Guillermo Kuitca

In a country where the work of most artists seems to have absorbed a foreign discourse or theory rather than developing its own, Guillermo Kuitca is a major exception. Kuitca, once the child prodigy (as obsessively portrayed in many of his previous pieces) has coherently and yet paradoxically exhausted his life in his work. This show included a comprehensive view of his oeuvre from his first paintings—crucially influenced by Pina Bausch’s dance theater—to his most recent works, which included a specially designed installation in which many small cradles, with mattresses on which maps had been painted, were used to build labyrinthine pathways in the middle of a large room.

While Kuitca’s first works used language with elements somewhere between the symbolic and the banal, showing a very intimate and personal perception of space, later pieces incorporated new ways of reading, defining, and understanding the same concept of space through abstract description such as maps or floor plans—while still combining and using almost every available code: literary, musical, cinematic, theatrical. His themes revolve around the fragility of childhood, vulnerability, the conflicting elements of adolescence, and the constraints and constantly felt presence of time.

The bed, as an ordinary, conflicting, and ambiguous piece of furniture has been a key element in his work since 1982. Both intimate and public, the bed and its associated elements—mattresses, cradles, blankets—are loaded with connotations: pleasure and life, unhappiness, isolation, the death bed, and so on. This is where everything started and to which everything returns. Kuitca has painted beds, painted on beds, and painted with beds, placing his art within the thin boundary that separates private and public. Viewers are treated as voyeurs at the same time that they are forced to wonder whether their own privacy has been violated. Beds are an excuse to portray the moment after; in most of his paintings, the human beings are long gone. No narrative is offered as an explanation. The “stage” series is above all about absences. His paintings translate a timeless moment, asking how long memories last in a particular space and how much they depend on it.

In his later works, Kuitca incorporated lyrics of popular songs, such as “’Bridge over Troubled Water” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Simpler and more poetic images have also made the narration more cryptic. His experimentation has been directed more at the plasticity of forms than at the narrative element, formerly so important in his work; even the titles have become more austere. Kuitca’s more intro- spective vision has resulted in an increasingly poetic yet egocentric work, in which communication and interpretation become more difficult and therefore freer.

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa