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Photography and art
dal 5/2/2004 al 16/5/2004
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Marta Viana Tome'

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Photography and art

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Vigo

Variations in Spain 1900-1980

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Curated by Horacio Fernández

The exhibition is made up of a selection of approximately 320 photographs, which are accompanied by supporting documentary material: books, catalogues, reviews and press articles.

Horacio Fernández, currently the artistic director of PhotoEspaña, is an art historian and teacher of the History of Photography at the University of Castilla-La Mancha. He has organised exhibitions on the history of photography, notably Mexicana. La fotografía moderna en México 1923-1940 (IVAM, Valencia, 1998) and Fotografía pública (MNCARS Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, 1999), whose catalogue is his main publication. He has collaborated as a critic of contemporary art in newspapers such as El Mundo, and the reviews Buades, El Europeo and Kalias. He is the author of a number of essays on art and photography.

Only two weeks after the opening of O Feito Fotográfico, the MARCO of Vigo is presenting another photography exhibition entitled PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART. Variations in Spain 1900-1980, with which it completes its programme for this term on the subject of 20th century photography in its cultural and artistic dimension.

For the occasion, we have traced a historical and visual journey through the photography in Spain between the years 1900 and 1980. The subtitle, "Variations in Spain", points to the thematic axis of the exhibition, for it is not about Spanish photographers, but about photographs taken in Spain (or about Spain) at different times in its history, by both Spanish and foreign photographers, and here is where one of its foremost points of interest lies.

The chronological limits are the early 20th century and the years of the transition to democracy. It was decided that the exhibition should end here not only because of the period's symbolic significance, but also because this was when photography ceased to offer an independent account and became a part of a wider narrative: the history of visual culture.

Many of the works on display have never been seen before, and many are vintage. They come from both private collections, often those of the photographers themselves or of their families, and public collections: the General Administrative Archive (Alcalá de Henares), the Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid), the Bill Brandt Archive (London), the Center for Creative Photography (Tucson), the Photographic Funds of the University of Navarre (Pamplona), Georges Eastman House (Rochester), Instituto de Crédito Oficial (Madrid), Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (Valencia), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid), Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Museo de Pontevedra, Residencia de Estudiantes (Madrid).

Thirty-eight photographers and over 300 prints speak to us of the relationships between photography and art and offer a plurality of viewpoints from, and about, Spain. They show the intersections between the different pictorial/photographic genres, such as the portrait and landscape, and between plastic and technological supports, inviting us to witness the history of photographic art in the last century.

It was decided that the number of photographers should be limited in order to show representative selections of their works and avoid dispersion. Most of the photographers are represented by a good selection of images, mainly photographs, although some publications are included (reviews, photo-books, posters) where the images were first seen. The themes treated are urban life, landscape, popular types, urban and marginal types, scenes of tourism, ethnographic documentaries, montages of political propaganda, press pictures, portraits and the documentation of actions and artistic processes.

The hanging of the works is structured into five chronological and thematic sections, which go from the pre-modern photographic languages and the images of human themes and landscape at the turn of the century (Álvarez de Toledo, Campañá, Langdon, Mas, Coburn, Ortiz Echagüe), including the 'modern photography' of the 1930s (Benítez, Bill Brandt, Cartier-Bresson, Casas, de Kaskel, Krull, Munkacsi, Paniagua, and the Galician José Suárez), to the importance of photography as a documental testimony and vehicle for propaganda during the Spanish Civil War (Heartfield, Angel, Misiones Pedagógicas, Reuter, Renau, Val del Omar), and the group of photographers of the postwar period (Cualladó, Frank, Juanes, Maspons, Pérez Siquier, Smith, Virxilio Vieitez, Vielba), where special attention is paid to the group TMM -Terré, Miserachs, Masats- three of our country's most outstanding documentalist photographers, who held collective exhibitions in Barcelona in 1957 and 1959. The exhibition closes with works by plastic artists who used photography as a vehicle for expression in the mid seventies (Fontcuberta, García Rodero, Gordillo, Hidalso, Llena, Millares, Pazos and Valcárcel Medina).

In another gallery we have included, due to its great documentary and symbolic value, a reproduction of the photomontage made by Josep Renau and colleagues for the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, in which two female figures symbolise the winds of change and new hope that were taking place at that time.

From the museum's perspective, the importance of this show lies not only in the wonderful quality of the exhibits and the variety of the accompanying documents, but in the efforts on the part of the various organisms involved: the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno de Las Palmas and the MARCO of Vigo in co-production, and La Fábrica / PhotoEspaña, whose collaboration was indispensable. Not for nothing is the curator, Horacio Fernández, the artistic director of PhotoEspaña 2004, the most important photography festival in Spain.

The exhibition looks at three different aspects of the relationship between photography and art:

Photography as subordinated to the plastic arts
Photography as an artistic language independent of the plastic arts
Photography as a tool of artistic work

These aspects are developed through five sections:

José María Álvarez de Toledo, Count of La Ventosa (1880-1951), Antoni Campañá (1906-1989), Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), Adolf Mas (1861-1936), José Ortiz Echagüe (1881-1980).

The photographs in first section exemplify the different models existing in the premodern photographic languages: the representation of human types (racial, national, folkloric, touristic), archive documents, and landscape. Most of the photographers from this period practised a photography that was subordinated to the plastic arts, to artistic photography.

Adalberto Benítez (1893-1975), Bill Brandt (1904-1983), Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908), Gabriel Casas (1892-1973), Sibylle de Kaskel (1905), Germaine Krull (1897-1985), Martin Munkacsi (1896-1963), Cecilio Paniagua (1911-1978), José Suárez (1902-1974).

The second section is devoted to modern photography, which is defined by the acceptance of the characteristics of the photographic language as the photographers' sole vehicles of expression. It covers the 1930s, and shows how certain photographers (Brandt, Cartier-Bresson, Krull, Munkacsi) pursued precision in their work, for use in reports on Spain, and how others (Benítez, Casas, Kaskel, Paniagua, Suárez) developed specialities, such as the portrait, urban views, scenes of tourism, or reports, in consistency with the international models of what was then called a 'new vision'.

John Heartfield (1891-1968), Jalón Ángel (1898-1976), Walter Reuter (1906), Josep Renau (1907-1982) , José Val del Omar (1904-1982) y Misiones Pedagógicas.

The monumental and optimistic images of the Misiones Pedagógicas, taken mostly by José Val del Omar, are highlighted in this section as an example of collective photography that responded to a political and cultural programme with great aestheticism. The importance of photography in shaping the images we have of the Civil War is evinced in Reanu's photomontages for posters and wall-photographs, Heartfield's photomontages on magazine covers, Reuter's images of the rear guard, and Jalón Ángel's emphatic portraits of the military.

Gabriel Cualladó (1925-2000), Robert Frank (1924), Gonzalo Juanes (1923), Oriol Maspons (1928), Ramón Masats (1931), Xavier Miserachs (1937-1998), Carlos Pérez Siquier (1930), W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978), Ricard Terré (1928), Virxilio Vieitez (1930), Gerardo Vielba (1921-1992).

Following the parenthesis of the postwar period, the next section shows the works of a new group of photographers working in the fifties and sixties that found its own style alongside the prevailing standards in international documentalism. These pieces have been grouped into three areas that combine thematic and chronological criteria. The first shows works from the fifties and sixties generally. The second gives special emphasis to the exhibitions of Terré, Masats and Miserachs held in 1957 and 1959, which signified a rupture from the kind of photography that had dominated until then and the confirmation of the validity of the urban documentary aesthetic. A part of those exhibitions is recreated in here. The third area shows works from the sixties and seventies, in which the main element is the use of colour photography.

Joan Fontcuberta (1955), Cristina García Rodero (1949), Luis Gordillo (1934), Juan Hidalgo (1927), Antoni Llena (1942), Fina Miralles (1950), Carlos Pazos (1949), Isidoro Valcárcel Medina (1937).

The exhibition closes with the decade of the seventies, and shows how artists who were not photographers, strictly speaking, adopted the photographic language and thus brought about what we might call the end of the history of photography. This section presents works by artists who made ephemeral sculptures where the only trace was the photograph (Llena), or incursions into landscape art (Miralles); others interpreted discourses between poetry, theatre and music (Hidalgo) and protagonized stories (Pazos); other artists created sequential and interactive works with photographic devices (Valcárcel Medina) or made works of great plasticity by manipulating and rearranging images (Gordillo). In this climate of change, whose consequences have shaped today's visual culture, some photographers confronted the photographic tradition and developed projects based on documentary investigation or critique, as is the case of Fontcuberta and García Rodero.

Adalberto Benítez (1893-1975)
Bill Brandt (Germany 1904 - United Kingdom 1983)
Antoni Campañá (1906-1989)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (France, 1908)
Gabriel Casas (1892-1973)
Alvin Langdon Coburn (USA, 1882 - Wales 1966)
Gabriel Cualladó (1925-2000)
Joan Fontcuberta (1955)
Robert Frank (Switzerland, 1924)
Cristina García Rodero (1949)
Luis Gordillo (1934)
John Heartfield (Germany, 1891- Germany 1968)
Juan Hidalgo (1927)
Jalón Ángel (1898-1976)
Gonzalo Juanes (1923)
Sibylle de Kaskel (Germany, 1905)
Germaine Krull (Germany, 1897- Germany 1985)
Antoni Llena (1942)
Adolf Mas (1861-1936)
Oriol Maspons (1928)
Ramón Masats (1931)
Fina Miralles (1950)
Xavier Miserachs (1937-1998)
Misiones Pedagógicas
Martin Munkacsi (Rumania, 1896 - USA 1963)
José Ortiz Echagüe (1881-1980)
Cecilio Paniagua (1911-1978)
Carlos Pazos (1949)
Carlos Pérez Siquier (1930)
Otto Pless
Josep Renau (1907-1982)
Walter Reuter (Germany, 1906)
W. Eugene Smith (USA, 1918 - USA 1978)
José Suárez (1902-1974)
Ricard Terré (1928)
José Val del Omar (1904-1982)
Isidoro Valcárcel Medina (1937)
Virxilio Vieitez (1930)
Gerardo Vielba (1921-1992)
Conde de la Ventosa (José María Álvarez de Toledo, 1880-1951)

Image: Henri Cartier-Bresson

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition will be published in Spanish (with an offprint in Galician for Galicia) and will include a critical and informative essay by Horacio Fernández, curator of the exhibition, as well as reproductions of the works on display. Published by La Fábrica, an estimated 3000 copies (1000 for each producer) will be printed.
Given that some of the photographs have never been seen before and are coming to Spain for the first time, the catalogue will only be available as from April, when the book will be formally presented.

Curator: Horacio Fernández
Curator's Assistant: Emilia García Romeu

DIRECTOR MARCO: Carlota Álvarez Basso
CHIEF CURATOR: Iñaki Martínez Antelo
COORDINATED BY: Marta García Viña

PRODUCTION: Photography and Art. Variations in Spain 1900-1980 is a co-production of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vigo (MARCO) and the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with the collaboration of La Fabrica/PhotoEspaña04

TOUR VENUES: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo
(February 6 - May 16 2004)

PHOTOESPAÑA, Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid
(June 2 - July 18 2004)

CAAM, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno de Las Palmas
(September 28 - December 5 2004)

MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo
Rúa Príncipe 54
36202 Vigo (Pontevedra). Spain
Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays (including public holidays), from 11.00 am to 9.00 pm.

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dal 20/5/2005 al 11/9/2005

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