This summer, the Museo Thyssen‐Bornemisza
in Madrid is presenting a temporary exhibition that offers a complete overview of the work of the Spanish artist Antonio López (born Tomelloso, 1936). The exhibition is articulated through the artists own gaze on his recent and earlier work, given that López has steered the selection of works and overseen their installation, working with the two curators, his daughter María López and Guillermo Solana, the Museums Artistic Director, as well as with the exhibitions technical curator, Paula Luengo. The result is a major exhibition of an almost autobiographical nature. Works from the last twenty years, which will arrive at the Museum directly from the artists studio and which represent almost half of the 130 works on display, are displayed alongside others created in the more distant past, as far back as the 1950s. Rather than a chronological presentation, the exhibition moves backwards and forwards within the oeuvre of Antonio López, who, as is clearly evident, remains active and working. This is clearly manifested in the Museums galleries, in which paintings, drawings and sculptures coexist in a balanced manner, representing the three media in which the artist has worked over the course of his career. After its showing in Madrid, where it is sponsored by Sociedad Estatal Loterías y Apuestas del Estado S. A. (State Lotteries), the exhibition will be seen in a reduced version at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao from 10 October 2011 to 22 January 2012.
Lópezs celebrated views of Madrid, including his most recent depictions of the Gran Vía, are shown here alongside depictions of his native Tomelloso, paintings and drawings of fruit trees, portraits of paired figures and interiors. Visitors can thus appreciate the recurring themes in the universe of Antonio López and the influence of artistic tradition and his connections with it, given that the artist considers himself the heir to that tradition to an almost obsessive degree. His sensitivity to the human figure is equally present in both the sculptures and drawings. The exhibition reveals the lesser known side of López and the artist that he was before becoming universally known for the type of work for which he is now celebrated.
Considered the leading representative of Spanish contemporary realism and figuration, Antonio Lópezs work is too individual to be easily categorised. A champion of liberty as the maximum source of creativity and of the emotions as the basis for the creative process and for communication with others, this artist from La Mancha looks to the reality around him for those everyday elements that can be depicted in his work. His working process is slow and highly meditated: he reworks, retouches and corrects his works, sometimes over years, aiming to capture the essence of the object or landscape depicted.
Many of the works in the present exhibition have been loaned from private collections, mostly in Spain, including that of the artist himself. A large number of them have never been published or exhibited and some are still unfinished. There are also important loans from institutions such as the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The exhibition opens in the temporary exhibition galleries on the Museums ground floor with a room that aims to summarise Lópezs work and the vision that he has of himself as an artist and as heir to the tradition of art. This space constitutes a survey of the three major groups into which Lópezs output can be divided and includes his masterpieces of the last twenty years. It features almost all his celebrated views of the city of Madrid and of one of its most famous streets, the Gran Vía, including the series on this subject on which the artist is currently working. There will also be a comprehensive selection of drawings and paintings on another of Lópezs principal subjects: the tree and his own kitchen garden. Also on display are representations of the human figure, a motif central to his output in both sculpture and drawing and one that reveals his continued use of classical proportion.
The exhibition continues on the first basement level, arranged both thematically and chronologically in a display that runs from the artists earliest years in Tomelloso, with individual figure studies, pairs of figures, landscapes and interiors, up to works that have been loaned directly from the artists studio and are now shown to the public for the first time.
The exhibition will be completed by the projection in one of the galleries of two documentaries made specifically for this occasion. They include images of López working this year, both in his studio and outdoors, as well as various interviews by individuals close to him. In addition, every Saturday in July the Museums auditorium will be showing the film El sol de Membrillo (1990‐1992) in which the filmmaker Víctor Erice uses the image of López painting a quince tree in the courtyard of his house to explore the process behind the creation of a work of art. The film is conceived not so much as a documentary but as a diary that links together film and painting as two vehicles for capturing reality.
In conjunction with the exhibition the Museum will be extending its normal summer opening hours so that they coincide with its duration: from 28 June to 25 September.
Antonio López was born in Tomelloso in the province of Ciudad Real a few months before the start of the Spanish Civil War. The eldest of four sons of prosperous farmers from that flourishing town in La Mancha, López was interested in drawing from an early age, influenced by his uncle, the painter Antonio López Torres. In 1949 he moved to Madrid to prepare for entry into the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where he remained until 1955, coinciding with various artists including Enrique Gran, Amalia Avia and Lucio Muñoz, with whom he formed the so‐called School of Madrid.
López went to Italy on a study grant in 1955. After completing his training he held his first solo exhibitions in Madrid in 1957 and 1961. During those years he worked both in Madrid and in Tomelloso. In 1961 he married the painter María Moreno with whom he had two daughters, María (born 1962) and Carmen (born 1964). Between 1964 and 1969 he was Senior Professor of Colour at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid. López was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in 1985 and the Velázquez Prize for Visual Arts in 2006. He has been a member of the Royal Academy of San Fernando since 1993.