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Saura. Tragedy & Creation

Mayoral is proud to present the exhibition Saura: Tragedy & Creation, which echoes the first retrospective we mounted in 2005. The show consists of fifteen works created by Antonio Saura, including oils from the 1950s and 60s and several compositions on paper. The exhibition benefits from the participation of the expert, Luca Massimo Barbero.
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Saura. Tragedy & Creation

Mayoral is proud to present the exhibition Saura: Tragedy & Creation, which echoes the first retrospective we mounted in 2005. The show consists of fifteen works created by Antonio Saura, including oils from the 1950s and 60s and several compositions on paper. The exhibition benefits from the participation of the expert, Luca Massimo Barbero.

Saura: Tragedy & Creation includes the masterpiece Salvatierra (1957), exhibited at the 29th Venice Biennale in 1958, as well as a selection of Damas, in which the female figure is depicted in differing yet similar ways. In Saura’s words, they were born of a “compelling need to scream,” of an urge “to express oneself no matter how, by making all the energetic possibilities of the universe our own.” These works inaugurate a new phase in his imagery, with the idea of pictorial form emerging from a kind of “hand-to-hand” combat, with no concern for composition, colour or balance—Stima (1959) and Pandora (1960) are good examples.

They are paintings resulting from confrontation; from a battle that transforms inert matter into a movement originating in “figurative desire.” All the works exemplify how Saura had been searching for a new kind of representation through material that bears the stigma and the imprint of humanity. The relationships between figure and abstraction, between ground and living being, and between rising up and drowning are also evident, showing that he was fully aware of the inevitable, dramatic and joyful balance between man and his existence, as, for example in 40 superposiciones (1975).

As Barbero stresses in his text for the exhibition catalogue: “His colour choice, nearly always dominated during this period by black and white or shades of grey, is linked to that distinctive silence full of gestures and thrusts, which are characteristic of paintings by the Spanish greats. The clearest reference to the relationship with history and politics, but also to the investigation of the human and figural dimension, can only be that of Goya, just as many have pointed out before. The more drastic, radical and controversial sense of Goya’s paintings can be found in the Spanish master’s relationship with the representation of the body and, eminently, with the idea of the portrait that, beyond effigy, focuses heavily on expression. This transmigrates into an idea of dramatic and free painting that Saura was developing so that ‘it could be the expression of a total reality.’”

This exhibition asserts that Saura’s message is still relevant today by tracing a temporal arc linking his message to commonplaces such as the grief caused by human cruelty, the suffering caused by social inequality, the abuses committed by the ruling classes and the hypocrisy of politicians. All these messages prevail and are evident in the work of Goya, in 20th-century art and in today’s culture and society.

For this exhibition a catalogue has been published with texts by the specialist Luca Massimo Barbero, by Antonio Saura himself, and by other experts on the artist and his context, such as Michel Tapié, Yvon Taillandier, Julián Ríos and Dore Ashton. Likewise, a selection of photographs by Jean Marie del Moral, Leopoldo Pomés, Francesc Català-Roca, Jaume Blassi, Ramón Masats and Giacomelli documenting the artist, his creative process and the studio in Cuenca.

Essential to the realisation of this project has been the collaboration of the Fondation Archives Antonio Saura (Geneva), the Centre de Documentació i Biblioteca of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) (Barcelona), the Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee (ASAC) Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia (Venice) and the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives in The Morgan Library & Museum (New York).


About Antonio Saura
Self-taught, Antonio Saura (Huesca, 1930 – Cuenca, 1998) began painting and writing at the age of 15 while undergoing five years of confinement due to tuberculosis. In 1952 he experienced his first stay in Paris. His work gradually evolved from its initial surrealism towards abstraction. In 1957 he founded the El Paso group in Madrid, along with the painters Rafael Canogar and Manolo Miralles. Limiting his palette to blacks, greys and browns, he came up with a personal style that was independent of the movements and trends marking his generation. In 1971 he abandoned painting on canvas (which he would take up again in 1979) in order to concentrate on writing, drawing and painting on paper. In 1977 he began publishing his writings. From 1983 until 1998, he returned to his own personal themes and figures, brilliantly developing them anew.

About the specialist
Luca Massimo Barbero is director of the Istituto di Storia dell’Arte della Fondazione Giorgio Cini and associate curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, both in Venice. Between 2009 and 2011, he was the director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO). He has lectured at several Italian universities and curated highly renowned exhibitions on European Informalism and Abstract Expressionism, as well as various catalogues, among which it is worth mentioning the publication in 2013 of the catalogue raisonné of the works on paper by Lucio Fontana.