The art that illuminated gray times

Not everything in the Franco regime was grey. Some grays were even used to express shouts and help create oases of colour. Although these flashes could be seen and heard better from the outside, and now, with a certain distance in time and space, they help us to better understand the resistance to so many years of political and social greyness. Along these lines, one of the main objectives of the exhibition proposed by the Fundació Catalunya la Pedrera with the Juan March Foundation is to vindicate the work of a series of artists who, during the last years of Franco’s autarchy, were capable of being at the same level than some of the most outstanding and innovative international artistic manifestations in what has been called the second abstraction.HorizontalJackson Pollock: “Painting (Silver over Black. White, Yellow and Red)”, 1948.

Centre Pompidou

La Brigitte Bardot by Carlos Saura (1959), portrait of an icon reduced to violent black lines that are in themselves a cry, La Gran ics , by Tàpies (1962), or Les rodes , by Josep Guinovart (1964), demonstrate the equivalences between the plastic denunciation of the desert society that occurred as a result of the Spanish civil war and the calls for attention from great names, after the Second World War, who have gone down in history, such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet or Jackson Pollock.

Starting in 1945, we see that there are many artists who join what informalism proposes, that desire to represent reality through a spontaneous gesture that mixes with matter; and what promotes the harmony and order promoted by geometric abstraction.

The Franco regime itself wanted to use the vitality of all these artists to whitewash its cultural policy and image

The importance of this movement in Spain can be deduced from two phenomena: firstly, the fact that Francoism itself wanted to use the vitality of all those artists who worked in informalism and abstract expressionism, lyrical and gestural abstraction, abstract geometry, optical-kinetic art, post-pictorial abstraction or color field painting, to whiten its cultural policy and present itself internationally, at the end of the fifties, as a modern country – while in Spain it was practically impossible to see exhibits those works–; and, secondly, the appearance of the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español de Cuenca, promoted by the artist of Filipino origin Fernando Zóbel, which opened its doors on July 1, 1966 and is currently owned by the Fundación Juan March. 

Precisely, the improvement works in this space have led to the roaming of the works that Zóbel acquired and which turned the Castilian museum into a redoubt of hectic artistic and cultural activity. As the curators of the exhibition, Manuel Fontán del Junco, Sergi Plans and Marga Viza, write, Zóbel’s was a museum by artists for artists without a museum that appeared “in the most unexpected way, on an untimely date and in a rather unlikely place ”. Even more improbable was the ephemeral experience of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (1960-1963), under the impulse of Alexandre Cirici Pellicer and the lawyer and art critic Cesáreo Rodríguez-Aguilera, created in the dome of the Coliseum Theater, following the example of the MoMA in New York.HorizontalImage of the exhibition at the Suñol Foundation.

Saints Periel

In addition to disseminating the work of Zóbel, who is currently starring in an exhibition at the Prado Museum, Viza highlights the work carried out by the co-curator to bring to Barcelona some of the most outstanding works of abstract expressionism and that have made possible, for example “see the picture with which Rothko’s son has breakfast every day”. Thus, in the opinion of the co-curator and director of Culture of the Fundació La Pedrera, a triple objective is met: to discover the second abstraction “in very difficult years for Spanish society”, to place Spanish artists in an international context and see all the possible paths with which the abstraction manifested itself.

Complementary to the La Pedrera exhibition, at the Suñol Foundation you can visit Crusading Memories. The collections as a territory of creation, curated by Glòria Picazo. On this occasion, a synthetic tour of the Josep Suñol and Zóbel exhibitions is offered to vindicate the importance of the two collectors in the expressive milestone that abstract art represented in the last decades of the dictatorship. In addition, Picazo has “added the perspective of current artists”, such as Pep Vidal, Joana Moll or Julia Spínola, who reinterpret the collections based on a selection from the collections.

The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in Cuenca appeared in a highly unlikely manner, date and place

For several months the exhibition has spread in different activities carried out in different institutions and spaces of the city; Thus, the aim has been to broaden the knowledge of an artistic language and its main creators, but the particularity of a large group of Catalan and Spanish artists who tried to survive the desert, leaving oases that give depth and continuity to history, has also been put into context.