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Miquel Navarro's Imaginary Archaeologies occupies San Sebastian's Kubo-kutxa gallery
Miquel Navarro. Imaginary Archaeologies. Placón, 2011 (detail) @Argazkia. Photo: Juantxo Egaña.

SAN SEBASTIAN.- San Sebastian’s Kubo-kutxa Gallery hosts Miquel Navarro. Imaginary Archaeologies, an exhibition taking a tour of the sculptor’s work through iconic pieces in his career such as several of his Cities and Placón, an enormous sculpture 3.5 metres tall in solid aluminium on display for the first time. The exhibition runs from 17th February until 21st May 2017.

The large-format pieces in the exhibition, curated by Dolores Durán Úcar are accompanied by work books and other smaller pieces, a series of small sculptures, little clay figures in a nod to academia and archaeology, presented as that laboratory of creation and experimentation which is the sculptor’s studio.

This is the first time an exhibition is being held held in San Sebastian on the work of Miquel Navarro, National Visual Arts Award (1986) and one of the leading representatives of the so-called «new Spanish sculpture».

Miquel Navarro’s work is inextricably tied to his biography; the memories of his childhood are determining factors when configuring the work of this sculptor. His early years in Mislata, a town where the agricultural and industrial worlds lived side by side, added to the contrast between the rural environment and the city of Valencia, are very clearly identifiable throughout Navarro’s trajectory.

After a period dedicated to drawing and the human figure, Miquel Navarro soon turned his attentions to sculpture, in his own words “because I needed to touch, to feel the material”. He made his first works in clay, a material pointing towards his childhood in a rural environment, but also a material that takes us back to antiquity, to our origins.

In the early 70s, Navarro started to make his famous Cities. As mentioned above, he made the first versions in clay, later introducing different metals – mainly zinc, iron and aluminium – bringing us closer to modern times, to the industrial society.

Miquel Navarro’s cities are composed of a considerable number of pieces, hundreds of units spread out over the floor and taking possession of it. Piece by piece, district by district, they occupy it: houses, buildings, squares, towers, factories, roads, airports, cars, insects, walls that protect and separate... Basic or transformed volumes grouped together, interrelated and connected to form a single work.

Cities that force us to reflect
The tension created by the artist on combining the horizontal and vertical elements of his cities creates a symbolic game. These cities are uninhabited inhospitable places that make no effort to welcome us. At the end of the day they are cities that force us to reflect on the relations between their different parts, on power, on existence.

More than an ideal city, in his work he constructs a metaphorical metropolis, packed with symbols and meanings that summarise the real city, which isn’t actually real, although neither does he try to come up with any kind of utopia.

The exhibition presents three cities made at different times in his career:La Ciutat (The City, 1984-1985), Ciudad roja (Red City, 1994-1995) and Entre muros (Between the Walls, 2000). Alongside these is a piece shown for the first time, Placón, an enormous totem measuring 3.5 metres in height made in solid aluminium: powerful, solid, threatening and yet also protective. Strong and rigid with categorically flat shapes, except for one organic, sensual side, a curved wall that humanises its forms, which the artist associates with the vulva labia.

To complete the exhibition, the gallery by the entrance contains a series of workbooks or travel journals, elements used by Miquel Navarro as a basis for rumination, thereby enabling him to reflect on a direct thought thanks to the immediacy of drawing.

And with them, his «archaeologies», little figures made from clay, a telluric and magical material. People, towers, penises, vulvas, pyramids, ziggurats, spirals... a laboratory of creation and experimentation. Many of these figures have amputations with a certain archaeological significance, once again returning to classical antiquity. A game he uses to emphasize the passing of time, mutilation, the loss brought upon by the vicissitudes of existence or of history. At the end of the day, allegories on human life and social history.

Miquel Navarro was born on 29th September 1945 in Mislata, a town near the city of Valencia where he works and lives today. He studied from 1964 until 1968 at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Valencia, specialising in sculpture, although at the time he largely focussed on drawing and painting.

The artist fully turned his attention to sculpture in the early 70s. In 1973 he created the first of his Cities, compositions of myriad small pieces – basic or transformed volumes grouped together, interrelated and connected – installed directly on the ground, with no separation, as if taking possession of the territory. Initially created in terracotta, he later incorporated metals such as zinc, aluminium or bronze. The cities, these imaginary archaeologies, are a fundamental element of the creations by the sculptor, whose work is characterised by its recreation of the sculptural landscape, with the subject of the city holding the greatest significance.

He presented his first individual exhibition in 1972 in Oviedo. In later years he repeated the experience in the Buades and Fernando Vijande galleries in Madrid and Juana de Aizpuru in Seville among others. One key factor in his early days was his participation in the New Images from Spain exhibition curated by Magrit Rowell at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in the spring of 1980, fundamental for his international artistic recognition.

In 1986 he received the National Visual Arts Award bestowed by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport; that same year he participated in the Spanish Pavilion at the 42nd Venice Biennale alongside Ferrán García Sevilla, Cristina Iglesias and José Maria Sicilia.

From then on shows of his work came one after the other all over the world, parallel to the installation of enormous sculptures in public spaces. In 2005, he donated more than five hundred works to the Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM), representing an exhaustive tour of his artistic career to date. In 2015, the same institution published a Catalogue Raisonée on the artist, featuring his sculptures, drawings, paintings and photographs from 1964 to 2000.

Miquel Navarro currently lives and works in Mislata, venue of the Mislata Miquel Navarro Biennale since 2016.

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