The art of the eighties and nineties in the MACBA Collection
This exhibition presented a selection of works that illustrated the new paths that opened up on the local and international art scene in the eighties and nineties.
While in the seventies conceptual art had given way to works that focused on the creative process rather than the formal expression of an idea, the eighties saw the resurgence of painting and sculpture, and the recovery of the notion of national identities. In general, these were expressive, materic, colourful works with a certain primitive influence.
In Italy around this time, the art critic Achille Bonito Oliva was at the centre of the new transavantgard movement, while the “New Savages” emerged in Germany, and in France a new figurative style linked to comics began to thrive. Meanwhile, there was a resurgence of a certain realism based on the imaginary of popular culture, kitsch and graffiti in the United States. In Spain, it was a period of expansion for young artists such as Miquel Barceló and José María Sicilia, who were the focus of massive international diffusion campaigns organised by official bodies.
The changeover into the nineties brought about a return to the concept and to process, and a critical revision of some crucial moments in art history. Video, photography, film and installations burst onto the international art scene to the detriment of painting and sculpture. There was also a growing interest in introspection geared either towards the artists’ own mental processes or the hidden fears of the individual, which were intensified by anxieties linked to the end of the millennium. This period also saw the emergence of the radical and effective feminist messages. In short, it was a period in which art was at the service of social denunciation.
The art of the eighties and nineties in the MACBA Collection presented a selection of works from the last two decades of the 20th Century, clearly showing some of the new avenues that opened up during this period in Spanish and international art.
While in the seventies conceptual art had given rise to works that were more interested in the process of creation than the formalisation of an idea, the eighties saw a resurgence of painting and sculpture. Both in this country and internationally, a surprisingly strong significance was placed on the origins of artists, and an artist's cultural background was legible through common characteristics that made it possible to identify his or her origins. According to Benjamin H. Buchloh, there was a kind of return to national identities that, in some cases, came dangerously close to the regressive art of the twenties. In general, the art of this period is expressive, consisting of physically charged, colouristic paintings imbued with a certain primitivism that shows up in the choice of images and the simple, decisive strokes.
In Italy, the critic Achille Bonito Oliva was at the centre of the Transavantgarde, while in Germany the young savages emerged, and in France artists started using imagery based on the aesthetic of comics. In the United States there was also a return to imagery, in this case based on images from popular culture, kitsch, graffiti, and ethnic minorities, while in Spain, young artists like Miquel Barceló and José M. Sicilia saw their careers boosted onto the international stage by the major campaigns organised by government agencies to expand the reach of Spanish art. Painting from Madrid and the central part of Spain, influenced by Luís Gordillo, and Andalusian painting were part of this new panorama that made a strong impact in the eighties, although today we are only familiar with some of its more prominent participants. Sculpture also experienced a powerful surge during the period, with Susana Solano and Juan Muñoz, who are represented in the exhibition, but also Jaume Plensa, Eva Lootz, Sergi Agilar, Miquel Navarro, Cristina Iglesias, Angel Bados, Pello Irazu, Txomin Badiola...
All were all part of the Spanish sculpture scene, which tended to emphatically assert the origins and peculiarities of each artist. But there were also other trends in the period, and apart from the pictorial works by Miquel Barceló, Ferran García Sevilla, Jean Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, A.R. Penck and David Salle and the sculptures by Susana Solano and Juan Muñoz, the exhibition also presented works by Carlos Pazos, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Luís Gordillo and Zush.
The transition to the nineties is marked by the return to concepts, detachment and analysis, and the revision of certain historic moments, such as Povera and Conceptualism... The rise of video, photography, cinema and installations to the detriment of painting and sculpture were the foundations for the work of artists like Daniel Buren, represented in the exhibition. Another of the characteristics of the art of the period is its introspective nature, which either focused on the artist's mental processes, leading to highly rational formalisations modulated by laws that were more or less obvious to viewers (Jordi Colomer, Pep Agut...), or inwards to the hidden depths of the individual, where the fears of the end of the millennium lurked (Tony Oursler, Rosemarie Trockel, Pepe Espaliú...). The nineties also saw the emergence of the toughest and most effective feminist messages, the moment at which art was at the service of social condemnation (Jana Sterbak, Rosemarie Trockel...). Résérve des Suisses morts by Christian Boltanski, a work that talks about the intimate fears of human beings, and Com a casa, by Jordi Colomer, rounded off the exhibition in an illustration of the above.