A Selection of Writings by José Guerrero

A Selection of Writings by José Guerrero


New York


Today in my studio, on opening a tube of violet, it fell on the floor, and it slipped, I was working on two paintings on the floor, the top ran along the floor and marked a line, jumped to the second painting and its path made me see another line; this is extremely interesting for me because for years I have been joining spaces which, although separated, are united by a force which in general is not in each painting; rather I would say that it is like a mechanism with shapes which multiply, which help each other, with the colour going in and out and blending like the clouds, like the waves which blend with the sand and then recede, but there is always this energy.[1]


My Experience in America


I understood there was an art on a different scale to that in Europe, a spontaneity and energy from not having to look to the past. This abstract expressionist movement is at its height. Pollock is a whole world of challenge for painting –that weave that holds the four sides of the canvas together, where there is movement and passion, where the bubbling colours fit into each other. Rothko is another of the greats. This painter is the most open of them all for me, not letting the canvas rest with his immense spaces, where great painting is not only in the pure coloured areas, but its greatest exaltation is on the edges of the colour, and it all has a sort of quiver. Kline deciphered a truly powerful architecture with the blacks and whites of the canvas and the whites of his paint; and his challenge to colour, his freedom to enter and leave the black and white spaces, where that sort of black scaffolding is clearly marked out. Motherwell is another powerful painter in whose best pictures (Elegy to the Spanish Republic) he has used black patches or masses with absolute precision, uniting the black with ochres and blues. His painting is in particular very decisive and clear. Newman, the intellectual, the economist of large spaces, of a colour divided by a narrow band, determined to show no emotion in his painting, that no brushstrokes should be seen, and as if wanting to avoid being the one responsible for it.[2]




[Rothko’s] studio was very small –two rooms about 6 × 4 metres and in this studio I think he painted his greatest work. The huge canvases reached the ceiling and he had great difficulty in moving the pictures to show them to people. At the time he was a teacher and his wife also worked. All those stories about American painting being bought was absurd. Nearly all the artists worked or their wives supported them, just as in my case. No painter felt ashamed of this fact. [Rothko’s] conversation was always very profound; he would speak slowly, he would stop and begin again, always saying something pertinent.

On leaving the studio I asked him if he would not be interested in working with architects, as his work was so monumental, and he replied that he was not interested at all because architects demolish buildings, change them and they would destroy the work and he did not want any commitments with them. That conversation cleared my ideas. I had been working on fresco technique based on silicone and various other materials and decided to give it up. I realized that this new procedure was too technical and complicated in its preparation. After that day with Rothko I decided to give all I had to pure painting, painting in oils, as I had always done. Oil has a density that goes with my way of working.

We ate together and I left in a hurry to get back to my studio and paint.[3]


New York, New York o Historia del mequetrefe o el tentetieso


I remember the shock Pollock’s first exhibition caused in me, and the exhibitions kept coming. It was as if I was burning inside. A fire that drove me to paint […]. Every time I saw these works I looked at them with such intensity that I then had to go to a window to see the sky and find something familiar to me there. They were such new works I had never seen anything like them in Europe. I often said to Roxane: “I’m going to need five years to get over this change of life, atmosphere and art.” The vital arteries of this country are not just in the bridges, roads, tunnels, avenues, skyscrapers, aerials, shouts, silence. They were in the galleries; they were in the paintings hanging on white walls, red, blue, black walls. The spaces went out through the windows, doors, lifts, shouted out the Guernica of the daily war of New York, hanging in the museum of modern art. I was accustomed to comparing Guernica with the anxiety of this city which scared me and which I loved. In a small white room, Roxane and I experienced a life full of surprises and we began to break through the hard rock of New York.

[…] Another day I went to see an exhibition in the Club where avant-garde artists met for discussions, and great things could be heard in some of the meetings. They also tended to hold fairly controversial exhibitions for the time, because abstract painting was experiencing an ongoing struggle in galleries and meetings. In the Club on 8th St. I saw a painting which I could have painted a few years later. It was black and white painted with violence and curves or round shapes, very similar to those that I was trying to achieve in my etchings and paintings. It was Franz Kline; this was one of the paintings which most interested me and it conveyed something to me which would later be that black, those black garments of my childhood, that black mourning which penetrates the blood. That blue with the black, which will be that blue sky on the way to the cemetery. That yellow and black of chrysanthemums on the way to the grave. My painting will emerge from that, the rebellion of not letting anyone take that black colour away from me, not the black of black Spain, but rather that of the very essence of Spain, of distant Spain. My painting was born from this and I was born from an oval, from a drawing of a pregnant gypsy. For one year I was studying and painting ovals.

I was in the mood and had the joy to work. But how to leave that circle which in actual fact I think was the oval from which I was born and which psychologically means that my painting was only just beginning to live, to feel its own pulse, to fall down and rise up again, to make mistakes, to be jealous, to tear canvases, to be rejected, to receive criticism, to be accepted and expelled from galleries.[4]


[1] GUERRERO, José: [New York], n.d. Archivo José Guerrero, C-3/P-7.
[2] GUERRERO, José: “Mi experiencia en América.” n.d. Archivo José Guerrero, C-3/P-10.
[3] GUERRERO, José: “Rothko.” n.d. Archivo José Guerrero, C-3/P-48.
[4] GUERRERO, José: “New York, New York o Historia del mequetrefe o el tentetieso”, n.d. Archivo José Guerrero, C-3/P-62-2 [excerpts].