This artist, born in the Canary Islands, exhibits 70 photographic actions, objects and ambiences in which irony, humour and sex play a leading part. The works were created on his return to Gran Canaria in the late nineties.
ARTIUM, Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art
presents the exhibition by Juan Hidalgo Desde Ayacata (North Gallery, from August 29 2010), a sample of the work the last twelve years of one of the major reference models of Spanish art of the last five decades. An unclassifiable artist and, partly for that reason, a little awkward for the art world, Juan Hidalgo has remained faithful throughout that period to a number of ideas which many contemporary young artists use as an immediate reference and which nevertheless, for a long time, were immersed in a cloud of incomprehension and indifference. Desde Ayacata comprises almost 70 works created between 1997 and 2009: photographic actions, objects and ambiences in which irony, humour, sex and risk (features that have always had an important presence in his artistic career) play a major role. The exhibition, curated by Carlos Astiárraga, is a joint production of ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz), TEA (Tenerife) and CAAM (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria).
Together with Walter Marchetti and Esther Ferrer, Juan Hidalgo (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1927) was for more than 30 years a leading light of ZAJ, possibly the most controversial and disquieting avant-garde movement of the second half of the 20th century in Spain. With ZAJ, for the first time in a period of cultural and political obscurantism, the boundaries between poetry, music, theatre and the plastic arts became less clear and merged within a framework of actions. A trained musician, Hidalgo was also the first Spanish composer of an electro-acoustic work and the first to premiere a piece at the mythical Darmstadt Festival (Germany), one of the most influential festivals on the avant-garde scene. On the other hand, one cannot forget his most important conceptual discoveries, los etcéteras, which he himself defined as a public document, as the Chinese (gong an) or Japanese (koo an) would say, and which form the backbone of most of his oeuvre.
Nevertheless, for the art system, Juan Hidalgo it is rather an awkward artist: he has never been interested in recognising museums; those institutions that, in general, as he indicates in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, give a great deal of value to the singular object and to the singularising personality of its author. But it is also true, as he says later, that for a long time the work of Juan Hidalgo, in coherence with itself and with its author, did not coincide with what the museum was looking for, neither in form nor as subject matter. Nor did it coincide with what the commercial galleries were looking for. A work of extraordinarily expressive simplicity, more a proposal intended for the mind and the feelings than the materialisation in an object or in a photographic action.
The recognition of Hidalgo as an artist came in 1996, when the Reina Sofía Museum dedicated a retrospective exhibition to ZAJ. One year later, Juan Hidalgo, who was 70 at that time, decided to move to the small village of Ayacata on the island of Gran Canaria, where he was born. What might be interpreted as the well earned retirement of the artist turned out to be just the opposite, the beginning of a new and fruitful stage in his artistic career, which is still in progress. Desde Ayacata is, precisely, a retrospective review in part, of the career of this artist, born in the Canary Islands, over the last 11 years.
Musician, poet, artist
As an artist, Juan Hidalgo is difficult to pigeonhole: he himself often says that Spanish musicians consider him to be a plastic artist, that Spanish artists refer to him as a musician and only poets consider him to be a poet. Multidisciplinary, which ever way you look at it, his artistic discourse comprises plastic, poetic, sonorous and, especially, conceptual elements. Aspects of everyday life, elements characterised for their apparent superficiality, irony and, very expressly, sexuality are present in his work, as well as an inheritance from Marcel Duchamp to whom he refers as his grandfather- and oriental philosophy.
All of this is present in Desde Ayacata, an exhibition of almost 70 works among which photographic actions predominate and which are characterised by the ever more frequent introduction of objects found in Hidalgos natural surroundings and a less interventionist treatment. The element of chance is more and more present in his work, while his maturity as an artist has given him greater freedom in the execution of his work. Even so, his production during his time in Ayacata is consistent with the most significant features of his artistic career prior to this: irony, humour, risk, sex, commitment and loyalty to himself and with his way of understanding the creative act for more than five decades.
At the same time and in the same way that the 90s witnessed the recognition of the artistic work of ZAJ, the first decade of the 21st century has also brought with it a number of important events in the life and oeuvre of Juan Hidalgo: he has had numerous one-man shows (among these En medio del volcán, of the SEACEX, and Biografías y corbatas, at the Galería Trayecto in Vitoria- Gasteiz) and collective exhibitions (Eye on Europe, at the MoMA in New York and Arte de acción at the MACBA in Barcelona, among others), his work has been profuse and profoundly researched. He has offered more than 20 concerts in a number of different countries and has premiered his symphonic composition Perhaps, with the Yomiuri Orchestra of Japan.
In every aspect, Juan Hidalgo is today an essential reference model for many young artists who see him as a clear precursor of the work they are producing at this time. In spite of that, as Daniel Castillejo points out in the exhibition catalogue, in terms of the system itself, Juan Hidalgo continues to be undigestible
Today he is accepted and supported, but previously he was forbidden by Francos Ministry of the Interior, for being an anarchist. He is aware of that and for this reason he continues to do just what he wants
.. He continues in any state of unique and endless liberation, restricting himself to the job of liberating his own life.