Barcelona, 1978-1997

Barcelona, 1978-1997

Manolo Laguillo
Manolo Laguillo, "Barcelona, nacimiento de la Diagonal", 1979 (detail)

This exhibition presented an illustrative selection of the photos produced by Manolo Laguillo (Madrid, 1953) in Barcelona and its surrounding areas in the period between 1978 – the year in which democratic local governments were reinstated after the fall of the dictatorship – and 1997, the end of a decade that culminated in the metropolitan overflow following the Olympics.

Laguillo’s direct, succinct images documented Barcelona’s profound urban transformation during that period, and contributed to the creation of a new model of representation of the Catalan capital that was complex and critical, unlike traditional promotional images. Laguillo photographed buildings sites, peripheral areas, ruins and undetermined, empty and unproductive spaces. And he did so with a large format camera that allowed him to work with a broad range of tones and highly accurate details, and to control the geometry of his images.

In Laguillo’s own words: “Almost thirty years after beginning this work, I realise once again that its subject matter is not space. Contradicting my own statements on the matter, and going beyond what might seem based on that which figures prominently in my photographs, they deal with change and movement; in short, they deal with time.”

This exhibition, produced by MACBA, will explore a large part of the work of Manolo Laguillo (Madrid, 1953), specifically the part that concentrates on representation of Barcelona. And it will do so from the hypothesis of the close relation between his work and the construction of an image of the city through photography in the crucial decade of the eighties. Although Laguillo’s whole career as a photographer has to do with the city space, it is his series on the Catalan city that enable us to follow his work through time without lapsing into the model of the anthological or retrospective exhibition, which would be contradictory for an artist of his age and characteristics (his work is still relatively scarce).

Manolo Laguillo’s importance in the eighties was precisely to make up a reference work which departed from the advertising image of Barcelona with the new town planning, which brought the great transformation that culminated in the Olympic Games in 1992. At that time numerous photographic works appeared which focused their attention on that transformation, though in general they did so from a celebratory perspective, aligning themselves with the dominant discourse in the city. In this context, Laguillo’s work can be seen as a forerunner of works which, especially in the nineties, have tried to construct a more critical and complex image of the city, attempting to give shape to other realities that were left out of the pomp of the celebratory discourse.

This exhibition will provide a study of the urban change of Barcelona in the eighties, trying to salvage images which at the time were left in the background due to the confluence of two main causes: first, the predominance of the propaganda image of the city and, second, the hegemony of anti-documentary photography in the local art market at that time (as a precondition of the integration of photography into that market). Those two conditions can be identified as aspects that at the time crucially decided the discourse of photographic modernity in Spain.

Curator: Jorge Ribalta
Produced by: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA

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Manolo Laguillo
Madrid, 1953
Manolo Laguillo is a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Barcelona. Since the late 1970s, he has emerged as the most prominent photographer of the urban peripheries throughout Spain. Recognition of his work began in 2007 with a major retrospective at MACBA, followed by others at the Museo ICO (Madrid, 2013) and, more recently, at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge (Barcelona, 2020) and the Museo de la Universidad de Navarra (Pamplona, 2021). Since 1990, his teaching work has made him a mentor for several generations of Spanish documentary photographers.
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Barcelona, 1978-1997
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