Jul 12, 2012 - Nov 11, 2012

Abstraction and Motion

Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo

A selection of works from the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo collection.

Abstraction and Motion
In the visual arts of the twentieth century there were two great artistic achievements, achievements that involved a revolution not unlike the one perspective implied in the Renaissance. The first, recognized in the historiography of art, is abstraction. The second is movement, which has only more recently been prized, via expanded cinema, experimental film and video, but also through seriality, installation work, optical painting, animation and other new media. This wide-ranging exhibition attempts to conjugate these two major achievements and to study a characteristic phenomenon, abstraction and movement, which has had three historical moments of strength: the 1920s and 30s; the 60s and 70s; and the present day (more or less the last ten years), the latter two periods being the ones that are addressed here.

Ross Bleckner’s works are filled with references to light and darkness, to light in the shadows or, in other words, love and death. There is a strong romantic sentiment which has lived through the post-modern experience. Besides, Bleckner was one of the first artists to portray HIV in his works (and to show sympathy for those who suffered from it). That tension between light and darkness seen as concepts also translates, through the use of wax and varnish, into the superficial tension of the canvas, which shows as many spectral shines as a suggested depth.

In Bleckner’s art, glimpsed or dreamt spaces play with the idea of a man standing against the cosmos from his personal circumstances. He suggests worlds where the diminutive and immensity are confused, thus creating revealing images of a spirituality as disturbing as it is ambiguous.

Stephen Prina is a North American post-conceptual artist of many facets and various interests (he was once a collaborator of the avant-garde music band Red Krayola, among other things). One of his projects, still ongoing, is the collection, revision and reversion of all of Manet’s works. To this purpose, he uses a surface of the same size as the original which he then fills with uniform gestures of the same sepia tone, together with a lithograph with the entire collection of Manet’s paintings. The result is the evocation of one of Manet’s works as an abstract ghost, however maintaining the rigour of its technical and museum data.

Painting Manet’s entire collection becomes part of a methodical archive, a frequent category in conceptual art. Manet is an undeniable link to an art form from the past which is the origin of the art of modernity. The representation of his works as abstract, and such an elementary abstraction could be interpreted as the last link of that canonical modernity which conceptual art tried to get past.

At the time these exhibits were shown for the first time at the Vandrés gallery in Madrid, the artist José Ramón Sierra called them drawings. His training and professional experience as an architect (he was in charge of the restoration works of this monastery and its exhibition space) penetrate his artwork.

Every work is architecture, space, whether it is built or just planned. The way of creating these abstract landscapes and their distribution in the exhibition space, almost like an installation, refers to this idea of building.

This work is a good summary of his initial approaches to abstraction, despite not including an object as he usually does. The rational and geometric space is refuted by using informal gestures. This is a reference to the unchanging and the transitory; to the work which is developed from what already exists, to the creation from the ruins of the past and the memory.

A member of the first generation of Seville’s abstract artists, Juan Suárez made his debut in the late 1960s with a geometric work of very refined colours and reliefs.

In the mid 1970s, the geometry of his previous works begins to tinge with landscaping hints through the painter’s repetitive gestures, which used to be absent up until then. The geometric scheme, activated by small areas of colour along the edges, serves as a frame to others. In this case, the activity of the artist’s sensitive gaze towards the outside is noticeable. The sequence of strokes in these areas brings a dimension of time.

Thus, the programme of modernity, the repetition and seriation are all activated by the transitory nature and the changing rhythms which the coloured areas help to vary. The title of these exhibits may help us identify the reason which originates them: the beauty of a unique moment, of the true sensation when facing the landscape which only art can help retain.

The use of scientific theories to understand the complexity of human nature in the cosmos is at the root of Yturralde’s works. Since the late 1960s, the artist had been working on a highly objective line of work, centred around the basic figures of geometry. This became stronger during his time at the Computing Centre of Madrid.

Nevertheless, he used new tools for his geometric solid figures extracted from the new theories of communication and perception. Thus, he obtained impossible shapes from a traditional perceptive logic, which meant the beginning of new dimensions in accordance with the latest scientific assumptions.

The subsequent development is a consequence of hard work first and also of experimenting with Land Art and environmental art in the 1960s. A development which consisted of taking those geometric figures to the three spatial dimensions and turning them into flying sculptures, integrated in a natural element such as air, at the mercy of the winds and currents, defying gravity.

Founded in the 1970s of the past century, the USCO group (acronym for “Company of Us”) was one of the main examples of the American counter-culture. Artistically, it was very active in the fields of kinetic art and multimedia performance.

It was also key in the development of visual music and expanded cinema. Among its most active members were the poet Gerd Stern and the photographer Judi Stern; the painter Steve Durkee and the scultor Barbara Durkee; the electronic engineer Michael Callahan and the experimental film maker Yud Yalkut, as well as the writer Stewart Brand. USCO’s headquarters were located in an old church in the Hudson valley.

They also worked in New York City, in the San Francisco Bay and in many North American university campuses, where they presented psychedelic environments at museums, music festivals and cinemas.

The goal of many of their light, sound and movement works was to break linear time and spatial dimension to produce sensory experiences in their audiences beyond conscience, similarly to the effects of LSD. This installation is a good example of this. Visitors go into a small room delimited by a multicoloured floor, where the strobe light effects are reflected on the Mylar curtains, which close up the space.

Consisting of artists mostly from Córdoba, Equipo 57 became known during an exhibition held at Le Rond Point in Paris in June 1957. At that time, they published a text presenting their programmatic aspirations. This would be followed by the manifest “Interactivity of the Plastic Space”, edited for the exhibition at Madrid’s Sala Negra in November of that same year. Formally, Equipo 57 originated from the studies of space by Oteiza and the geometric abstractions of the 1950s, especially the concrete art of the Swiss artist Max Bill.

However, as an avant-garde group, they based an important part of their activity on social action. Thus, they started by defending the disappearance of the figure of the artist and his subjective vision in favour of the anonymity of collective work. Art had to serve and adapt to the needs of a new society, where the man would fight for the common good rather than for his own benefit. With regard to this social aspect, Equipo 57 was strongly influenced by the Russian avant-garde artists of the Revolution. Also, this group was against the institutionalization of art and the market, aspiring to sell their works at cost price.

The initial plastic principles, space as a continuous whole where the basic elements of painting (form, line, colour) were integrated and interacted with each other while sharing the same prominence. These principles were reflected, besides paintings and drawings, in an animation film almost entirely made by hand in individual shots. To this purpose, many gouache works were done. These were not shown back then and only surfaced much later. Some of these gouache works are shown in this exhibition.

Finally, as in every Utopia, the aspirations of Equipo 57 hit reality, which caused great frustration. This dissatisfaction, along with the dispersion of its members made the functioning of the group increasingly difficult and resulted in its dissolution around 1963. Still, its ideas remain in the history of Spanish art as one of the most radical and intense approaches of all those aspiring to change the course of its history through art.

Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo
Credits: Story

Abstraction and Motion

Organized by:
Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo
Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía

Photography: Guillermo Mendo y Pablo Ballesteros
Translation: Deirdre B. Jerry

Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.

Credits: All media
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