumes of his sculptures appear traced by a three-dimensional set of flat forms and lines primarily shaped out of iron, the material that defines his indelible style.
The painstaking work of the surfaces and the soldering reflect a sculptural approach that clearly employs traditional processes of modelling. In the first period he employes “found” materials; after 1934-1935 his works acquire more meticulously crafted textures and surfaces, and, in 1930, now in his fifties, the Catalan sculptor undertakes what will be his significant contribution to modern art. The importance of González' work is substantiated in the development of his iron welding techniques in which he obtains far-reaching formal solutions - his mastery of the technique and capacity for, in his own words, “drawing in space”, make him a pioneer of contemporary sculpture.
This exhibition, in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, presents around fifty sculptures displayed alongside paintings, drawings and numerous metalwork pieces, all of which belong to collections from the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno and make up part of the large compendium of the Catalan artist's works acquired by the Generalitat of Valencia in 1985.
These works reflect González' place as a pioneer in the history of sculpture and the persistence of certain themes with a long tradition in classical sculpture, for instance motherhood, masks and figures of women and dancers. The pictorial work displayed in the exhibition belongs to a second period, from 1918 until 1928 approximately, corresponding to the Catalan Noucentisme movement characterised by small pieces, bold drawing and a conviction in the approach to sculptural volumes.
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