Museums explore the relationships between modernity, avant-garde and post-modernity
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Museums explore the relationships between modernity, avant-garde and post-modernity
Antoni Tàpies, Rinzen [part de la instal·lació], 1992-1993. Materials diversos. Col·lecció MACBA. Fundació MACBA.© Antoni Tàpies, VEGAP, Barcelona, 2013. Photo: Rocco Ricci.

BARCELONA.- Under the title ART, TWO POINTS. Barcelona lives contemporary art, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Obra Social "la Caixa" (“la Caixa” Welfare Projects) present the first exhibition jointly organised and displayed at the same time in both headquarters. For the first time in Barcelona, the high quality of one of the most important collections of contemporary art in the South of Europe, bringing together more than 6,000 works, is presented. The merging of these collections has made it possible to create a new account that questions our recent past and places us in a better position to understand contemporariness. Art, dos punts is a broad selection of the collections of both institutions that explores the concept of modernity and its relationship with the avant-garde within the context of our history. The exhibition links MACBA’s galleries, where the different episodes of the modern era in Barcelona are revisited from the point of view of contemporary art, with those of CaixaForum, where the interests of the post-modern generation are echoed. In a new global context, the visitor experiences the fragility and disenchantment resulting from the loss of the utopias that fought for freedom, as it appears in the art works of the 1980s and 1990s. Art, dos punts gathers 400 works by 125 artists such as Ignasi Aballí, John Bock, Joseph Beuys, Joan Brossa, Eduardo Chillida, Christo, Tony Cragg, Pep Duran, Öyvind Fahlström, Lucio Fontana, Richard Hamilton, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Paul Klee, Jannis Kounellis, Muntadas, Juan Muñoz, Gerhard Richter, Martha Rosler, Dieter Roth and Jeff Wall, among others.

Under the title ART, DOS PUNTS. Barcelona viu l’art contemporani, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and the Obra Social "la Caixa" (“la Caixa” Welfare Projects) present the first exhibition jointly organised and displayed at the same time at both their respective venues. Therefore, Barcelona will play the leading role in this exhibition that will present the high quality of this collection, one of the most important collections in the South of Europe comprising the period between the second half of the twentieth century and today, both as regards the number of works making it up – over 6,000 – and the artists represented in it.

Since the formalisation of the covenant signed in July 2010 by Isidre Fainé, President of ”la Caixa” and Fundació ”la Caixa”, and Leopoldo Rodés, President of Fundació MACBA (that was broadened to include the Museum’s Consortium), a joint programme of exhibitions has been organised based on different selections of the contemporary art collections of ”la Caixa” and MACBA, which culminates today with the exhibition ART, DOS PUNTS. The first one was Volum! (Volume!), which was displayed at the MACBA’s galleries in 2011. That same year, CaixaForum Madrid presented La persistència de la geometria (The Persistence of Geometry) and the year after some new selections of works were displayed at CaixaForum Palma (Mirades creuades) (Crossed Glances) and at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (El mirall invertit) (The Inverted Mirror).

All these exhibitions have aimed to present new approaches to current art history by relating it to today’s art interests. The ultimate aim of this merging is to contribute towards developing the ability to produce knowledge and increase sensibility regarding the most recent art, as well as to foster the dissemination of the Spanish and international contemporary art scene. In this regard, the last joint activity has been the exhibition of a selection of works at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City.

Barcelona lives through contemporary art. Contemporary art lives in Barcelona.
The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Obra Social ”la Caixa” present for the first time in Barcelona a scarcely conventional account written with current art that questions several episodes of the agreements and disagreements between modernity and avant-garde. Given the fact that the avant-garde and modernity have been shaping and changing the city’s awareness since the end of the nineteenth century until today, Art, dos punts traces these tensions by putting face-to-face works and documents of the past with creation and contemporary languages.

The exhibition links the MACBA and CaixaForum venues. While at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, the various episodes of Barcelona’s modernity are explored from the point of view of contemporary art, at the CaixaForum we may discover the interests of the post-modern generation, in which the individual experiences the fragility and disenchantment resulting from the loss of those utopias that fought for freedom, as it appears in the art works of the 1980s and 1990s.

The MACBA exhibition
The exhibition eschews linear chronology in favour of thematic nuclei. The 1888 Universal and 1929 International Expositions made Barcelona aware of its modernity and established the basis for a present that has survived to this day through a constant flow of new artistic facets and proposals. Barcelona’s access to modernity has been marked by architecture, graphic and applied arts and poetic experimentation. Painting did not play an active part until the fifties. The exhibition follows this narrative until the institutionalisation of the artistic avant-garde in the eighties and nineties, a period briefly known as post-modernity that positioned Barcelona as a global city. ART, TWO POINTS. BARCELONA LIVES CONTEMPORARY ART confronts the city with its vocation for innovation and experimentation, with its risk-taking spirit and the transversality of the arts.

In the ground floor the 1888 Universal and 1929 International Expositions gave the city access to modernity through architecture, crafts and the applied arts. In the context of these two Expositions, monumental buildings and icons of architectural rationalism were built, such as the Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1929. At that time, the avant-garde also influenced a modern view of education led by Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, and the type of poetic and literary experimentation spearheaded by Salvador Dalí, J.V. Foix, Josep Maria Junoy and Joan Salvat-Papasseit, among others. Another building that became a reference of modernity was the Spanish Pavilion for the 1937 Paris International Exposition, built by the Republican Government during the Civil War.

In the post-war context, civil society became the bastion of modernity by following in the steps of the spirit of renewal of the 1930s through collective projects such as the magazines Cobalto 49 and Dau al Set, and the Grup R. Two events reinforced Barcelona’s position as an agent of modernity by establishing links with the rest of the world: the Triennale di Milano, 1951, and the III Bienal Hispanoamericana de Arte, 1955. Moreover, American abstract painting helped to consolidate a new artistic language: Informalism and Abstract Expressionism led an aesthetic canon that prevailed from the 1950s to the eighties.

The first floor shows how the tensions between object, word, image and action are ever present for the post-war avant-gardes. While in the fifties Informalist painting and Abstract Expressionism bring a new aesthetic sensibility, with Antoni Tàpies at the forefront of this artistic language in our country, in the sixties Pop artists express a new desire for reality.

In the mid-sixties, a new generation of artists brought up under the dictatorship is in contact with the international artistic, social and political movements. A deep awareness of social justice, freedom of expression and the first manifestations of feminism impregnate the practice of art. At the same time, the use of language as medium and metaphor comes into artistic practice. Following on the poetic experimentation of the first historical avant-gardes, art reflects on its own discursive condition. Already in the eighties and nineties, the return to the physical object by a new generation of sculptors reveals a change in the creative paradigm.

In the second floor the exhibition shows how in Barcelona, the 1992 Olympic Games were a catalyst for integrating Barcelona into the service logic of what is often described as a Post-Fordist type of economy, a process of profound urban, architectural and social renewal by which Barcelona positioned itself in the world’s collectively imaginary. Considered from the local perspective, this new Barcelona embedded in the dynamics of globalisation is not without conflicts and contradictions, and this is reflected in artistic practices.

These practices place particular emphasis on the urban question, which has become symptomatic of this new moment in history. Art puts forward urban and social utopias, and also criticises the logic of the interests behind globalised capital. Property speculation becomes one of the keys to representing the forms of valorisation that take place in the city, while at the same time some artists defend the beauty of the outskirts of the city and urban peripheries: places where the city becomes residual and where new, more autonomous urban processes develop.

The MACBA exhibition will take up all the galleries of the Museum. It comprises 350 works by 90 artists such as Ignasi Aballí, Joan Brossa, Eduardo Chillida, Tony Cragg, Pep Duran, Öyvind Fahlström, Richard Hamilton, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Jenny Holzer, Muntadas, Juan Muñoz, Martha Rosler, Dieter Roth and Jeff Wall, among others.

With the support of: Arxiu Coderch, Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat, Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, Arxiu Mas. Institut Ametller, Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya, Biblioteca de Catalunya, Biblioteca de Lletres, COAC, Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza, Daniel Giralt-Miracle, MBM Arquitectes, Norman Brosterman, Cecilia de Torres, Fundació Joan Miró, Fundación Almela-Solsona, Galeria Joan Prats, Fundació Mies van der Rohe, Sharon Avery-Fahlström, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The CaixaForum exhibition
The last two decades of the twentieth century underwent great changes in international politics and catastrophic events took place that produced the apocalyptic effect typical of fin-de-siècle periods. The 1980’s were threatened by the hole in the ozone layer, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, AIDS, the excesses of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s neoliberal politics and the increasing hostilities of the Cold War until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Moreover, the 1990s saw the Gulf War and the breakup of the Soviet Union. However, in those years, a liberalisation of markets also took place, and the great progress brought about by new technologies and the Internet made it possible to accelerate the globalisation process.

A progressive internationalisation of art was also to take place. While in the 1980s the situation still reflected the geopolitical order resulting form the war, focusing on America and Western Europe, the 1990s bore witness to the decentralisation of Western countries. In Spain, the so-called democratic transition forced a radical change in the composition and appearance of the artistic milieu: contemporary art was integrated into new democratic institutions, and the institutionalisation of art, which wanted to be part of the most innovating trends, started. In this period, the Fundació ”la Caixa” began an important programme of exhibitions of international contemporary art and acquired the first works of its collection.

The art of that period reflects the contradictions of those years in which despondency and enthusiasm converged. A new sensibility, which was the result of scepticism regarding universal and liberating principles, made the hope for a better future and the belief in only one identity lose its meaning. The feeling of having lost one’s points of reference gave place to a plural conception of the individual and to accounts focusing on subjectivity and personal life experiences. The generation of the so-called post-modernity became aware of the need to give a chance to the many voices of society and the sorrows of the individual that had lost its central position to express themselves. Therefore, the body experience becomes a refuge when the individual faces a society based on exclusion and difference; parody becomes an efficient device to dig into the fissures of thought and the individual’s condition that is then analysed and redefined from various points of view.

The CaixaForum exhibition comprises 55 works by 35 artists. In them we may observe the transition between the liberating utopias corresponding to the end of modernity and the aesthetic expressions of disenchantment and vulnerability, typical at the end of the 1980s and 1990s. The installations by Joseph Beuys and Jannis Kounellis relate the existentialist spirit of the post-war period with the anxiety that appears in a deeply-rooted and acutely-felt art that questions the ancient Western aesthetical discourse, bourgeois and masculine. Furthermore, the dichotomy between the body and the mind puts face-to-face Beuys’ Messianic symbolism with Mike Kelley’s anti-idealism, who advocated for the perception of the world through the body as an agent of knowledge that revisits our culture’s myths and the predominant discourses to find those that are prosaic, residual and irregular.

With the existential burden of Artaud’s words, Nancy Spero puts herself in the shoes of marginalised voices to explore the anxieties they experience as victims. In many works of this period, the tendency to define an individual’s life through pain and trauma — mental pain, the pain provoked by difference, by the body or by incurable illnesses —, as happens in Pepe Espaliú and Félix González-Torres’s works, clearly emerges.

With regard to the works by Miroslaw Balka, Janine Antoni, Robert Gober, Sue Williams and Martin Kippenberger, they refer to issues related to identity, difference and vulnerability. In his parodies, Bruce Nauman expresses the alienation, the violence and the dysfunction of human beings, whereas Cindy Sherman, Rosmarie Trockel and Martha Rosler explore the meaning of the images produced by society and the critical approaches to the practice of art. A large number of the works displayed put the accent on the extraordinary nature of that which is everyday and unveil the worrying reality of the most common experiences: artists have found the way to express it by means of a stunning balance between what is trivial and what is poetic. For instance, Robert Gobe achieves it by embedding his simulations of trivial objects with a psychological burden, and Guillén-Balmes by meeting the intimate needs of others. In these terms, art becomes more emotional, although it keeps its critical and sometimes irreverent views.

The artists included in the MACBA exhibition are Ignasi Aballí, Pep Agut, Lara Almarcegui, Frederic Amat, Art & Language, ASPEN, Miquel Barceló, Eric Baudelaire, Thomas Bayrle, Bleda & Rosa, Josep Branguli, K.P Brehmer, Marcel Broodthaers, Joan Brossa, Jean Marc Bustamante, Tino Calabuig, Miguel Ángel Campano, Francesc Català-Roca, Santiago Cirugeda, Club 49, Cobalto, Joan Colom, Jordi Colomer, Constant, Alberto Corazón, Tony Cragg, Alice Creischer, Leandre Cristòfol, Modest Cuixart, Antoni Cumella, Eduardo Chillida, Christo, Dau al Set, Juan Delcampo, Marcel Duchamp, Pep Duran, Equipo Crónica, Raimundo Escalada, Öyvind Fahlström, Luis Feito, Lucio Fontana, Günther Förg, Ferran Garcia Sevilla, Iñaki Garmedia, GATCPAC, Ricard Giralt-Miracle, Rodney Graham, Grup de Treball, Hans Haacke, Richard Hamilton, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Jenny Holzer, Craigie Horsfield, Sanja Iveković, Josep Maria Junoy, William Kentridge, Paul Klee, Harald Klingelhöller, Manolo Laguillo, Sherrie Levine, Antoni Llena, Asier Mendizabal, Josep Maria M Quadreny, Manolo Millares, Miralda, Joan Miró, Ana Muller, Muntadas, Juan Muñoz, Rafael Nogueras Oller, Jorge Oteiza, Pablo Palazuelo, Raimundo Patiño, Carlos Pazos, Perejaume, Joan Ponç, Pere Portabella, Joan Rabascall, Xavier Ribas, Martha Rosler, Diether Roth, Thomas Ruff, Joan Salvat-Papasseit, Antonio Saura, Jean-Louis Schoellkopf, José María Sicilia, Alberto Solsona, Haim Steinbach, Antoni Tàpies, Joan Josep Tharrats, Philippe Thomas, Francesc Torres, Joaquín Torres-García, Gediminas y Nomedas Urbonas, Oriol Vilanova, Edgardo Antonio Vigo, Jeff Wall, Christopher Williams.

The artists included in the CaixaForum exhibition are: Tonet Amorós, Janine Antoni, Miroslaw Balka, Joseph Beuys, John Bock, Anne-Lise Coste, Cheryl Donegan, Marlene Dumas, Pepe Espaliú, Ferran García Sevilla, Robert Gober, Félix González-Torres, Ramon Guillén-Balmes, Thomas Hirschhorn, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jannis Kounellis, Reinhard Mucha, Bruce Nauman, Ulrike Ottinger, Tony Ousler, A. R. Penck, Giuseppe Penone, Raymond Pettibon, Jaume Plensa, Ana Prada, Gerhard Richter, Joan Rom, Martha Rosler, Cindy Sherman, Nancy Spero, Antoni Tàpies, Rosemarie Trockel, Franz West, Sue Williams.

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