Nogueras Blanchard

Rafel G. Bianchi

12 Mar - 30 Apr 2016

The absent collector
12 March – 30 April 2016

NoguerasBlanchard is pleased to announce The absent collector, the fourth gallery exhibition by Rafel G.Bianchi (Olot, Girona, 1967). The exhibition is comprised of seven works that detail the artist’s attempt to explore the painting The engravings collector, 1863 (1) by Catalan artist Mariano Fortuny (Reus, 1838 – Rome, 1874) through its conceptual possibilities and spatial properties.

The engravings collector is a small sized work that depicts two gentlemen in eighteenth-century dress studying a portfolio. While the dealer shows the collector a series of prints, in the background another man, possibly also a merchant, appears with a briefcase in hand. Despite the title specifically addressing the collector’s interest in the graphic arts, the room is crowded with ornate Orientalist objects that were recurrent in Fortuny’s work. Although Mariano Fortuny considered himself a painter, he pursued various critical and aesthetic interests and was an accomplished fabric designer, coutourier and architect. He was also a compulsive and eclectic collector of everyday objects and works of art and the room where The engravings collector takes place was his atelier in Rome, most of the objects belonging to the artist’s own collection.

Through his encounter with this painting, Rafel G. Bianchi has developed the body of work presented in The absent collector. In this new imaginary mise-en-scène, one discerns artworks by authors to whose individual practices he is indebted, thus creating his own collection, as well as contemporary characters that are somehow related to the subjects in Fortuny’s painting (the gallerist, the architect). A gesture that arises, not from Bianchi’s position as artist-collector but from a curatorial approach suggesting a specific story. As noted by Bianchi: “The collection resulting from this process is presented as a statement of intent both emotional and intellectual, of affections and references. We can read it as my particular genealogy of Catalan art of the XX and XXI centuries“.

Possibly because the The engravings collector was quick to sell, Fortuny painted several versions of the same work in which differences in details and items are noticeable. Out of the three paintings, Bianchi chose the first one, currently in the collection of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, as the point of departure for this project. Bianchi’s preference acknowledges, on the one hand, his own authorial presence in the form of a parrot – the bird has been a fetish for the artist since a previous project, Who am I, 2011 when he took an intelligence test to measure his IQ, skills and talents, and obtained the maximum score for his exceptional imitative abilities. On the other hand, it is due to the fact that when the painting was purchased in 1867 by one of Fortuny’s chief American patrons, the artist added a likeness of the owner, clad in armor, in the elaborate frame over the mantel. This second anecdote led Bianchi to establish a set of assumptions regarding the evolutionary possibilities of the work: if this work is acquired, he will add the portrait of the new owner if desired.

During Bianchi’s research for the project he came across a painting (2) by Ramon Amado (Barcelona 1844-1888) which became very significant in the project’s development. The painting depicts Mariano Fortuny in his workshop painting the model that represented the collector in The engravings collector. This encounter was particularly revealing in so far as Amado captured the scene without scenographic manipulation, giving further insight into the arrangement of the atelier as Fortuny actually had it, and above all, it displayed his working methodology. On the other hand, it widened the perspective of the actual space, encouraging Bianchi to develop his collection.

As seen in the second, smaller, version of The absent collector featured in this exhibition, Amado’s painting led Bianchi to a new game of substitutions that mirror the ones initially performed on Fortuny’s painting. By changing the objects in the atelier in Rome for works of contemporary artists he enlarges an imaginary collection in search of its owner.

As Bianchi’s analysis of The engravings collector branches out, the exhibition is complemented by a formal study of the painting based on deconstructions made from compositional and rhythmic strategies, superimposing different chromatic planes and lines. In short, a game that reviews some of the most important aspects of conceptualism such as the use of repetition and seriality in the “construction” of Bianchi’s collection and the deconstruction of Fortuny’s space or the self-referentiality of art as a discursive strategy.

Tags: Rafel G. Bianchi