José Manuel Broto

Galería Soledad Lorenzo

These days, when the “survival” of painting seems to be the hot topic, José Manuel Broto’s perseverance in pictorial practice proves to be exemplary, on account of the brilliance with which he combines continuity and change. His trajectory began around the French movement of the ’70s, support-surface, which Broto was instrumental in importing to Spain—as much through texts and theoretical publications as through actual “teaching.” The legacy of that movement has been very poorly evaluated. It presented the possibility of a sensitive reorganization of thinking about the pictorial field. The time is ripe for a thorough and nonprejudiced reconsideration of what that movement meant.

What Broto in particular is referring to here is the devaluing of the esthetic capital accumulated in his formative years—a vision stripped of power, which becomes lost in a poeticized, estheticized, or banally mystical apprehension of his work. Keeping in mind Broto’s pertinence to that tradition of research underscores the rigor and quality of his current work. In fact, the questions raised with regard to support-surface presuppose a two-fold reinforcement of the meaning of pictorial practice whose legacy has remained intact. In the first place, because of its historico-political legitimacy in the context of the investigation into revolutionary movements (not only social, but also linguistic). Never, in fact, until that moment, had the legitimacy of the pictorial practice in the context of the development of avant-gardes been theorized with such seriousness. And these avant-garde movements, thanks largely to the fashionable concept of “dematerialization,” ascribed a deadly role to painting. In the second place, the analytic rigor with which the nature of pictorial language was researched—in its “specificity,” as they would say—allowed for a deep understanding of its “making,” and a certain technical proficiency on the part of its practitioners. The compensation for these two virtues throughout Broto’s evolution has been the avoidance of the vices that throughout these years have come to tempt painting: formalism or narrativity, expressive or poeticizing subjectivism, rhetoric or vacuity of meaning.

Where other pictorial languages have attempted to legitimize themselves through the mere formal “beauty” of the end result, through the lyricism of vision, or through the expression of a “freed subjectivity,” Broto’s painting is exempt of all rhetorical pretense and is full, at the same time, of an enormous symbolic force and of an extreme enunciative rigor—as much the fruit of his accumulated wealth of ideological questioning as of his structural dominion over the pictorial field. All of this makes Broto not only an excellent painter, but an absolutely key reference point for a reconsideration—neither banal nor opportunistic—of the profound significance of the famous “survival of painting” in our culture.

José Luis Brea

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.