Millares. Building bridges, not walls
The Galeria Mayoral is proud to present Millares. Building Bridges, Not Walls, curated by the experts Alfonso de la Torre and Elena Sorokina. Concentrating on Manolo Millares’s notorious maturity period (1957-1972), this is the first major exhibition devoted to this artist in a private gallery and provides a unique opportunity to contemplate an ensemble of seventeen of Millares’s arpilleras (burlap paintings).
To realize this project we have relied upon the collaboration of Elvireta Escobio, the artist’s widow; their daughters, Coro and Eva Millares; Chus Martinez, Emmanuel Guigon and Llucià Homs. In addition, we have had the invaluable support of Documenta Archives Kassel, the Museo Reina Sofía, the Fundación Antonio Pérez, the Successió Miró and the Joan Brossa Foundation.
Millares is one of the most important artists of the postwar period at a national and international level. These paintings perfectly illustrate the artist’s creative process, revealing on the one hand his acute sensibility, and on the other his critical spirit and tireless non-conformity. According to curator Alfonso de la Torre, “In Millares’ work there is always an element that is out of control; he goes straight to the essence of things, permitting no distraction, with firm ethical resolve, never giving in.”
Millares’ life was deeply affected by the violence and brutality of the Spanish Civil War and WWII, which deeply influenced the artist. The crudeness of his work entails a reflection about human brutality; it echoes the physical and emotional wounds of postwar Europe.
In using a rough and vigorous technique, the artist achieves an intense, all-pervading effect that immediately overawes the spectator. The universality of this emotion allows us to build bridges between historical memory and contemporary conflicts, allowing the spirit of Millares’s work to persist into the present day. Elena Sorokina, co-curator of the show, argues that “His [Millares’s] ferocity at work, the destruction/healing dialectic, are tantamount to a gesture of ‘repair’, in an emotional as well as historical sense.”
About the artworks on display
This exhibition embraces some of Millares’ masterpieces, such as Cuadro 32 (1957-58), one of the eight paintings exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1958) (three of which are on display at the show). It consists of ragged areas, strings and threads, in which the white/black opposition prevails in chromatic terms. Millares himself wrote, “My paintings get increasingly barer. This is not for aesthetic reasons, as you might suppose, but is conveyed by the physic hollowness that is overcoming me.”
The forms in his paintings increasingly expanded into three-dimensionality, leading to the so-called ‘Homúnculos’ series, term borrowed from 16th century alchemical writings meaning ‘artificial human’. This series is defined by imprecise anthropomorphic forms, forms in which Millares synthesized his vision of the human body: devastated and dishonoured. For example, the work Homúnculo (1) (1964) is paradigmatic of the definition the artist himself gave of this series: “Homunculus, that shade of human redemption, is one of the most unsettling phenomena of recent art. Its existence is the genesis of the artist’s introversion as if it was the mirror image of a low blow, a slap in the face, an uncomfortable inharmonious warning to those on the outside.” Furthermore, there is on display the painting Personaje caído (1967), which has been in a private collection over 45 years.
Among the selection of artworks, there are two extraordinary rare triptychs. One of them, Divertimentos para un político (1963), belongs to the permanent collection of the Fundación Antonio Pérez (Cuenca, Spain) and formed part of the exhibition “Le Monde en question” (1967) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
During the exhibition there will be on projection the documentary Millares, 1970, filmed by the artist and his wife, Elvireta Escobio. This short film is a meditation on violence, on scars on the skin and on the Earth’s surface. It shows the artist walking through a landscape scarred by war, followed by his artistic praxis in the intimacy of his studio: cutting and stabbing the burlap for his paintings; splashing and pouring paint over them.
In addition, there is a substantial display of documents and photographs relating to his sources of inspiration, his artistic influences and his relationship with Catalonia.