SEGOVIA.- The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente
, with this exhibition, takes a new approach to the study of Esteban Vicente, an artist who built one of the most interesting careers in twentieth-century Spanish painting.
Until now there has never been a detailed study of his drawings. We are showing works from the 1920s till 2000 (Esteban Vicente died in 2001). There are thus nearly eighty years of his development, the evolution of a way of seeing and of the process of creating his own world.
We follow a chronological order through the painters formative years in Spain and France, before his move to the United States in 1936. In the 1940s we find a period of restless exploration marked by recently discovered cubist work. Finally we find his fully matured work, related to the New York abstract expressionist school of the 1950s until our own time.
It is exciting for the viewer to enter into the creative artistic processes of the different periods. Particularly illuminating are his series of female nudes, continuing till the late sixties. So are those in which we find a process of cleansing and stripping down in the creation of his own shining world with organic or geometric forms floating in a serene atmosphere. These form landscapes in which forms and empty spaces sometimes have the same density, and where we find the pulsing of the different rhythms of the universe. In these later series we are also showing works not hitherto exhibited.
Also on show for the first time are the works done as the artists participation in the book 21 Etchings and Poems, published by Morris Weisenthal and Peter Grippe in 1960, in which great poems are illustrated by some of the most important artists of Vicentes generation.
Some of the observations of Esteban Vicente concerning the painters craft and on the creative process, reveal the importance the artist gave, on the one hand, to the practice of drawing as an autonomous discipline, and on the other, to the line and the stroke as foundational elements of form, regardless of the medium being used. With this in mind, it might at first seem surprising that an artist whose favourite means of expression were light and colour should leave such a sizeable legacy of drawing, and should so often stress the need for the mastering of this technique.
His insistence on the need to cultivate this discipline was related to the fact that for Esteban Vicente drawing was the tool by which the artist explored reality before managing to capture it. Drawing, in his opinion was, indeed, the best means of researching the surrounding environment while at the same time improving ones creative vision. Drawing would promote the fixing of forms and the revealing, in the sense of discovering, of all that could otherwise remain unperceived by the artist in that reality which made up his main source material - regardless of any reworking it might later undergo.
The current exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are mainly aimed at analysing these ideas of the Segovian painter. We first attempt to show, in a new way, the great importance that this work has, both qualitatively and quantitatively within the context of his production as a whole. Secondly we reflect on the great interest of this technique, both formally and conceptually, in the work of the artist from his youth till the end of his life.
For the exhibition catalogue the Museum has commissioned a monographic study of Esteban Vicentes drawing by D. Alfonso Palacio of the University of Oviedo.
Of the total of 128 making up the exhibition, the Museums contribution is 32 drawings from its own permanent collection. There are thus 96 works coming from other collections, over 50% of which have never been shown before, and the rest seldom exhibited.
The catalogue will be published next month, and there will be a formal presentation of it in the Museum.