Aureli Ruiz; Gabriel; Pep Agut

Galería Dau al Set

It has been relatively difficult, in the last five years, to find artists—whether recognized or not—with a truly authentic impact. Of course there have been new artists in Spain, but most of them have emulated foreign artists, while others, with a suspect fidelity, followed the style of successful young local artists who have achieved international recognition. In spite of this lack—the result, most probably, of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the art market—the local critics would agree that there definitely exists a Catalan creative ferment, however irregular.

Some of this could be seen in the work of the three artists presented here, at a gallery that is one of the most committed to the support of young artists. All three are under the age of 35. Aureli Ruiz and Pep Agut showed two-dimensional work, while Gabriel exhibited several recent sculptures. Instead of proposing any ideological or thematic concept, the show tended to highlight the individuality of each artist.

Gabriel’s approach leans toward good taste and seems excessively eclectic. Most of the 16 sculptures are large, vertical, totemic structures in which votive images are the dominant elements and in which the qualities of the materials used are exploited for symbolic effects, as in Tip d’lode (Type of iodine, 1986). In other works, such as Jet Stream, 1987, the form and the texture are more reductive and neutral.

Agut maintains a radical abstraction in his works, which are all large-scale. He is not interested in the erudite reconstruction of contemporary abstraction (as in the work of many “neo-geo” artists), or in irony (as in Gerhard Richter’s works). Agut consistently employs visual and textural counterpoint, and uses acrylics generously, pouring, dripping, and drawing with equal emphasis. For instance, in Cami sense nom (Road without name, 1986) several dark motifs of orthogonal bands are superimposed on a loosely painted mass of color, forming signs that contrast poetically with the rest of the composition. The same sort of contrast is achieved in an untitled work, 1986–87, by covering the middle section of a black-and-white drip painting with asphalt roofing shingles, which produces the effect of a triptych.

Agut shows great ability, but Ruiz surpasses this, demonstrating in addition to talent a creative state of grace. With acrylics, graphite, and ink he produces his nonreferential imagery on pristine white asbestos supports attached to wood (usually two or more panels joined together). The forms, the tones, and the undecipherable motifs render the compositions organic and somewhat erotic. Ruiz achieves a strictly plastic impact without rigorous abstraction and without appealing to evocative memory. Even though his work is essentially figurative, these large asbestos pieces avoid being perceived as mural panels by Ruiz’s emphasis of the axiality of the picture plane in relation to the emergence of the image. Ruiz demonstrates what an artist can achieve if he frees himself from the pressures of cultural discourses and continues to focus on himself and his work. To find this in the ’80s is rare.

Gloria Moure

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.