Witches, an exhibition by Mexican artist Denise De La Rue, curated by Carmen Espinosa and Flavia Hohenlohe at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum
in Madrid, is the second component of her series Angels and Witches Goya, Metamorphose, a study of Francisco de Goyas paintings through a reinterpretation of the old masters work.
De La Rue has created a series of photographs juxtaposing iconic Spanish actresses with the painters work, analysing the dichotomies and similarities between these characters whilst engaging with historical and relevant sites such as the Museum. Taking elements of the actor profession that coincide with the characteristics of angels and witches such as mysticism, magic, life, death and the power of creation, transformation and destruction, De La Rue has created a dialogue between the actresses and Goyas paintings. The essence of this series is the interest of the artist in researching the capability of women to transform and empower themselves, which historically has been seen as threatening to the conservative preconception of patriarchal societies.
As a starting point to create Witches, a new body or work, De La Rue has taken Goyas Vuelo de Brujas (Witches Flight) Prado Museum, El Aquelarre (Witches Sabbath) and Las Brujas (The Witches) both at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Hechizado a la Fuerza (The Forcibly Bewitched) - National Gallery London, La Cocina de las Brujas (The Witches Kitchen) and Don Juan y el Comendador (Don Juan and the Commander) - unknown whereabouts. This series was commissioned by the Dukes of Osuna between 1797 and 1798 for the Alameda Palace in Madrid, best known as El Capricho.
Two of these pieces, Las Brujas and El Aquelarre, are part of the Museums permanent collection and will be displayed alongside De La Rues work, creating a conversation between the old master and the contemporary artist. The extravagance of these two pieces also draws special attention. Here the unreal becomes visible, riding between the terrifying and the ironic. Both paintings appear to be inspired by XVII century texts as well as popular tradition, which is a key focus in De La Rues research.
The exhibition of Witches is a unique opportunity not only to see two of Goyas original artworks of witches together but to appreciate the full series through De La Rues work, as well as some other artworks from the master located at the Museum.
Two of the original paintings have been lost and De La Rue has recaptured them by retrieving historic files that include details of the works. Using photography technology, the artist has reconstructed the works and reunited them in the same space for the first time since the pieces left the Dukes of Osunas hands.
In addition to the photographs, the Museum will present De La Rues video dedicated to the painting Las Brujas in which the actress Bárbara Lennie dances to the poem Pequeño vals Vienés (Little Venice Waltz) by Federico Garcia Lorca interpreted by flamenco singer Enrique Morente.
The first component of the exhibition Angels and Witches Goya, Metamorphose was the chapter of Angels at the Royal Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid where Goya remains rest as well as where some of his most recognised frescos are. The exhibition opened in February and was a highlight of the Madrid cultural calendar.
Having the two exhibitions of Angels and Witches in dialogue with Goyas work in these unique venues is a rare opportunity to see and understand Goyas interest in witchcraft and the holy, revised by photography and a contemporary perspective.