October 5, 2022 – February 27, 2023
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To Write Down All Their Names – Spanish female artists from 1960 until today
The title of this exhibition is inspired by a work by Dora García, 100 obras de arte imposibles (100 Impossible Works of Art) from 2001, which consists of a list of a hundred sentences that refer to the acceptance of failure, to the impossibility of realizing something: "To dream the dreams of others; To live the lives of others; To be with every single human being, even only for a second" are some of these 100 unachievable proposals. In the context of an exhibition dedicated exclusively to woman artists, the phrase "To write down all their names" suggests a poetic action, but also a poetic "capacity for action."
All the works selected for this show come from the collection of Helga de Alvear, one of Spain's leading gallerists and art collectors. Since the 1960s, when this collection was created, Spains's political, social, and cultural reality has undergone fundamental changes. The end of the fortyyear military dictatorship in 1975 and the transition to democracy, and the country's accession to the European Union were accompanied by a social upheaval in which young people, and especially women, figured prominently in the transformation of this new society. This reality has affected woman artists and is reflected in their works and in their increasing presence in exhibitions. But it remains–as everywhere in the world–an issue worth fighting for.
Curated by Lola Hinojosa Martínez, Head of Performing Arts and Intermedia Collection at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.
Most of the works on view convey the impression of being, apart from vivid realizations, also works of writing: performative writing, musical writing, or scores created as an exercise in abstraction, narration, or interpretation of the writings of others. This thread runs through the works of fifteen artists from three different generations who, whether or not they have a "feminist" awareness, bring us other ways of seeing and living. We understand these as processes of subjectification through which we comprehend the world and construct it ourselves in dialogue with space, architecture, nature, narrative, or the idea of fiction.
In the first part of the exhibition, Elena Asins and Esther Ferrer, whose artistic beginnings date back to the 1960s, translate themes of linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and music into their works. The intertwinded knots in the textile sculptures of Aurèlia Muñoz and the surrealistic playful works of Eva Lootz can be understood as other forms of "scripting." Artists such as Vera Chaves Barcellos, Sarah Grilo, and Soledad Sevilla take us to another place: the street. The public space and its walls are shown as a memory of a city, as an expression of its inhabitants, or as a setting for literary narratives.
In the second part of the show, Cristina Iglesias, Susana Solano, Montserrat Soto, and Carmen Laffón develop a poetry that is closely linked to nature: they tell of landscapes that are threatened or only exist in lore. Erlea Maneros Zabala and Ángela de la Cruz interrogate this history of the "heroes" of male-dominated painting. Eulàlia Valldosera and Dora García use cinematic sequences and direct texts and quotes to invite us to reflect on women and their historical roles in relation to love, sexuality, and family.
The intention of this exhibition–to describe, to name the world from a female point of view–creates a new focal point: to write down all their names, individually, on pages previously claimed by others as "historiography."
After training in art in Madrid and Paris, Asins went on to study semiotics at the University of Stuttgart and the application of new technologies to art at the Centro de Cálculo of the Complutense University, Madrid; and The New School for Social Research, and Columbia University, both in New York. Starting from an expressionist mode of figuration, in 1964 Asins moved on to normative art using calculus and mathematical relations and by 1967 had become a pioneer in research on computation in art. Her entire output—drawings, sculptures and, more recently, urban projects—is the result of this focus on rationality, which she has related to music since the 1980s. In parallel, Asins is also a significant figure within the field of experimental poetry and that of art theory, with texts such as Analysis of an Aspect of Mondrian (1969) and Studies and Reflections on Painting (1979).
While she has worked quietly and independently, Asins has on occasions participated in group exhibitions of artists of her generation, including those of the Grupo Castilla 63 and the Nueva Generación group in 1967. These have been combined with solo exhibitions including Computable Forms at the Centro de Cálculo of the Complutense University, Madrid (1967).
*1940, Madrid, Spain – †2015, Azpirotz, Navarre, Spain
Vera Chaves Barcellos
After beginning her education in 1957 in music, Barcellos changed to fine art, studying at the Porto Alegre Instituto de Belas-Artes. Between 1961 and 1965 she completed her education at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and St. Martin’s School of Art in London, the Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in Rotterdam and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, as well as the Croydon College in 1975. From 1976 to 1978 she was a member of the Nervo Ótico group and, the year after this, together with another eight women artists, created the Espaço N.O. (–1982). After a stay in Barcelona, between 1986 and 1999, she returned to Brazil where she helped found the Obra Aberta gallery (–2002).
Her relationship with the multiple work began with printing techniques, especially etching, and in 1970 extended to photography, silkscreen processes and photocopying, and finally making use of computer images and digital processes. At the same time her work moved from paper to the book, the object, the video, and the installation. In terms of photography, a constant throughout her work, she has developed a continually experimental dynamic that questions the not only the visual regime of the photographic but also of the pictorial, testing the specificities of each medium and notions of the author, the original and the copy, the documentary and the fictional, of time and duration.
Her oeuvre is a particular investigation of the feminine and the body and of individual and collective mythologies, passing from a subjective level to the new systems of production and consumption and their new cultural products.
Vera Chaves Barcellos lives and works in Viamão, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and Barcelona, Spain
Ángela de la Cruz
After reading Philosophy at the University of Santiago de Compostela, De la Cruz moved to London to study art at the Chelsea College of Art (1989 –90), Goldsmiths College (1991–94) and the Slade School of Art (1994–96). In the context of the 1990s art scene, which witnessed a new crisis of painting, De la Cruz evolved a distinctive idiom that went beyond the limits of painting, both formally and with regard to the representational space. The result is a body of work that is both painterly and sculptural in which the object/painting is anthropomorphic, referential and metaphorical. From the starting point of historical references that range from modern monochromatic painting to Conceptualism and from Minimalism to the Supports/ Surfaces, De la Cruz emphasises the material nature of painting through deconstruction and violent gesture in order to explore a field of representation that is metaphorically linked to the real world, its habitual levels of violence and its excessive production.
Ángela de la Cruz lives and works in London, UK
Ferrer holds a degree in Social Sciences and Journalism. Her activity as an artist began when she participated in the Art Association of Guipuzcoa in San Sebastian between 1961 and 1968. During that period, she also belonged to the ”Free Speech Workshop,” with Jose Antonio Sistiaga, and to the Experimental School in Elorrio, Biscay. In 1967, she joined ZAJ, a group created some years previously by Ramón Barce, Juan Hidalgo and Walter Marchetti in Madrid.
Ferrer’s work, of an intense experimental nature, is based on performance, including installations, sculptures, photographs, sound works, models and drawings. Her relationship with the body is central to her work, addressing concepts of time, space and presence, and raising questions regarding feminism, identity and power structures. Since the eighties, she has been involved in a series of drawings and installations based on prime numbers and decimals of pi, which refer to the idea of infinity and the expansion of the cosmos.
Esther Ferrer lives and works in Paris, France
Dora García is an multidisciplinary artist and one of the pioneers of net-art in Spain. Her work spans disciplines as diverse as photography, sculpture, installations, video and sound, performance and, in particular, online performance. After completing her degree in Fine Arts from the University of Salamanca in 1988, she obtained a Nuffic scholarship one year later to study at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam until 1991.
Influenced by US performative art from the sixties, by science fiction literature and surrealist language, her work analyses the laws and contradictions that govern human behaviour in society, creating situations or contexts that play with the dichotomy between fiction and reality, making the viewer reconsider the limits that currently exist between them, using tools such as the internet or hypertextual participatory narratives.
Dora García lives and works in Oslo, Norway
Sarah Grilo played a key role in bringing Argen- tinean abstract art to public notice and hers was a significant contribution to international abstraction. After beginning her studies with the Spanish artist Vicente Puig, she moved to Madrid, after which she divided her time between the Spanish capital, Buenos Aires, and Paris, with a long stay in New York (1961–70). Between 1952 and 1954 she was a member of the Grupo de Artistas Modernos de Buenos Aires, founded by Aldo Pellegrini, with which she exhibited at the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1952).
The post-Cubist figuration of her early days transformed into a geometric abstraction that, with time spent in New York, would become closer to an abstract expressionism. This style, populated by linguistic, calligraphic, and scribbled signs, would end up defining her most personal work. Language would permit the possibility, a necessity in the 1960s, of allowing reality into the heart of her abstract vision. Details of individual everyday lives, adverts, graffiti, newspaper headlines—all made visible urban life and its social, economic, and political context. At the same time, the pictorial treatment of layers, superimposed like subtle glazes, of texts and diluted stains of colour that lie over each other, hiding each other and breaking each other up, puts in doubt the certainty of the messages. Spontaneous, gestural, and energetic in their facture, her works are resolved in the most delicate finishes, thanks to an astute chromatic sensitivity that led to her being known as “the great colourist of her generation.”
*1917, Buenos Aires, Argentina – †2007, Madrid, Spain
After studying drawing and ceramics in Barcelona (1977–79), Cristina Iglesias left for London and trained at the Chelsea School of Art (1980). The New British Sculpture would be a key reference point for her work, combined with the Central European tradition of architectural sculpture as a poetic space. These approaches constitute the basis of her work, in which different materials, light, architecture, and the viewer‘s physical and psychological experience are fundamental to the creation of her sculptural spaces that constitute symbolic representations of emotions. Through this work Iglesias has contributed to the renaissance of the Spanish sculpture scene.
Cristina Iglesias, Lives and works in Madrid, Spain
Considered to be one of the outstanding figures in Spanish realism, Carmen Laffón took classes with Manuel González Santos before studying at the art schools of Seville (1949–52) and Madrid (1953–54). She completed her artistic education with scholarships in Paris and Rome and trips to Vienna and Amsterdam (1954–56).
Back in Seville, she created her own world based on the poetry of the everyday and the insignificant, inhabited by framed portraits in interiors whose objects and spatial qualities gained in importance, and whose light overwhelms, transforms, and dilutes forms, atmospheres, structures, and colors. A growing presence of the rational would lead to the sculptural transposition of objects in the 1960s—sculptures that would return in the 1990s—and to the horizontal layout of landscapes, reinforcing their geometric value, compositional completeness, and the importance of the colors—exuberant in some details—achieving their finest expression in the series La sal (Salt). Here, the atmospheres, spaces, and highlights render silence and detained time, in a unique blend of delicacy and firmness. The freedom of the brushwork, contained within geometrical structures, makes the painting practically indistinguishable from the drawing, while the materiality of the works gives them almost the form of reliefs. A clarity of observation and intense feeling for what is being contemplated have led the artist to adopt the series as a process, allowing her to take on perspectives and insist on light variations with respect to the objects and landscapes.
*1934, Seville, Spain – †2021, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cadiz, Spain
Eva Lootz trained in Vienna where she specialized in filmmaking and television, although she combined this with courses on philosophy and art. In 1967, together with her then partner and artist, Adolfo Schlosser, she moved to Spain following the footsteps of Federico García Lorca. She held her first exhibition at the Ovidio Gallery (1973). Very soon, through the Buades Gallery, she connected with the conceptual art scene in Madrid.
In the early 1970s, she clearly opted for threedimensional work, although she experimented with materials that were alien to the sculptural tradition, such as felt, paraffin, and wax, following discourses linked to Postminimalism and the rejection of an eternal and imperturbable oeuvre. This line has been the backbone of her work ever since. She immediately began to experiment with spatial occupation, moving towards installation art. In the early 1980s, it became urgent to analyze how sculpture had expanded its field of action, which resulted in some thesis exhibitions in which Lootz would always be present alongside creators of her generation, such as Susana Solano and Ángeles Marco (En tres dimensiones, 1984, curated by María Corral).
Lootz experimented with materials that transform when used or applied. Later, she studied how these materials connect with traces in the landscape and with the memory of human beings in the territory they inhabit, including place names. The artist has used a wide range of materials: dry ice, wax, cotton, salt, copper, sand, lead, mercury, water, etc., but also marble and bronze.
Eva Lootz lives and works in Madrid, Spain
Erlea Maneros Zabala
Erlea Maneros Zabala trained at the Glasgow School of Art, where she obtained her BFA (2001). She also holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles (2003). She focuses on a conceptual approach that analyzes the production and dissemination processes of images in the media in relation to political and ideological contexts relating to her life experience in her native environment in the Basque Country and in the United States, as her adopted country, through processes involving deconstruction, appropriation, reproduction, and seriation, in order to reinterpret historical events that have a significant impact on the present.
An example of this is her series BRICKS TO A HOUSE/FIGURES TO A PICTURE: Imagery of the American Press 2001–2004, in which she addresses the way in which mass media shapes the violence of war so that it can be digested and assimilated by potential readers. Or the Exercises on Abstraction series she has been working on since 2007, in which she uses techniques and materials related to the written media (offset paper and ink) to obtain an abstract result that questions the scholarly and political instrumentalization of the languages of abstraction.
Erlea Maneros Zabala lives and works in Lekeitio, Spain, and Joshua Tree, California, USA
Since the second half of the 1960s, Aurèlia Muñoz has held a prominent place at the forefront of the renewal of textile art, which she liberated from old dogmas, rethought, and transformed, mixing cultural and natural aspects in a way that has shed new light on the social realm.
A self-taught artist, she made a historical-artistic investigation of techniques from geographically and historically diverse moments into a central part of her working process. From the first printed jutes and embroideries with geometric motifs—renewing tradition through an understanding of the early avant-garde movements—she moved to collage and patchwork, for which she used painted and sewn fabrics; and later to “fragments of history” (braiding, brocades, damasks, and objects from churches). With these she announced an interest in volume that was resolved in 1969 with a jump to more threedimensional forms, enabled by her discovery of macramé. This step was prepared for in miniatures enclosed in methacrylate boxes, which already showed glimpses of the spatial tensions that would become mature in the play of straps and counterbalances, of the modular and the organic, of her knotted pieces. In the 1980s, producing boat sails, kites, and origami, these tensions acquired a constructive rationalization in works made of canvas and of paper. The increase in scale conferred on them a participative dimension that enabled her to establish new perceptual relationships with the viewer at the visual, bodily, and intellectual levels.
*1926, Barcelona, Spain–†2011, Barcelona, Spain
In 1965, Soledad Sevilla completed her studies at the Barcelona School of Fine Art and, between 1969 and 1971, the Automatic Generation of Plastic Form Seminar run at the University of Madrid’s Centro de Cálculo left a strong imprint on her work, which would, from that time onwards, have a geometric foundation and be built up through the use of basic units. She completed her education in Boston and at Harvard University (1979 – 82).
In the 1970s we see serial painting with an analytical basis of line and plane, light, and matter, which grows through the use of a supporting grid, of permutations and combinations, and by opening up to other materials and formats that enable analysis and structuring through space and light. At this time, the work moves beyond the plane, coming to occupy the architectural space in installations that, through a range of media, make the viewer’s bodily experience an essential element of perception.
This can be seen in installations for the Fundación Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona (1987), Castillo de Vélez Blanco, Almería (1992), Casa del Albaicín, Granada (2015), and the Palacio de Cristal, MNCARS, Madrid (2011–12). Coherent over time, Sevilla’s oeuvre is continually renewed through the rich and varied play of a scientifically rooted abstraction and a poetry of the sensory, the emotional, and the experienced. Her recent work shows a return to the geometric, under the inspiration of Fernando Pessoa, inaugurating new spaces of spatial, light, and visual investigation.
Soledad Sevilla lives and works in Barcelona, Spain
Susana Solano graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona, where she later became a lecturer, and, in 1980, she held her first individual exhibition at the Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona.
Although throughout her intense career Susana Solano has worked on paintings, photography and installation art, the truth is that the sculptural part of her work has been the main feature of her well-deserved success. In her initial creations, the sculptures took on a marked formal reduction that, due to the strong expressiveness that emanated from them, ended up linking them to a certain Postminimalism whose subjectivity has been related to that of works by Robert Morris, Julio González, and Jorge Oteiza. Since then, Solano‘s production has been based on the projection of concrete, geometric forms of a constructivist nature, which interact with space, with the fullempty concept, and with the materials she uses. Indeed, over time she has introduced various raw materials such as wood, wicker, plaster, and, above all, iron, or aluminum. Thanks to this diverse use of materials and their relationship with space, Solano designs sculptures charged with a profound significance which, in the words of the artist, the spectator must unravel. On many occasions, the original meaning of the sculpture is probably not achieved, but, nevertheless, this is the most interesting aspect: the multiple interpretations that result from her rigorous and personal production.
Susana Solano lives and works in Barcelona, Spain
Montserrat Soto trained in painting at the Escuela Massana in Barcelona and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble (1990–91), but then turned to photography, which, along with video, has become her principal medium. Her strikingly intense images make use of perspectival views, optical illusions, and a limited degree of digital intervention. They constitute constructions into which the viewer is invited to enter, either to move around the spaces and settings of public and private art, whose internal mechanisms she reveals, or to move out into the open landscape—natural or urban—which is devoid of figures but redolent of humanity and in which nature and culture confront each other. More recently, creative processes and the transmission of art have also been a subject of interest in her work.
Montserrat Soto lives and works in Barcelona, Spain
After graduating in Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona (1981–86), Eulàlia Valldosera completed her education in the Department of Engraving at the School of Arts and Artistic Trades of Catalonia (1987–98) and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam (1990–92). With extraordinary conceptual consistency, she uses a multiplicity of media, such as performance, photography, video, and installations to their perceptive-emotional limit. Her photographic work, often the result of a prior performativity, reflects, through overlapping images, on the presence of the body and its prevalence regarding daily objects. Her installations, with multisensory and experiential flows, combine bottles of cleaning products, everyday objects, enclosing kinetic projections that exceed any sensitivity to objects through differential processes and narratives based on light and shadows. They open up areas of otherness that subvert the historical stability of identities, redefining gender, spaces, experiences, as well as collective and individual memories.
Eulàlia Valldosera lives and works in Barcelona, Spain
In cooperation with Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Helga de Alvear, Cáceres, and support by the Spanish Embassy and the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID).