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"The Sea as a Pretext" Opens at Valencian Institute for Modern Art
J. Sorolla

VALENCIA.- The sea has been an indispensable element of cultural germination and a symbol of inspiration thanks to the magic of its waters, its legends, its light, the contrast between calmness and roughness and, for that reason, artists have not overlooked these aesthetic sensations. The sea is a psychological allegory that encloses clear antitheses: surfaces and depths, the absence of confines on the horizon and the absence of light in the abyss. Unlike the earth – a symbol of the rational soul – the sea is indeed the metaphor of the heart. It is the figure of the uneasiness that tortures us: of our need to go in pursuit of unknown goals.

Claude Monet was captivated by the sea. He wanted to draw it so he embarked upon the adventure of portraying it. Like him, many other artists have striven to represent it as the maximum symbol of reality but also of abstraction, performing acrobatics so as to do away with the possibility of immediate recognition and, in turn, annul every presence. We witness a dialogue with unexpected results. In the majority of cases, artists do not tackle their chosen theme head-on: going further than the impressionist models, they decide not to join the object. They keep their distance. They attempt to use water lyrically, although they try not to get lost in the desert of absolute abstraction. We find ourselves precisely before a great uncertain poetic challenge. The sea becomes an everyday commonplace icon that becomes unknown and undergoes continual metamorphosis.

The exhibition is divided into five thematic chapters that comprise important works from the collection of the IVAM as different pictorial and photographic exercises, united the desire to create a portrait of the sea. From the late-impressionist images of Joaquín Sorolla, the pre-impressionist sensuality of Julio González, the scattered views of Ignacio Pinazo, in the first gallery you advance towards the imaginary of pop art and the advertisements of Josep Renau Berenguer and Germaine Krull, the oneiric abandonments of Grete Stern, the discordant assemblages of Richard Hamilton and the post-classical tidal wave of Miquel Navarro.

We can also speak of a third group of works with front views that reproduce the theme of distance, like Equipo Realidad, Robert Frank, Joan Fontcuberta, Gabriele Basilico and Ian Wallace. In them the sea is there, in front of us. And yet it is irremediably much further away. It never stops, it is impossible to hold it back. A symbol of vital energy. You cannot trust its soul: it can keep you waiting but it can also destroy you. It cannot be trapped or pronounced, because it is ungraspable, elusive: always out of reach of our gaze. Now still maintaining the mirror-image of nature merely means reducing the world. That is why the abstract painter behaves like a poet who "tries to write his great poem with an ink that suddenly vanishes". Thus in the fourth gallery of the exhibition we find plastic curlicues, full of allusions to informal poetics. Mazes of colour where details have been eliminated: with authors like André Masson, Karel Appel, Juana Francés and Sanleón. Their tales are restrained, they are incomplete. Different similarities, celebrating the triumph of imprecision, which, unlike causality and approximation, is the sphere in which feelings acquire unexpected semantic values, between superpositions and nuances.

And, finally, disappearances: when water, land and sky rub off one another drawing threads of light. Here, of the seascape only a line remains where halted ecstasies are deposited: gradations of the same shades touch, caress each other and come together. It is the horizon, which reveals the very essence of a distance destined to become a presence, without losing its condition. It is another image of the contour: the evident seems unattainable and the concealed is within hand's reach. It is what is further away that indicates a possibility and an exclusion. A geometry that changes as we move. To begin with, the waves devoured the limits (in Lothar Schreyer and in Eduardo Arroyo), and then acquired architectonic autonomy (in Herbert List, in Gerhard Richter, in José Julián Ochoa, in Óscar Molina Pérez and Ramón de Soto).

Valencian Institute for Modern Art | "The Sea as a Pretext" | Joaquín Sorolla | Julio González |

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