Painting: Spain

Spanish Art: 1970s

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The Second Avant-Grade Movement of Twentieth Century: Spanish Art in 1970s
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The Assault on Allegorical Art

In 1956, at least, Spanish saw the overwhelming victory of the non-formalists. Non-formalism is by no mean an exclusively Spanish movement; in fact, Spanish non-formalism is merely the Spanish branch of an international movement. In 1956, the great names concerned with the general problems of art, the specialized critics and those bodies responsible for bestowing prestige, began to discover that there existed in Spain -a country, which might have been expected to remain totally engaged by its commitments to tradition and hence to traditional forms of expression - an art movement, which was up to date with all the latest developments in international avant-garde painting; it was seen to be a movement with a special command of its own and additional strength over and  above that exerted by all classes of expression at the time. The existence of Spanish non-formalism had been discovered.

The movement certainly did possess the special strength attributed to it, but this was not due to the impenetrable metaphysical nature of its pictorial genius. It was simply that it reflected the latest and most deeply rooted position adopted by the art of expression. This position had undoubtedly been chosen because of its great capacity to express the existential drama produced by an unbalanced collective situation.

Just as this continues to be a particularly Spanish problem, its most genuine synthetic testimony was Spanish too, since it also bore the family trait that revealed inheritance of the expressive realism of its predecessors. Thanks to this international discovery, the movement was then recognized at home; and ever since 1956 consideration has always had to be given to it when drawing up any valid account of Spanish painting.

In actual fact, this reality had been barren of expression for many years, although not definitively so. Throughout this long period it had experienced certain very genuine forms of expression, although these were only forms inherited from the past.

This century saw it travel from Solana, via Benjamin Palencia, to Ortega Munoz; but while serving as expression, this type of painting had no intention to be deliberately expressionist and it lacked the will to be avant-garde, because although it accepted the eminent compromise whereby it was bound to its birthplace; it was too little concerned with the time factor to be able to really make history.

The second avant-grade movement of the twentieth century came into being knowing it to be the continuation of the first movement. The fact that it did, nevertheless, found a new sense of art, was due above all to the fact that the leading promoters were far from the immediate Spanish scene and the circumstances closely affecting it. A second reason was that a series of new factors helped make the avant-garde struggle much more complex than it had been during the early years of this century.

The first and second avant-garde movements of this century were fighting for a common cause, when they took up arms against academicism. There was nothing specifically Spanish about academicism; it was common to all Europe and the world. It had existed at least since the foundation of royal academies throughout Europe and it consisted in the replacement of the problematic roots of art by a superficial mask of solutions. The first problem for art is that of reality, but the academicians had removed it by imposing the solution of representative mechanics.

While this particular war was still being waged - for academicism was still far from dead, when the second avant-garde movement was launched - another battle was taking place, a battle that directly invited the participation of those who had founded this second avant-garde movement. It may well be that the horses of the former battle never really knew what enemy they were fighting, since they had a way of amalgamating and confusing everything within their general concept of "academic'. It was a newly minted form of idealism, apparently classical on the surface, yet lacking the essential motivating forces that once made real classicism answer an essential need.

The new battle was the one fought in Spain during the years immediately following the Civil War. One may still see many signs of the Bable-like grandiloquence of that struggle against an art form that was attempting to reintroduce the country to a concept of prestige by restoring the symbols of a former age of imperial glory. It figures not only in architecture and sculpture of the time, where winged athletes brandish flaming swords, but in the painting, too. Here, prevailed champions of perfection, servants of heraldic imagery, overflowing with allegorical heroics. For those who failed to see in its decrepitude the first signs of falsehood, this vast pictorial backcloth was the triumphal banner that proclaimed the destruction of all contradictions of Spain. Indeed anyone, who remembers those days of victory, could easily believe that this hero-worshipping art actually was the faithful expression of its theme.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. The backcloth was no more than a facade, a veneer masking real life and real art. As a serious attempt to wipe out the endemic contradiction existing in Spanish way of life, Civil War had succeeded, but only by decree. The voice but not the circumstance of contradiction had been eradicated, because it was impossible to achieve such a synthesis by suppressing one of two antithetical realities. Beneath the superficial appearances, the old contradictory reality of Spain lived on.

Just as in so many other parts of Europe, in Spain too the non-formalist movement was a ''demonic" art. This was the result of the rights acquired after fighting the enemy: The "angelic" art of perfection and form. Many who unmasked this perverse face were acting with due wisdom as they did so; but as its success was more important than its guilt, it was absolved and consecrated. By deliberately breaking with form, non-formal Spanish art had simultaneously broken with allegorical mythology. It thus restored the synthetic expression of Spanish reality, the expression that continued and continues to be contradictory, as does non-formal expression itself.

The art of what reality ought to be was replaced by the art of what reality actually is. Since this was the second avant-garde movements specific contribution to the battle, already being waged against academicism, by the first movement; it served as a guideline in a common general direction.

 
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Spain: Painters

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