Leandre Cristòfol

The work of Leandre Cristòfol is intentionally poetic. It is the product of the ontological and formal concerns that run through it. Cristòfol’s expression is one of a silence dressed in many guises. The materials he uses are for the most part common: iron, wood, clay, machinery parts, metallic tape, cork, wire, and glass. Cristòfol comes from a rural environment, and his gaze on the world retains the sense of distance particular to one who has lived in voluntary seclusion, as if bent on protecting his singularity at all costs, even to the extent of costing him the recognition he deserves. His apprenticeship in carpentry, cabinetry, and wood carving, which he undertook in Lérida in 1922, probably helped him resolve the sculptural problems of equilibrium, proportion, and realization in general. His austerity is an unvarying constant, and it comes from maintaining a concept of order in a world that is basically unstable.

The current show is a retrospective of all the artist’s nonfigurative work from 1930 to 1980. (In fact, Cristòfol has said that he never abandoned figuration categorically; he simply doesn’t distinguish it from abstraction.) Cristòfol showed his nonfigurative work for the first time in a 1936 exhibition in Barcelona. He also participated in the International Surrealism Exhibition in Tokyo in 1937, and in Paris in 1938, before virtually disappearing. The 66 drawings and sculptures shown here have to do with the artist’s most intimate world, and thus with his isolation. A random point in space suggests the finite within the infinite. The point is the place where time and space, form and matter, come together, where the organic and inorganic are articulated, and where it seems that movement comes to a rest.

In Navegació Concéntrica (Concentric navigation, 1933), two conical spirals of red-painted steel on top of verdigris-treated wood move like waves on top of a solid and impenetrable sea. There is a similar optical illusion in De l’aire a l’aire (From air to air,1933); a metallic tape winds itself into an elliptical hieroglyph that carries out the trajectory from being to nonbeing, from the determinate to the indeterminate. Nit de lluna (Moonlit night, 1935), made of wood and painted wood, and Aureola Austral (Astral aura, 1935), which combines wood, cork, and metal, both generate an ineluctable quietude, alluding to the very origins of time and form. Cristòfol’s spatial obsession pervades works such as Intent de vol (Intention of flight, 1962), Gravetat orbitant (Orbital gravity, 1976), and Accident, 1977. In his recent work he juxtaposes umbrella rods with the shadows they cast to create a sense of intangible reality.

Cristòfol’s work has been kept hidden by a variety of circumstances. It is heartening to see his vangardism and prescience finally coming to light.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Hanna Hannah.