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FONS ÀUDIO #26. Francesc Abad

16 May. 2014
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Ràdio Web MACBA

The recovery of the memory and places of our emotional and political biographies, the critical and utopian potential of art, and the fragility of human beings, images and words are some of the concepts that underlie Francesc Abad's work.

Abad considers himself a self-taught artist. In 1972 he quit his job at a factory in Terrassa and travelled to New York in a journey that was almost a rite of passage. Up until then, he had combined his day job with painting in a minimalist style along the lines of Barnett Newman, but in the US he came into contact with the new conceptual practices. He swapped his brushes for still cameras and Portapacks and threw himself into making a kind of art that valued the creative process over and above the object.

On his return to Catalonia, Abad became part of Grup de Treball, one of the most important conceptual art collectives in the Catalan and Spanish scenes. Other participants included the artists Jordi Benito, Antoni Mercader, Muntadas, Pere Portabella, Àngels Ribé, Carles Santos, Dorothée Selz and Francesc Torres. It was a diverse, polemical group that took a critical stance to the conventionalisms of art and a combative attitude to the political situation under Franco.
Against this backdrop, Abad produced works that explored the possibilities of body art, land art, and performative practices in general. They included an intervention in the collective project Documentos (1972), as well as solo works like Comptar i numerar les pigues d'una part del braç per part dels assistents (1973) and Recorregut diari (1974).

In Recorregut diari he also introduced an element that would become a leitmotif of his work: the expression of his 'subaltern' status. Abad always depended on non-artistic work for his livelihood, and has taught at Escola Aula in Barcelona for forty years. This 'lucid, delightful, and permanent exile', as he calls it, has kept him at arm's length from market forces, with all the freedom and precariousness that this implies.

Abad spent the eighties absorbed in study and research. He explored the philosophical, literary and artistic references that had always interested him: Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Bloch, Levi-Strauss, Godard, Erri de Luca, Joan Vinyoli, Brodsky and Warburg, were just a few of his companions on his travels. This research process led to pieces like L'esperit de la utopia (1988), in which Abad returned to the world of factories but this time as an artisan of language and utopia.

Although they were created thirty years apart, Abad's Homenatge a l'home del carrer (1976-1977) and El Camp de la Bota (2004) share the same political spirit. Both are exercises in critical archaeology around our individual and collective memory, and recover identities and places that Franco’s dictatorship took great pains to destroy.

Fransesc Abad has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions since the seventies. The most recent include: the various presentations of El Camp de la Bota throughout Catalonia (2004-2007); Block W.B. La idea d'un pensament que crea imatges, at the Museu de Granollers (2005-2006); Estratègia de la precarietat, currently on show at ACVIC de Vic (2014-2015).

Timeline

00:30 From Terrassa to New York. From the factory to Conceptual Art.
04:26 1972, Grup de Treball: formal research, process and ideology
09:08 The silence of the eighties
10:30 Comptar i numerar les pigues d'una part del braç per part dels assistents, 1973. The spirit of Body Art
11:59 Recorregut diari, 1974. The subaltern flâneur
12:34 Homenatge a l'home del carrer, 1976-1977. Testimonies of repression
14:45 Homenatge a l'home del carrer versus El Camp de la Bota (2004)
16:00 Francesc Abad and Ramon Santos, Eleccions i crisis, 1978
17:08 The eighties: painting bubble and conceptual wilderness
18:40 Abad: years of reading and documentation
19:50 L'esperit de l'utopia, 1988
20:30 Non-profit spaces. Don't cut back democracy
23:35 El Camp de la Bota, 2004. Art and historical memory

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