The MACBA is showing a part of its Collection in the halls on the Museum's ground floor. After a brief introduction with Paul Klee and Alexander Calder, the display begins chronologically, featuring works arising in the context of the immediate post-war period in Europe, a traumatic time of reconstruction in the aftermath of the Second World War. Issues raised by the works selected for the exhibition would mark the different lines adopted by the Collection throughout the following decades. The binding core of this first space is a notion of modernity based on an autonomous, universalist conception of vision, theorised by such influential critics of 20th century late modern art as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. The notion of visuality is structured in this period by means of a legitimisation of perceptions of pictorial abstraction in which the absence of referentiality is identified with the idea of the spectator becoming absorbed in a pure, visual experience, to a certain extent disconnected from the body, which involves the annulment of specific material physical conditions. In this sense, the Collection shows works by Antoni Tàpies, Lucio Fontana and Jean Dubuffet. Contrasted with this artistic tendency – pictorial and concerned with the nature of matter itself – is another of a more geometrical form, based on works by artists who could be considered forerunners in the opening up of space as a form of relationship, such as Alexander Calder, and especially those artists with links to constructivism, like Jorge Oteiza. Brassaï’s photographs of graffiti and the film El carrer (The Street) by Joan Colom respectively introduce photography and the moving image, media in which the relationships between document and fiction, poetry and politics are materialised, demonstrating the huge importance they are granted within the Collection as a whole.

While the recent exhibition A Theater without Theater, produced and shown at the MACBA, reflected the influence of theatre in the world of art and how the notion of theatricality has altered our perception of artistic work, a second aspect analysed by the Collection is the theatrical content that originates in the world of art, an aspect which includes both the grotesque, as well as the Karneval notion developed by Batkin. In this area we find works by Jeff Wall, Ulrike Ottinger and Miralda, among others.

As Karneval led to the alteration of dominant social structures and promoted their eventual transformation, it is logical to assume that this concept is intrinsically linked to the city and to public space understood as a theatre in which social rivalries are settled. This third aspect appears for instance in Waiting for Tear Gas (1999-2000) by Allan Sekulla, and Monte Casino from the North… (2001) by David Goldblatt. But among all these theatrical aspects there is another, a fourth, which is related to language and the alteration and interrelation of images and texts, which is also reflected in this exhibition of the MACBA Collection. Outstanding examples of this are to be found in the works of Joan Brossa and Perejaume.

Production: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life
Jean-Michel Basquiat