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- PhotoEspaña 2014
This week and beyond
La Casa del Lector in Matadero Madrid starts its cycle called 'Library: Geographical History of an Idea', devoting digital displays to the impressive archives kept at the National Library of Israel. This is an interactive exhibition in that through the use of tablets, mobile devices and QR codes you can access documents, maps, videos and audio files that reflect the history of the Jewish people throughout the centuries. Among the most interesting items of the collection are a letter written by Stefan Zweig dating back to 1933 that describes the anti-Semitism that reigned in Austria, as well as a diary written by the father of the Basch family, which chronicles the last days of their lives before they were deported to Auschwitz in May 1944 during the Jewish holiday, Shavuot (Pentecost).
This exhibition focuses on a space that's rarely the star of shows that fill up museums: the playground. With nearly 300 pieces spanning genres (photography, film, video, sculpture, installations...), 'Playgrounds' offers a journey through these play areas and their capacity to transform society with works by the likes of Goya, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Giacometti and Xabier Rivas. From the playground’s fun beginnings to when free time started being gobbled up by consumerism, the exhibition takes on the anti-productive attitude, the right to be lazy and not do anything in the face of the frenetic pace of modern life.
The Museo del Traje takes you on a tour of Spanish fashion and its most prominent designers via the treasures you’ll find on display. For over half a century, the industry was dominated by designers from France, the USA and Italy. Spanish fashion has always tried to elbow in among the giants, even during the Franco dictatorship, which was a golden time for Spanish designers thanks to the Cooperativa de la Alta Costura Española. The highlight of the show is designer extraordinaire Balenciaga, who shares the spotlight with big names like Pedro Rodríguez, Herrera and Ollero. From haute couture to ready-to-wear, and along the first catwalks... fashion lovers won’t want to miss this exhibition.
The magazine 'Ajoblanco' provided the best critical look at public live in Spain for more than 20 years. In the exhibition ‘Ajoblanco. Ruptura, contestación y vitalismo (1974-1999)’, ou'll find some 180 magazines and 30 special editions that will help you take a closer look and learn about this libertarian way to enjoy culture, ideas and artistic collectives. The publication is divided into two different stages, from 1974 to 1980 and from 1987 to 1999, becoming part of the memory of four different generations of readers.
Photomontages and poster art surround us. We are their victims and their lovers. We like them, we believe them, they catch our eyes and enter our nervous systems. One of the Spanish masters of photomontage and poster art is Josep Renau, who, with this work denounces U.S. imperialism and the exporting of the American lifestyle. Closely linked to the political left and the Communist Party, the Valencian artist was influenced by Expressionism, Dadaism and Surrealism, and after the Spanish Civil War, went into exile in Mexico, where he worked with muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros and got up-close to American culture. He began his series 'Fata-Morgana. USA – The American Way of Life', a fierce criticism of the Cold War, capitalism, racism and militarism, the entirety of which you'll see in this exhibition.Why see it? Although this work was done half a century ago (and then some), it's far from dated – any of the images could have been made today. The United States is still the most powerful country on the planet, we're still 'buying' the lifestyle, and, in the context of the current socio-economic crisis, we continue to question the order of things. Renau's images are powerful, colourful and formally impeccable. They deserve a new audience.
The collective of La Palangana (comprised of Fernando Gordillo, Francisco Ontañón, Gabriel Cualladó, Gerardo Vielba, Joaquín Rubio Camín, Juan Dolcet, Leonardo Cantero, Paco Gómez, Ramón Masats and Sigfrido de Guzmán) marked a turning point in Spanish photography of the 1950s, and they did it with a profound reformist consciousness. Far from the prevailing academia, humans and their everyday lives were the group's starting point, and they worked on the outskirts of cities and towns to get what they wanted. Though this sounds perfectly ordinary to us today, it was something bordering on revolutionary at the time and somehow signified the beginning of Spanish Neorealism. In modern terms, we could say their work was social photojournalism. The name of the collective, by the way, is owed to a photograph by Francisco Ontañón, where portraits of the six founders are in a basin ('palanga') to be viewed. This work is also on display in the exhibition.Why see it? This exhibition is one of the highlights of PhotoEspaña 2014 and shows how Spanish photography moved into the modern age. The Reina Sofía honored this group (little known in its day) a few years back and now we get a chance to see this piece of Spanish art history in the Círculo de Bellas Artes and understand the process by which the photographic language of the day turned to a more human and social point of view, a new critical and documentary spirit.