Critics’ Picks

Ugo Mulas, Lucio Fontana - L’Attesa, 1965,gelatin silver print on baritated paper on board,18 x 13".

Ugo Mulas, Lucio Fontana - L’Attesa, 1965,
gelatin silver print on baritated paper on board,
18 x 13".


Ugo Mulas

Parra & Romero | Ibiza
Carretera de San Miguel Km 2,300
July 9–August 31, 2021

Dante, Borges claimed, believed that there is a moment in the life of each man that encapsulates that life’s entirety. Ugo Mulas’s photographs of some of the last century’s most famous (and mostly male) artists, gathered here in the late Italian portraitist’s first solo exhibition in Madrid, may seem to confirm this belief. His theatrical black-and-white pictures flatter us with illusions of intimacy, as though we were having a friendly encounter with his legendary sitters or permitted to observe them at the instant the muse strikes. The pictures also, of course, flatter the artists, whom we see as they wish to be seen: Duchamp maneuvering a chess piece, Miró beside a Renaissance painting, Warhol surrounded by works in the Factory, the poet Rafael Alberti wearing a seashell as a hat. Speech bubbles spring from the head of Roy Lichtenstein. A princely Marc Chagall sits at a cluttered table, dwarfed by a roiling scene of angels and crucifixion. In the incisive Lucio Fontana - L’Attesa, 1965, the titular artist runs a knife down an empty canvas, making a masterpiece in one fell swoop. This is all a ruse, of course. Within the past decade, technology has all but destroyed the portrait’s aura: In the age of the selfie, we have all come to grasp the strenuous, desperate production behind our own image and that of others. We do not take photographs of ourselves that are as beautiful and elegant as those of Mulas, but we see so many faces so often that not even the most extravagant grimace startles us.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.