Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea CGAC
Santiago de Compostela
Rua Valle Inclan s/n 15704
+34 981 546619 FAX +34 981 546625
Modern Galicia
dal 15/12/2004 al 27/3/2005
0034 81546629 FAX 0034 981 546625
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Modern Galicia

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea CGAC, Santiago de Compostela

A Stellar Moment for Galician Culture. The exhibition corresponds to twenty years from 1916 to 1936. The chronological boundaries of this show are not a matter of chance nor have they been chosen randomly. They are the consequence of a careful reflection on the rhythm established in Galicia by a series of cultural facts and historical events. Curator Antonio Bonet Correa

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Curator: Antonio Bonet Correa

A Stellar Moment for Galician Culture by Antonio Bonet Correa

The exhibition A Galicia moderna corresponds to two decades from the first third of the 20th century, that is, the twenty years from 1916 to 1936. The chronological boundaries of this exhibition are not a matter of chance nor have they been chosen randomly. They are the consequence of a careful reflection on the rhythm established in Galicia by a series of cultural facts and historical events. It was in 1919 that the first Irmandade de Amigos da Fala, a nationalist linguistic association, which was soon extended to other Galician cities and towns and eventually became, twelve years later in 1931, the nationalist party Partido Galeguista, was founded in Corunna. The date that closes the exhibition in 1936, year when the Spanish Civil War started, interrupting, in a traumatic and terrible manner, the political process and of moral regeneration, destroying the brilliant intellectual and artistic activity of an essential and decisive period for Galicia.

The same as in different Spanish regions, especially those located in peripheral areas but with their own cultural system, Galicia started a collective and operational process whereby the country had to be rescued from the utmost depression and stagnation. From the nineteenth-century regionalism of our Galician Rexurdimento, Galicia went into nationalism, thanks to the foundation of the Irmandades da Fala, with the aim of achieving a Statute of Autonomy, which certainly reignited Galicia' cultural and political life.

Castelao' work undoubtedly was the one that most profoundly satirised the most old-fashioned Galician society, which objected to the regeneration the reformists from the Xeracian Nós were longing for. Son of a poor fisherman from Rianxo, who was forced to emigrate to America, Castelao, who lived from 5 to 10 in Argentina, when his family returned to Galicia went to high school in Pontevedra - the good town - and then he went to Santiago de Compostela to study Medicine, although he would never work as a doctor. Painter, caricaturist, writer and dramatist, he was a man endowed with a political instinct, which led him to be a member of Parliament in Madrid and one of the main pillars of the Galician nationalist movement.

In painting, the so-called Os Novos, including Maruja Mallo, Carlos Maside, Arturo Soto, Manuel Colmeiro, Candido Fernandez Mazas, Manuel Torres or the youngest of them all José Otero, 'Laxeiro', just to mention some of the most remarkable figures, constituted a brilliant constellation which, with their works, broke with the naturalism and endogamous Modernist picturesqueness of their Galician predecessors. Luís Seoane, who made drawings and posters before 1936, would later develop, in his Buenos Aires exile, the aesthetics of Os Novos. The illustrators and drawers Luis Huici, Alvaro Cebreiro, Francisco Miguel, Manuel Méndez or Anxel Johan, the same as painters, with their collaborations with publishing houses, magazines and newspapers contribute to creating a style, which will be soon extended to publicity ads, shop signs and consumption products. Sculptors Xosé Eiroa, Santiago Bonome, Cristino Mallo and Angel Ferrant - this last one linked to Galicia through his summer holidays in Betanzos and his friendship with Viqueira - create projects in compliance with the new aesthetics. It is interesting to observe that all of these artists hover between post-Cubist New Objectivity and German Expressionism, and their almost exclusive and recurring themes: the world of the rural Galicia and the landscape, the masks and the oscillation between the idyllic and the poetic and the pathetic situation of a resigned and muffled tragedy. We should also highlight its renovating formal aspect, which was denominated by art critic Antón Castro the 'granite aesthetics'. What is undoubted is that Os Novos established a new guideline and with their endeavour to recover figurativeness they became a classic reference in the plastic interpretation of Galicia.

In 1922, the manifesto Mais ala! by the poet Manuel Antonio and the drawer Alvaro Cebreiro; the creation, in 1923, in Santiago de Compostela, of the Seminario de Estudos Galegos, and in 1924, the publication in Lugo of the Ronsel magazine, directed by Evaristo Correa Calderón, are examples of the irruption of a new avant-garde generation. Literature and plastic arts, closely linked to magazines like Nós and Alfar, experience a brilliant development at that time. The poets and writers Manuel Antonio, Luis Amado Carballo, José Otero Espasandín and the brothers Eduardo and Rafael Dieste are the main figures of the so-called 1925 Generation, with a clear and decided renovating will. With foreign influences and contacts, such as the Portuguese Teixeira de Pascoães, they all created means of expression, which were unknown up to then. During the Republic, these are followed by neo-troubadour poets like Alvaro Cunqueiro and Fermín Bouza-Brey or the independent Ricardo Carballo Calero. All of them published books or collaborated in the aforementioned magazines, which, in the case of Cristal, Resol, Papel de Color, Yunque or Guión, were illustrated with drawings, woodcuts and linocuts by the artists of parallel aesthetic interests.

In the remaining forms of artistic expression, Galicia was also impelled by a renovating spirit. We are referring to photography, cinema, theatre, music and ballet. The way in which photographers like José Suarez or José María Massó and film makers like Carlos Velo, who borrows from Eisenstein in his documentary La ciudad y el campo or the film O carro e o home by the ethnographer Xaquín Lorenzo, 'Xocas', kept in stride with the avant-garde is awesome and of an axiomatic evidence. The anthropological sense, which encouraged the investigations and publications of the university students pertaining to the Seminario de Estudos Galegos, was joined by the formal will of a new vision, the assembly of what seized by an eye whose aim was to reduce reality to its essential, even abstract, elements. In theatre, like in the poetry rooted in the tradition of the collections of old songs, the medieval legends and the historicism of pieces of work like O Mariscal, by Antón Villar Ponte and Ramón Cabanillas, we should highlight the dramatic plays of the 'Art Theatre', such as those written by Otero Pedrayo at Castelao' request, who dreamt of seeing on Galician stages plays like the ones he saw in the Russian Theatre of Paris. In this regard, we should not forget that in 1929, the Aguilar Publishing House released a volume titled Teatro Grotesco Ruso, with short plays written by Gogol, Tolstoy and Andreiev, which we know was very interesting for the Basque architect and photographer Aizpúrua and other avant-gardists from other regions in Spain. Vicente Risco, who wrote in 1921 Teoría y -Estórea do drama (Anacos que poideran servir pros galegos qu'scriben pra escea), supported the idea of founding a cultural system in which humour and myths were merged together. In the correlation of Galician arts and humanities, masks and disguises go hand in hand with the grotesque and the dramatic. In the popular sphere, the Carnivals in Verín are a paradigm of our assertion. We could also add Camilo Díaz Baliño' stage designs and the book by Eugenio Montes Estética de la muiñeira, from 1922 the ballet promoted by Jesús Bal, composer and musicologist, who wrote in 1924 the book Hacia el ballet gallego. The masks made by Castelao for the stage performance of Os vellos non deben de namorarse close in a symbolic manner one of the last panels of our exhibition.

An essential chapter is that of architecture and urbanism. In the 19th century, Galician cities and villages had hardly had a really modern development. In the early 20th century, Vigo and Corunna experienced an urban expansion, which in Ourense and even Lugo, involved a considerable change in the physiognomy of the urban landscape due to the new architecture. The eclectic stone buildings in Vigo or the Banco Pastor building in Corunna wanted to look similar to the American skyscrapers and the Art Deco and rationalist buildings wanted to change the city' layout completely.

That world, where everything seemed brand spanking new, suddenly went dim and after the tough years of the Civil War, turned into a long petrified night, in which, however, there were some survivors in the inner exile and also from the exile of the 'emigrant Galicia', who testified the great hope and brightness that had had one of the most splendorous, fertile and fecund moments in Galicia' culture and art.

Extracts from the text that Antonio Bonet Correa, curator of the exhibition, wrote for the catalogue of the show.

Image: Alphonso R. Castelao, Estudo de testa. Debuxo a lápiz, papel, 14,5 x 12 cm.

Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea
First Floor and basement
Valle Inclan s/n 15704 Santiago de Compostela

Two exhibitions
dal 3/7/2014 al 11/10/2014

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