Madrid

Zush

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

In the ’70s and ’80s, Zush showed widely not only in Spain but also internationally (for instance, in Documenta 6, 1977). More recently, he’s distanced himself from public activity in museums and art spaces, primarily because of his ever-growing dedication to production and diffusion via computers and the Internet, endeavors in which he has been a pioneer. Although he has occasionally exhibited in museums and galleries since then, his name is now better known to young artists than his work. Still, like a number of other Spanish artists who emerged thirty years ago, Zush is a spiritual precursor for a generation of young Spanish artists who have in great part been inspired by Surrealism.

In 1968, Zush (born Alberto Porta in Barcelona in 1946) decided to break with the quotidian realm, creating a parallel world called Evrugo, a fictitious state for which he has invented his own currency, flag, alphabet, and so on. In this exhibition his refusal to live in the real world is staged by the reproduction within the museum of the artist’s studio, which is not merely exhibited but actually used. The work is an attempt to show the global creation of a physical environment and the adoption of this as a work of art, in which every element exists in relation to and thanks to the conjuring of Zush the sorcerer. Like a child who’s decided that he doesn’t like reality—and there are other celebrated figures in twentieth-century culture who suffered this sort of Peter Pan Syndrome—Zush submerges himself in a reality strictly his own. This is why he tries to establish a personal Gesamtkunstwerk where not only concrete plastic creations matter (paintings, a drawing, photographs, objects, books, perfumes, music, CD-ROMS, etc.) but, more important, an all-encompassing environment that displaces the real one. The goal, in other words, is to create a setting that posits the artist himself as its most important point of reference—one in which his desires, expressed in a form similar to the technique of psychic automatism, are the highways along which all objects circulate, even in those cases where their autonomy is not radical but functions in relation to a preexisting reality (sometimes even alluding to political matters, as in Lebannon War, 1983).

The exhibition—the largest ever of Zush’s work, comprising more than 300 pieces—shows how his idea of sovereign desire has been expressed through all kinds of supports. It also reveals an evolution in the work: Zush has gradually renounced certain mannerisms that were in style in the early ’70s but that gradually became irksome (like the influence of a cheap surrealism full of clichés), to concentrate on a type of work stripped of simple expedients. This is not to say, even remotely, that Zush has become a restrained artist; rather, as his magnificent drawings in black pencil demonstrate, his work is always based on excess and accumulation. Multitudes of sketches and figures emerge from him in an automatic form, almost always in order to produce works dominated by an eroticism that may at times be disguised but elsewhere emerges quite directly.

Pablo Llorca

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.