Critics’ Picks

View of “La pintura entre extremos,” 2020–21.

View of “La pintura entre extremos,” 2020–21.

Madrid

Juan Giralt

Galería Cayón
Blanca de Navarra, 7 y 9
December 12, 2020–February 19, 2021

Juan Giralt (1940–2007) was an essential but elusive figure of the generation of painters that undertook the aesthetic renewal and rupture of Spanish painting during the democratic transition in the mid ’70s, after Franco’s death. In 2015, his work was the subject of a comprehensive retrospective cocurated by Carmen Giménez and Manuel Borja-Villel at the Museo Reina Sofía. This rediscovery continues with this show focusing on the last twenty years of his production.

Its display, both playful and carefully staged, cleverly covers the gallery’s big, white, aseptic walls with works of different sizes superimposed à la Parisian salons or nineteenth-century museum galleries. This hang alludes to the omnivorous quality of Giralt’s art: his careful recycling of traditions and languages borrowed from the Western canon, the tendency to synthesize inherent in his late style, whose layered and motley rectangular visual collages subsume categories of abstraction and figuration into an increasingly personal idiom.  

Giralt’s spry, sensual eclecticism is apotheosized in canvases like Mantel de cuadros (Checkered tablecloth), 1996, a grid of sickly greens and blues. With its untranslatable titular pun, this painting of paintings by a painter’s painter boasts cursive text; some out-of-place gestural loops; and a bit of papier collé that is also an old photograph that manages to evoke, and almost quote from, classical painting. Above all, the work evinces an infallible eye when it comes to compositional and chromatic harmonies.  

This and many other examples of his later work seem to function as portable compendiums of the diverse ways in which paintings (and painting itself) can be executed, conceived, and experienced after centuries of experimentation. Both summing up and breaking down pictorial traditions and assumptions, his small wunderkammers echo one another as well as the overall shape of a show quite full of wonders.