In the art world, keeping safe distances is not exactly new. Jordi Rigol, curator and cultural manager with more than fifteen years of experience in some of the best-known galleries in Madrid, explains that the problem is that the pandemic has enlarged hundreds, thousands of kilometers that couple of steps that do not have to advance in front of a painting so as not to get a reprimand from the watchman on duty. Internet and sales on-line they have kept many galleries afloat while they have been closed, yes, but it is not the same to contemplate a work of art directly than on a mobile screen.
For this reason, Rigol and three friends, also the curator Luisa Fraile and the painters Adrian Navarro Y Vicky Uslé, They have launched ATLAS, a project with which they want to examine the situation of Spanish painting and, incidentally, mark the way back to exhibitions. Friar insists that, in the case of painting, physical experience is indispensable. “The creative process of a painter is completed the moment someone is directly confronted with his work. And that no website, no matter how high resolution it may have, can replace it ”.
“The virtual does not stop being a picture,” agrees Navarro, for whom an original painting has that aura impossible to reproduce that Walter Benjamin spoke of. “I believe that painting is not even an image. Unlike the rest of the visual arts, it is a living organism ”. The first edition of ATLAS has started with Environments and reflections, an exhibition of abstract painting that can be seen until May 10 at a place at 11, Cenicero street, near the Reina Sofía.
From a painting that the veteran Juan Uslé painted in 2011, a conversation is created about how other younger Spanish artists face abstract painting, such as the authors of the remaining works: Felicidad Moreno, Pepa Prieto, Secundino Hernández, Guillermo Pfaff, Adrián Navarro and Vicky Uslé. The idea is to use the money obtained from its sale to finance the three or four exhibitions that ATLAS plans to hold per year outside the art gallery circuit, as well as the catalogs and publications that will be added to the project.
The ultimate goal is to “map” the national pictorial panorama. Or put another way, to show that in this increasingly globalized world full of egos there is still something called Spanish painting. “In Spain we are more used to talking about individual figures that stand out than to making transversal readings that connect some painters with others. It remains to map a pictorial context of which, however, Spanish artists do feel that they are a part ”, points out Rigol. And he puts the example of the painter Luis Gordillo, who neither his 86 years nor his international prestige have stopped him from being very aware of young artists and not missing one of his exhibitions.
“Our idea is to make visible those relationships that go unnoticed by the public, but that exist.” The fact that Spanish painting has to be mapped leads to the question of whether it has ended up immersing itself in history as a kind of Atlantis. Luisa Fraile admits that she has been relegated by other arts. “When reviewing the programming of galleries and contemporary art centers in recent years, it is immediately apparent that they tend more towards installation and conceptual art.” It is the reflection of the prejudice with which today many Spanish institutions confront the oldest artistic expression in history, considered precisely that, too old. The truth is that the painting has not lost its validity.
This is demonstrated, Adrián Navarro explains, by the fact that social movements such as the feminist and communities such as Afro-Americans or Asians that have historically been marginalized in the contemporary art world are using painting precisely to express themselves. Also in our country it is in full expansion, but it remains to be said. “In Spain we have to make an effort to talk about what is happening in painting. Do not look at the 70 or 80, but investigate what painters are doing today and give it the importance it has, “says Navarro. “If we don’t talk about it now, it will be lost. Nobody from outside is going to come and tell it if we are not capable of doing it ourselves ”.
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