Barcelona

Pepe Espaliu And Guillermo Paneque

Galeria Carles Tache

A young group of Sevillian artists, criticized roundly for having been foisted to the status of official culture through the effective promotion of the gallery La Máquina Española in Seville (since moved to Madrid), has made a prominent appearance in the national and international critical arenas during the last three years. It all began in the anxious social circles and cliques of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Seville and the magazine Figura. This group of artists sought to disengage themselves from what they considered the imposition of Spanish topics, an impoverished local criticism, and from the established Spanish artists whom they saw as esthetically exhausted and dated. One of the objectives of these artists has been to eschew the local scenes of Barcelona and Madrid and to integrate themselves directly into the foreign panorama, leaving local references behind. This partly accounts for the polemical value, as well as the welcome dimension of novelty, in this show. It features Pepe Espaliu and Guillermo Paneque, the theoreticians of the group; the show preceding this one exhibited three other members of this fairly cohesive bunch of artists.

A fine erudition, as well as an intellectual spirit of synthesis and conceptual overview, comes through in the artists’ work; they display an aggressively poetic disposition, the ability to make use of images and signs taken from the contemporary avant-garde. This show reveals that both Espaliu and Paneque have abandoned their earlier surrealist, oneiric, and narrative imagery, which brought them dangerously close to a flirtation with literary illustration. They both seem to connect now with a pre-Surrealism close to Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, and they move in a territory of extreme dissociation of images and signifiers, where the ambiguous and startling titles they use operate as extensions of the work itself.

Espaliu operates on the other side of appearances, in the interior ambience of a “souvenir without memory,” and just short of a resolution in “identifications.” He works in series on paper, or tablex, in a distinctly graphic style; in the series, Santo con sueño en perfil (Saint sleeping in profile, 1988) he superimposes linear perspectives and architectural elevations of rooms inspired by primitive masks resting horizontally, using them to evoke symbolic architectures. Paneque, who is more rhetorical, also moves in areas of subtle irony. In the series “Untitled Security Stereotypes,” 1988, the monochrome-textured canvases are spattered with paint, resulting in a ground of indeterminate plasticity. The potentially figurative chromatic mass, on which expressive calligraphic gestures or signs in contrasting colors are distributed at random, creates the effect of multiple planes that seem infinitely close yet irremediably separate. If Espaliu operates behind images, Paneque employs plastic creation as an “onanistic,” at once affirmative and negative condition of knowledge, as an adventure without end, as a visual concretion of doubt.

The recent work of these artists reveals that their intellectual restlessness is more consistent than has been thought by many, and their historicist’s journey through the archetypes of the avant-garde points to their sincerity and courage. The school of Seville has always been realist, but inquisitively so; in this context, Espaliu and Paneque’s creative positioning is not an absolute estrangement. The fact that the artists have been criticized for a certain opportunism is another story altogether, and one that doesn’t add to, or subtract from, the value of their work.

—Gloria Moure

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.