God Save The Queen

19 Sep - 13 Dec 2015

Photography Imagen MAS Courtesy of MUSAC
About Painting in the MUSAC Collection
19 September - 13 December 2015

Curatorial work and coordination: MUSAC’s Registry and collection. Koré Escobar and Raquel Álvarez.

In 1977 the Sex Pistols launched a single onto the market which included "God Save the Queen", a song taking its title from the song traditionally used as the national anthem of the United Kingdom. The Pistols’ song was seen at the time as a direct attack to the Queen, and, subsequently, has passed into history as one of the freshest and cheekiest pleas for the liberation from the rigidity of established conventions.

If there has been an undisputed Queen among artistic practices in the history of art, this has been painting, which over time has had an undeniable leading role over the rest of "disciplines". So much so that, popularly, art in itself has even come to be associated with the act of painting. It will not be until the end of the 19th century, and especially from the 20th century, when a gradual dethroning of painting takes place; on the one hand, the canons laid down in modernity were attacked until they were crushed and, on the other hand, a whole series of creative technologies that would become serious candidates to occupy the position hitherto reserved for painting were developed.

Gradually, pictorial activity was reduced to degree zero and all its limits were surpassed: representation, frame, space, medium, language and even matter... Since that moment, painting has died many times to then return to life, either reinventing itself and inhabiting precisely those new conquered territories, or as trace or germ in some of the increasingly numerous and varied forms of contemporary artistic expression. Therefore, it be could said that there has been a double process of evolution: on the one hand, research and historical experimentation have provided painting with such formal and expressive freedom that it has never ceased being an option to the contemporary artist and, on the other, it has gradually relinquished its corporeality and transmuted into a quality—independent from medium and tools.

This exhibition focuses precisely in these two aspects: through works from MUSAC’s collection it aims to present the strategies of contemporary painting as heir to the previous research carried out in its adaptive evolution, as well as the contagion of its pictorial "essence"—beyond the formal resolution of each work.

To address both issues, God Save the Queen establishes a parallel with the evolutionary theory known as the "Red Queen Hypothesis", formulated in 1973 by Leigh Van Valen, according to which in an evolutionary system continuous improvement is required just to maintain status quo in relation to the other systems with which it is co-evolving. This theory could be extrapolated—with many caveats, of course—to the developments carried out by the pictorial practice in its adaptation effort in order to keep its position while new artistic practices, arising in response to technological, sociological and aesthetic progress, were developed and introduced.

The hypothesis goes on to develop the concept of "arms race" or continuous improvement against the "adversary", and speaks of the advantage of "sexual reproduction" as the method of continuation of the species, as each individual is created as an "experiment" from the mixture of their parents' genes.

To continue the parallel between the biological hypothesis and pictorial practice, the arms race would have its correlate in painting’s capacity for exposure and its willingness to go beyond its limits by constantly experimenting both in its formal and its linguistic and conceptual aspects.

For its part, sexual reproduction would refer to the reciprocal contamination between painting and other disciplines, languages and media. It is not only a crossbreeding or hybridization of disciplines, there has also been a mutual dissolution and contagion by proximity. It is precisely this viral, uncontrollable and spontaneous element the one acting as a driver of change and favouring evolution and permanence. Each artist is a product of their time, works from it, so art pieces are created as a reflection of a precise moment. Since this moment, more than any previous one, is a deeply promiscuous and non-hierarchical time, its artistic expression could not be otherwise.

Many exhibitions have dealt with these issues before and many have been accompanied by excellent critical catalogues; God Save the Queen wants to remember them and pay them tribute. In order to transpose the two proposed subject areas to the exhibition space, the exhibition is shown in two rooms. Laboratorio 987 will be showing artists who express themselves and work within painting, either addressing their concerns through painting or alluding to self-referential themes of the discipline. It will include the works of Pedro Barbeito, Toño Barreiro, Roberto Coromina, Luis Cruz, Iñaki Gracenea, Clemencia Labin, Miki Leal, Carlos Leon, Angel Masip, Sergio Prego, Néstor Sanmiguel and Vargas-Suarez Universal. All of these authors are heirs to the evolution of the previous tradition and each of them has explored different formal solutions from within painting itself. Latent in the room, there are issues such as the relationship of painting with space, the permanent dialectic between figuration and abstraction, or the reinterpretation of "classical" pictorial movements.

Room 1 of the museum includes works which both in form and in essence ‘resemble’ painting. These are works that have a ‘pictorial nature’ despite having been realized with 'extra' pictorial elements. This part includes several works that allude to painting as an idea, as an almost subconscious benchmark used when producing images. Here we will find works by artists like AVAF, Lara Favaretto, Pierre Gonnord, Anna Malagrida, Ian Monroe, Pedro Mora, Diego Movilla, Muntean & Rosenblum, Marina Núñez, Jacco Olivier, Concha Prada, Trine Sondegaard & Nicolai Howalt, Jennifer Steinkamp, Sam Taylor Wood, and Manuel Vázquez. In this room, in addition to what was said about the previous room, works will be dealing with aspects such as how to introduce time and movement in painting, the plastic values of ordinary materials, and allusions are made to two of the classical "genres" of painting: portrait and landscape.

The Pistols shouted that there was no future. The future of painting has often been called into question and yet it resists, in this long present continuous, responding to the need formulated by Rimbaud to be "absolutely modern", understanding being modern as an unbreakable alliance with contemporaneity.

For the time being, the Queen is still safe and has left the Palace.

Tags: Lara Favaretto, Pierre Gonnord, Iñaki Gracenea, Clemencia Labin, Miki Leal, Anna Malagrida, Ian Monroe, Muntean / Rosenblum, Marina Núñez, Jacco Olivier, Concha Prada, Sergio Prego, Jennifer Steinkamp, Al Taylor, Sam Taylor-Wood