Adolf Genovart

Galeria Ciento

Adolf Genovart is one of the more independent of the young generation of Spanish painters, and seems to have avoided the burns that can easily hurt the young artist who touches the flames of the "latest thing.” He puts a protective distance between himself and the heat of fashion. Yet Genovart’s exhibitions since his first one-man show, in 1980, display both consistency and contemporaneity.

Genovart’s first studies were in philosophy, and only later did he move to the plastic arts. The Surrealist poets, Samuel Beckett, and especially TS. Eliot assisted in the switch to painting; Eliot woke Genovart’s interest in fragmentation and “collage,” the two main features explored in the works of his 1980 show. The spatial properties of the poem, a recurring interest in modern poetry from Stephane Mallarmé on, and such other fundamental aspects of poetry as the celebration of language in itself, seem clearly to have affected Genovart’s intentions. His early work was also influenced by the French support-surface group, but this was not a lasting inheritance. Currently, Genovart continues to pay respect and consideration to recent art history, in which he is very involved, but since tradition has always been present in his work he makes no particular reflexive response, as many others must. A further element of his artistic freedom is the fact that he considers the work as a situation in which everything generates itself in the course of the living process of creation, with no previous planning. No narrative support is allowed, or if it once existed it has been carefully erased from the final painting. Yet Genovart’s titles have a strong literary content, and here again is reflected an interest in modern poetry.

If we compare the work Genovart exhibited in 1982 with that in the recent show we see a jump to expression and aggressiveness, and also a new obscurantism. The recent works create an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer, who experiences a desire for some shape to be formed out of the strong gestures—a desire for figuration. The avoidance of the emblematic in painting, however,has always been a goal in Genovart’s compositions, and now this rule seems still more strictly adhered to. An informal approach is generally evident in the 1982 work, but the elements that convey expression are in fact quite orderly: colors and pictorial signs tend equally to fragmentation, giving the compositions a vague reference to Cubist space. Partial turns are applied to angles, stressing the bidirectional ambiguity of signs. Also, collage is a strong presence. Torn-off pieces of paper are distributed jointly with color; the effect is quite different from that of Matisse’s cutouts, but Matisse is a clear influence, as, to a lesser extent, are Jackson Pollock and Antoni Tàpies. One might say that in 1982 Genovart had attained an equilibrium between the absorption of influences and his own independent expression, unconfined by any particular inheritance.

Genovart’s recent work posits the painting not as a site for the condition of color, light, and space in an objective balance of plastic values, but as a place of evident emotion and creative energy; as such, it involves a switch from order to disorder. This highlighting of pictorial expression, however, does not imply the ascendancy of the painterly gesture. Genovart deals aggressively with the old dichotomy between the subjective and the objective: accepting the fact of plastic creation rather than seeking to instill himself in it in a search for subjective identification, he maintains emotional distance, while at the same time his manipulations are not purely objective but are full of willful vigor. The energy in these works can be said to be erotic in the purest sense of the word. The desire for form is evoked, but symbolism is absolutely avoided. The works are commitments to painting, homages to it, while they make clear the inevitability of subjective content.

Some of these canvases seem unfinished by the usual standards, and Genovart’s execution is not as clean and balanced as often in the past. Spatial construction and collage are gone. Genovart does retain his earlier palette, but he leans more on dark tones, and his familiar red and blue surfaces are not used as freely as before. Pigments, oils, and acrylics are applied generously; thick wide strokes may not form images, but they suggest inner configurations which can be read as details from both a macroscopic and a microscopic world. The commitment to painting that has always been a principle for Genovart has changed in nature: techniques, media, and influences are no longer paramount, only painting as pure fact, a fact at once anonymous and epic.

Gloria Moure