Antoni Arissa (Sant Andreu, 1900 – Barcelona, 1980) embodies a prototype of the 20th-century artist. Practically anonymous, amateur, an emerging artist who was buried nearly at the same time, who lived among the extraordinary possibilities offered by new technologies. I'm talking about a photographer who owned a small printing press, who developed his work in a time frame of just 14 years. Someone like you, reader, who one day discovered that with a camera and developing solutions he could create, I wouldn't say art or beauty, but something new and exciting. Imagine a type of art that's not dependent on showing in galleries or on reviews by art critics, something essentially new and autonomous, which can be shared – without losing its essence – in local or international magazines, which doesn't depend on lots of money or formal studies, just sensitivity and the support of a community of shared interests.
Arissa's negatives ended up with the Fundación Telefónica, don't ask me how, and now this institution is giving his work publicity, rooted in a pictorialism evolving toward the avant-garde. This exhibition ('The shadow and the photographer') includes a selection of 161 black-and-white photographs that steer clear of both the sensationalist story as well as purist formalism.
Arissa starts off with rural scenes in Sant Andreu, with narrative compositions where you can imagine a story: the girl lost in a forest rescued by her older brother, the hard work of field tasks like going to collect firewood. An arcadia of hard work, but not polluted by urban chaos. Spontaneity is not on Arissa's list of aesthetic priorities. However, there is, starting in 1930, gimmicky experimentation with low-angle shots of industrial scenes – threatening chimneys, a feverish port of mirrors and backlights, glass and nickel, motorcycles and cocktail shakers, fairground rides and laboratories with white coats and halogen lights. Suddenly, in 1936 comes the silence ... There are shadows better left unawakened.