I have just spent 5 days in Madrid. It was the first time I have visited and was an opportunity to visit some of the big galleries and see some very famous works in the flesh. We visited the Museum Reina Sofia and the Prado. To visit both these galleries is to be accosted by so many recognisable works in the flesh.
In the Reina Sofia the work I was very keen to see was Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Over many years of visiting Spain I have visited Guernica, in the Basque region, on a number of occasions and have previously read an account of the bombing of the town during the Spanish civil war, April 1937. I was impressed to see it and experience the size, and be able to see the surface and the work that had gone into it, but it is obviously the focus of many other people’s visits as it was very crowded.
There were 2 temporary exhibitions-
Ree Morton– Be a Place, Place an image, Imagine a poem.
I was not previously aware of her work, but was interested that she was working around the same time as Eva Hesse in America and written about by Lucy L:ippard, and also died prematurely at 40yrs. It intrigued me also that there were some works that made me think of pieces by Tracey Emin. Morton had made a series of flags, in textile, onto which she had added the names of people she loved- I couldn’t help but think of Emin’s tent.
Carl Andre– Sculpture as Place, 1958-2010.
I have previously known Andre for his minimal sculptures, but this exhibition opened my eyes to other works that I had been unaware of. The exhibition text describes how he would, ‘sharpen his questions and clarify his understanding of sculpture by making the typewriter his studio’. It suggests that in the 1960’s he generated more than 1300 pages of poems. It was difficult to really get to grips with these text works without giving them time, but I found it intriguing. There was also a collection of assemblages known as Dada Forgeries. It interested me too that Andre is someone who came up repeatedly in my reading about Eva Hesse, he was someone whose work she admired. It interested me too to see his collections of post-card correspondences, which made my mind immediately turn to the correspondence between Hesse and Sol Le Witt during her time in Germany.
Whilst at the Reina Sofia I also saw examples of various newspapers, pamphlets, and publications made by the artists to share their work. This interested me because of conversations I have recently had with Michele about the use of publications as a means of sharing work, and I had been researching on the internet, looking for businesses that make newspapers.
Another work that I enjoyed was an installation by Richard Serra. I have seen his work before, but it was of a more monumental scale. This work was made specifically for the architectural space, and in many ways made me think more about what an installation is. From the exhibition text I gathered that the measurements were important and related directly to the building, in particular the height of the window ledges. I also find myself drawn to the surfaces of the steel and wondering if he has made any conscious acts in order to achieve such a surface, or it is purely due to the inherent properties of the material- it makes me think of the tins I have been using to make charcoal.
At the Prado the work I most wanted to see was Velasquez’s ‘Las Meninas’. It is one of those works from previous studies that I seem to have looked at a lot, in particular in relation to perspective- and I must say it was quite astonishing to be able to feel the depth when you viewed it from a significant distance. It is an iconic work, one where Velasquez questions the role of the artist, and one that has been studied by many artists. Some years ago I visited an exhibition in Palma, Majorca, showing a whole series of studies made by Picasso, along with versions by Spanish contemporary artists, Equipo Cronica.
Again at the Prado there are many recognisable works that it was great to see in the flesh, in particular the many Goya’s, especially his Black paintings that include Saturn devouring his son- very macabre. And the artist Hieronymus Bosch, whose work ‘The garden of earthly delights’ 1504, was on show. Astonishing work that reminds you that imagination and technical skill has a long history- I found myself looking at details within the work and my mind being turned to features of films like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and mount doom. I wonder how many creatives have taken inspiration from these works.
Other notable works were a self portrait by Durer, ‘The annunciation’ by Fra Angelico.
We also made a brief visit to the Fundacion Juan March which was showing work called ‘ Modern Taste- Art Deco in Paris 1910-1935’. This was interesting, but I was hoping that there might be some more contemporary work to see. With only a limited time this trip focused on seeing mostly historical works, but I feel better placed to chase up Contemporary works if I return to Madrid.