Manolo Quejido

Galeria Montenegro

Manolo Quejido is among those Madrid painters who in the early ’70s began to paint figuratively, if in different styles of figuration. Quejido turned to painting from a conceptual viewpoint which continues to influence him; his work features diagrammatic drawings dealing with a series of predetermined pictorial problems. His approach to the avant-garde has led him to adopt art-historical models as axes or structures of reference. Using these milestones as points of departure, pictorially questioning the creative process through rigorously conceived series of works, he turns the European tradition on its head. In recent years Cézanne, Matisse, and Velázquez have been his models, along with the fertile legacy of Picasso. Nevertheless, his loud, crude colors, flat surfaces, and thematic blatancy are most reminiscent of American Pop.

With this show Quejido plunges into the depths of what is most classical in European painting. The theme is a preexistent one: the painter’s studio. Quejido’s earlier work was produced in his own home; now, working in a studio, he changes his equation—light and space substitute for color and action. The artist is interested in the atmosphere of the studio, the place in which everything is bound up with painting. “Espacio” (“Space,” 1983) is a series of delicate aquarelles and large works on paper, exploiting the subtlety of chalk; the subjects are placid interiors, furniture, and scenes of daily life, given a kind of ferment by Quejido’s new approach.

By working in a series, the different possibilities of a theme can be expressed. “La partida de ajedrez” (“The chess game”) exists in three versions; the agitated surfaces of Quejido’s earlier work have gone, and Impressionism and Pierre Bonnard are references. The atmosphere is opaque, the meditative figures at the chessboard seem to live in the eternal present. A second series, “Espejo” (“Mirror,” 1983), is more Velázquean. A mirror in a corner of the studio is a focus; the murky, almost tenebrous atmosphere of the room is organized around it and its internal reflection. The brushstrokes are broad, and largely vertical or horizontal; each painting varies in its use of elaborate, transparent layers of mauves and greens, yellows and pinks. Particularly notable are Espejo 4 (Mirror 4) and Espejo 3 (Mirror 3), the latter resolved with thick abstract strokes of black and white.

Armando Montesinos

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.